The Masonic mystery of Col. Mix

— Courtesy  Old Stone Fort

Portrait of a Mason: This photograph of Simon Hosack Mix, labeled “prior to entering military service,” was probably taken at about the time he became a Mason.

Campaign poster: In 1860, Simon Hosack Mix ran unsuccessfully for Congress on the same ticket as Abraham Lincoln.

— Photo by Karen Cuccinello

Mix’s cenotaph: Col. Simon Hosack Mix is buried somewhere in Petersburg, Va., where he died leading a charge in the civil war battle there. A cenotaph was erected for him at the Old Stone Fort in Schoharie.

Mix’s trunk: This trunk is part of the Mix display at the Old Stone Fort Museum.

SCHOHARIE — As part of the May 30 Decoration Day observation at the Old Stone Fort, the cenotaph of Col. Simon Hosack Mix will be re-dedicated, bringing to the forefront a fascinating life and death.

As candidate for Congress on the same ticket as Abraham Lincoln, and colonel of one of the first volunteer cavalry regiments in the Union, Mix is justly regarded as “the greatest national character who ever came out of Schoharie county.” At his death, leading a cavalry charge before Petersburg, he became the centerpiece of a 150-year-old Masonic mystery.

Born on Feb. 25, 1825 in Johnstown, Mix was probably named for the Scottish minister of the Presbyterian Church, Rev. Simon Hosack.  His father, Peter Mix, was editor of the Montgomery Republican, which offices were twice burned out. In 1836, the Mix family moved to Schoharie, where father and then son edited the Schoharie Patriot.

On Sept. 21, 1858, Simon Hosack Mix paid the $3 petition fee and applied for membership in Richmondville (later Cobleskill) Lodge No. 394, Free and Accepted Masons.  (Schoharie Valley Lodge No. 491 would not be chartered until June 23, 1860.)

On Oct. 5, 1858, he paid the $12 balance, and took his first degree.  On Aug. 16, 1859, Mix completed his second and third degrees.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Mix organized and led the Third New York Cavalry. On June 15, 1864, Col. Mix was killed leading a cavalry charge before Petersburg, Va., and was buried on the battlefield.

Attempts were made to locate the grave, but to no avail. A Confederate officer, Robert O. Epes, of Petersburg, wrote a letter to William P. Mix, the Colonel’s brother, which was printed in the Schoharie Union on December 21, 1865:

“At half past twelve, the enemy commenced a charge, which was led in gallant style by your late brother, across a piece of woods which had been cut down in front of our Battery. When about three hundred yards from our Battery, your brother was shot down, with several of his men, when the line gave way. We then charged in turn, and I passed by where your brother was lying. Supposing by his uniform he was a Captain, I thought nothing more about the matter until we returned, when I went to him.

“He asked for water, which I gave him. There were some three or four persons (Confederates) with him when I got back, none of whom I knew. One man (a captain I think) had his pocket book and papers which he said he intended to return to his relatives on the first opportunity. He was shot in the breast by a small g[?] which went through him.

“He died in about fifteen minutes after he was wounded, with his head on my knee, seemingly very easy. He only spoke once while I was with him, and that was to ask for water. We had to leave immediately after his death to go lower down the lines, and had no chance to bury him that night, but the next morning I went out with a detail to bury the dead, and can assure you he was buried as well as any of our own men. He was placed in a grave to himself, near a grove, which has since been cut down, and your troops camped all over the place.

“I went with Capt. Kromer to the place, but everything was so changed that I do not think there is the least probability of ever recovering his body. You have the consolation to know that your brother died as a brave man should die, with this face to the enemy, and fully ten feet in advance of his command.”

On June 14, 1881 the Third New York Cavalry held a reunion in Rochester. “Colonel Simon Mix was killed June 14, 1863 [sic],” reported the Rochester Morning Herald the next day, “in front of Petersburg, and his body fell into the hands of the rebels. He was recognized as a Free Mason, by a ring which he wore; and the Rev. W.B. Wellons, who was chaplain on General Lee’s staff, caused the body to be enclosed in a handsome casket, and forwarded to the regiment.”

In the summer of 1933, W. Pierre Mix loaned to the Old Stone Fort Museum his grandfather’s regalia that is on display to this day. Local historian Chauncey Rickard explained, in the Schoharie Republican of June 17, 1937, how the Colonel’s belongings were spirited back to Schoharie:

“When the brave leader lay dying on the battlefield, he dimly sensed that someone was standing over him, and, as the shades of death were closing round him, he gave the Masonic distress sign. The man standing over him was a soldier of the confederate army was also a Mason. The sign was recognized and Col. Mix passed from among the living.

“The Confederate Masonic brother proudly buried Col. Mix on the battlefield, but the trampling armies of the three days engagement before Petersburg forever obliterated all traces of Col. Mix's grave.  After Petersburg had come into the possession of the Union forces, the Confederate Masonic brother was permitted to gather the belongings of Col. Mix.

“A leather trunk was obtained, in which was packed the regalia, and the trunk sent by express to Col. Mix’s father, Peter Mix at Schoharie. This exhibit is the contents of that leather trunk, loaned to this Museum by Pierre Mix, a grandson of Col. Simon Hosack Mix. It contains the entire Military Uniform of Col. Mix, together with his mail dispatch bags — a sword captured from a Confederate Soldier — the Truss worn by the Col. Who had a bad rupture…

“The exhibit is here only because a Masonic brother placed fraternal ties over and beyond sectional strife. In the critical moment, when the shades of death were closing over the head of Col. Simon Hosack Mix, the Mason brother standing over him, knew no North or South, only the powerful clasp of Masonic brotherhood.”

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Decoration Day will be observed at the Old Stone Fort at 145 Fort Road in Schoharie, on Friday, May 30, from 5 to 8 p.m. This is a free event, underwritten by Kintz Plastics of Howes Cave. At 6 p.m., the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War will conduct a Grand Army of the Republic ceremony, and re-dedicate the cenotaph of Col. Simon Hosack Mix.

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