VALPARAISO | Jacob Mooker spent many of his last years regaling locals with stories of the Civil War from a bench on the Porter County Courthouse lawn.
The German immigrant -- the last Civil War veteran to be buried in Porter County -- could tell of how he initially was refused entry into the War of the Rebellion because he was deemed too short. He would tell them that, after he finally was allowed to enlist in 1863, he battled the Confederates at Buzzard's Roost and Georgia's Kennesaw Mountain, where he received a bad thrust from a bayonet that left a scar from his eye to jaw.
He also could tell them about his assignment to Company D, 18th Regiment of the Veterans Reserve Corps, one of the units assigned to tracking down John Wilkes Booth after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
"I saw him about 10 minutes after he was killed," Mooker was quoted as saying in a 1940 Valparaiso Reminder newspaper article. "It was Booth all right. He had forced the doctor to set his leg and then hid in his barn threatening him if he revealed his identity."
Booth reportedly broke the leg jumping out of the Ford's Theater box where he shot Lincoln.
Mooker's great-niece, Faye Horner, of Valparaiso, remembers taking her Uncle Jake fresh-baked cookies on Sunday afternoons.
"I remember how he smelled. His pipe had real sweet tobacco," said Horner, 89. "He would putter around all morning and would shuffle uptown to the courthouse square and sit on a bench. He would come home for supper and in the evening he would go back to that courthouse bench."
Horner said she also recalls her great uncle collecting Christmas trees each year, turning them upside down to dry, folding their branches a certain way and turning them into canes.
"He painted them red, white and blue with red balls. He gave them to people around town and to his grandchildren," she said.
Mooker died Oct. 10, 1941, at age 99 and is buried in Kimball Cemetery in Liberty Township. His grave was marked by a special plaque in 2004 as part of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War's Last Soldier Project.
Mooker, who moved for a time to Minnesota after the Civil War but came back to Valparaiso, would participate in parades or encampments hosted by the Grand Army of the Republic across the nation. Just weeks before his death he walked the route in such a parade in Columbus, Ohio. He fell ill shortly afterward.
"The last parade did him in," Horner said.