Local History Topics
by Kristen Parrott, curator
for the week of 2/13/2013
Samuel Arms began life as a slave in Georgia, became a drummer for the Union Army during the Civil War, and ended up as a farmer in Town of Forest, Vernon County.
According to his tombstone, Samuel Arms was born on Christmas Day in 1851. As a slave, he was treated cruelly, and escaped from his Georgia plantation at least once. Samuel gained his freedom during the Civil War, and a Union regiment adopted him as a drummer boy.
It is believed that he travelled with the Union soldiers to Pennsylvania after the war. Some time later he moved west to Wisconsin, eventually settling in Town of Forest, where he became a part of the multiracial community of Cheyenne Valley.
Samuel worked here in Vernon County as a horse trainer and a farmer. He married Mary Ellen Roberts in the late 1870's. Mary had been born in the Town of Forest in the early 1860's, the daughter of Ishmael and Delaney (Revels) Roberts. According to the obituary for Otis Arms, their last surviving son, Samuel and Mary had 17 children during their years together.
Sam Arms was proud of his service in the Union Army. He marched with his Civil War drum in veterans parades every year. Until recently his descendants still owned the drum, and you can see a photo of it in the book, Freedom Train North, by Julia Pferdehirt. This book is available for research use here at the museum, and you can find it at public libraries throughout Vernon County.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Edward and Mrs. Blanche Arms of the Samuel Arms family.
Samuel died on November 16, 1917, and was buried in the Forest-Burr Cemetery, Town of Forest. He had lived through momentous times, experiencing the Civil War and the end of slavery. And he had created a life of freedom for himself here in Vernon County.