Dr. Cyrus Felix Demsey (1839 – 1913) is infamously known for being the Antelope Valley’s only Civil War veteran who was held as a prisoner in the Andersonville Prison. He originally traveled to California in the 1850s. While in California, he developed an extensive interest in mining which was ultimately put on hold due to the outbreak of the Civil War.
At the start of the war, Dr. Demsey was a member of the Pacific Coast Navy. Then, in 1862, he enlisted in an independent cavalry company known as the California Hundred. He then headed East, enlisting as a private in Company A, Second Massachusetts Cavalry, acting to defend the Union.
During his service to this cavalry company, he was captured in battle and was transferred through a number of Confederate prisons. One of these prisons was Andersonville, which is notorious for having been the worst of the Civil War prisons.
After the end of the war, Demsey settled in Illinois and began pursuing a career in the medical field. Upon receiving his credentials, he returned to California and established a practice in San Francisco.
Demsey relocated in 1890, moving from San Francisco to his final home in Mojave. While living in Mojave, he tended to the workers of the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe Railroads and their families. His interest in mining was kindled and he purchased several local mining claims.
In 1906 he became Mojave’s postmaster, continuing to work in this position until his death in 1913. His wife, Matilda Kern Demsey (1875 – 1940), had acted as his assistant and took over as postmistress after his death.
Dr. Demsey is buried at the chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angeles, pictured here.
"Gurba, Norma H. Legendary Locals of the Antelope Valley. Arcadia, 2013.
Photo courtesy of MOAH Collections"