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Finding graves of Revolutionary War veterans

By JUDITH LINDER-ASHAKIH • Nov 7, 2018 at 2:00 AM

What began as a weekend activity to photograph graves of Revolutionary Wars soldiers in Huron County turned into an eight-year project.

The guideline for Daughters of the American Revolution member Sally Jenkins and her daughter, Natalie Iafolla, was lists of these soldiers who had died and been buried in the county. The project soon became so large that more DAR members were invited to join.

The research expanded to include finding all possible clues to the soldiers’ lives, their length of service, whether they had a pension, and above all else, had they died in, and been buried in, Huron County.

To distill the results of eight years work, local DAR member Anna Gregory-Bristol took on the job. She shared these results of the detective work.

“There are 79 men who are buried in Huron County. Those who once lived here and moved on are 56. Sixteen are presumed to be buried here because they were so elderly, but did not necessarily have a headstone. Some were on river stone with names scratched on; some were wooden markers that had deteriorated,” she said.

“When a grave was found without a Revolutionary War marker, we went there and put a marker in,” she said. “The markers are supplies through the Huron County Veterans Service. Matt Raymond got them for us.”

All graves were photographed as well.

After doing all of this research the DAR asked themselves, now what do we do with it ? They were three years into the distillation and almost done — until Friday, when Gregory-Bristol came to the miscellaneous folder.

“Better see if anything useful is here,” she said. “Lo and behold: Two sheets of paper, printed, undated, titled 'Daughters of Revolutionary War Soldiers Buried in Huron County,' turned up.”

Another man had been discovered, previously unknown to the DAR, and members were able to locate his military record online through the site Fold3, which refers to the way the flag is folded in memorial services.

During Gregory-Bristol’s examination of veteran records, she found there could be a service record of a few or many, many pages. It indicated his pension record plus the amount received, which could be less than $10 per month. Sometimes to qualify, his need of a pension personal possessions were listed as “heartbreaking as a cracked bowl, a couple of spoons and the clothing on their backs. One inventory was worth $4.34,” Gregory-Bristol said sadly.

Snippets of information create pictures of shocking situations in which “the physical condition of these men was equally heartbreaking.”

“One veteran’s feet had been frozen, toe to heel, making employment impossible for him. Some are elderly folks and raising grandchildren. There are guys in their seventies and eighties still trying to eke out a living,” she said.

Applying for a pension could pose a serious problem since the veterans had to have someone vouch for them or someone with whom they had served.

“Many years later some men had discarded papers, lost them or there had been a fire. Then they had to appear before an attorney in their county, to state recollections of their war time service,” Gregory-Bristol said. “One man was delighted to find another soldier lived in Huron County so he could prevail on him to 'vouch' for his service.”

If no “voucher” was available locally, veterans often would write letters to former comrades or commanding officers asking for a reply by mail as a “voucher” testifying that soldier had at least six months of service, including all the particulars he could remember to strengthen the case.

 

Location of graves

The Ohio Genealogical Society has a book that lists all cemeteries by county, with a number assigned for each cemetery, including a description of the physical location of each. The graves are scattered all over the county.

They may have been unattended for years. Six of the discovered headstones need repair, are broken or were laying face down. There are two with no headstones at all.

Several weeks ago, Ward Cemetery was the last to be visited.

“It is located three miles north of Fitchville, on the former Archie Case farm. When the road was widened in the late 1880s, the cemetery was moved one-fourth mile west. The daughter-in-law of Archie Case drove us there. We found the grave of William Johnson among about 33 other graves. One dated from 1840. We placed a marker there." Bristol further explained that they were not sure if all the bodies had been moved, or only the gravestones,” Gregory-Bristol said.

She pointed out two interesting graves that were very hard to find.

“Tom Neel, of New London, in charge of Ohio Genealogical Society, gave us the name of a 91-year-old lady who knew where they were. Sally contacted the woman and we went out to get the two remote graves photographed,” Gregory-Bristol said.

They made a long trek across fields and through tall grass, trees, and bushes to find the graves. Gregory-Bristol pointed out “the value in doing this is we have condensed the information to a single source to the best of our ability, considering it is 235-plus years” since the end of the Revolutionary War.

“Some records have been lost and sites forgotten,” she added.

"Worthy of Remembrance: Revolutionary War Soldiers Buried in Huron County, Ohio" is the volume compiled by members of the Sally de Forest Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution. By the spring of 2019 it should be for sale. The book contains a photo of Abner Baker’s oil painting, courtesy of local historian Henry Timman.

“This is important because it’s just an ordinary soldier, not a commissioned officer. We are thrilled to have this picture of a real soldier,” Gregory-Bristol said.

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