Posts Tagged ‘american revolution’

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Stephen Thompson Jr.

When I see a tombstone like this, it really highlights how different the culture I live in is from that of people who lived in the same place just one or two hundred years ago. When I was 14, I was finishing middle school and going into high school, going to dances, playing soccer, singing in the choir and playing violin. My brother had different hobbies, but his fourteenth year followed the same basic pattern. There was a war going on then, thousands of miles away in a place called Kuwait that I don’t think I’d heard of before, but there was no one I had ever met fighting in it and no real concern that my brother or I would be affected by that war, and we definitely had no chance of fighting in it until we were at least 18. But when Stephen Thompson Jr. was fourteen, he was a drummer boy in a war that was happening around him. Even if he hadn’t chosen to join the army, his life would have been altered by the hostilities.

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Smith John

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A NSDAR Real Daughter was a member of the the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution who was in fact the daughter of a Revolutionary War patriot.  I use the word “patriot” rather than “soldier” because the DAR recognizes any woman who can prove that their direct, blood ancestor “aided in achieving American independence.”  This broader definition includes such things as signing the Declaration of Independence, participating in the Boston Tea Party, supplying medical care to the wounded, and providing material support to the Revolution.  As the first DAR chapters were founded in 1890, there were not a huge number of “real daughters” still alive to join, but Anne Stevenson Marshall was one.

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William Denny
Born Chester Co. PA.1737
Settled near Carlisle 1745
Coroner 1768-1770
In service with militia 1778
Comm. of Issues 1780
As Contractor build Carlisle Court House 1765
Died about 1800

Agnes Denny, His Wife
Born 1741 Married 1760
Grand-daughter of Richard Parker who settled near Meeting House Spring 1724
A woman of great energy and intelligence, a devout Christian

I broke up the inscription on the stone so that it is easier to read, since William Denny’s accomplishments are run together and just flow from line to line without clear punctuation. This stone has a plethora of information about a man of many talents, but the line that caught my eye was actually about Agnes Denny. The stone notes that Agnes was the granddaughter of a “Richard Parker who settled near Meeting House Spring” in 1724. I think I know the Meeting House Spring. The Silver Spring Meeting House, now the Silver Spring Presbyterian Church, is where my mother and stepfather attend church and were in fact married. The name derives from the Silver family, that owned the land nearby the spring. There has been a congregation meeting at the site since at least 1734, and the current stone church building dates from 1784.

Silver Spring Meetinghouse

Silver Spring Presbyterian

Silver Spring Presbyterian

Silver Spring Presbyterian

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These are the only three individual tombstones in the Sandusky Cholera Cemetery. Considering that the cholera epidemic victims were buried a mass grave according to every source I’ve looked at, it’s doubtful that the placement of the stones is very exact.

Fanson John

Ransom Joseph

Ransom Robert

Most sites that refer to these three victims of the cholera epidemic (or more accurately, the stones for these three men) refer to them as the Ransoms, but I would like to do some more digging.  The surname on two of the stones appears to be Ransom, but the last one (first on in my post), looks more to me like Fanson.  Even if the first letter of the last name is an “R,” the last letter appears to be an “n” rather than an “m.”  I also noticed that Robert and Joseph served with the Connecticut troops but John served with Vermont militia.  So what is it – a carving mistake?  unclear records? Was the third man a relative whose name spelling and pronunciation varied slightly?  Is it just a coincidence that would blend in a larger cemetery but is obvious in one where only a handful are honored with individual markers?

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Sandusky Cholera Cemetery (2)

Historical marker

Historical marker (2)

We stopped briefly this weekend in Sandusky, Ohio, to see the Cholera Cemetery. In 1849, the lake port city of Sandusky was struck by a cholera epidemic. Those who were able fled the city, but, of those who remained, about 400 died before the outbreak ran its course. The victims were buried on a small plot of land a few blocks from the lakeshore, which has been preserved today. The area could be mistaken for a park, if it wasn’t for the metal gate that declares “Cholera Cemetery.” Inside, there is a historical marker explaining with a short paragraph on the cholera epidemic on one side and a tribute to the doctors who risked their lives to try to save others. There are only four monuments – a central tower, green with age, honors the early pioneers of Sandusky who fell to the disease. Three Revolutionary War veterans perished in the epidemic, and they each get their own government issue tombstone. A flagpole, a birdhouse, a few streetlights, and large trees and bushes contribute to the park-like atmosphere.


Central monument (2)

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John Hancock's Grave

John Hancock was the first signer of the Declaration of Independence (not on July 4, but it was accepted that day by all but the New York delegation to the Continental Congress). Hancock received the honor of affixing his signature first as the President of the Continental Congress, and being the first to sign probably accounts more for the size of his name than seemingly apocryphal stories about his wanting to make sure the King of England could read it. He was the first governor of Massachusetts after the American Revolution and served as the president of that state’s commission to ratify the Constitution. Hancock died while serving in office as Massachusetts governor in 1793.

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I’m sure the family of William Blair thought his fighting days were through by 1863. After all, by the outbreak of the Civil War, the veteran of the American Revolution had been dead for 59 years. But Mr. Blair took one more shot in the Civil War – or rather, his tombstone did.

Blair William (2)

Blair William (3)

The hole that damaged William Blair’s tombstone was caused when Confederates entered Carlisle during the Gettysburg campaign of 1863. Although the only major battle was fought a bit south in Gettysburg, there were skirmishes along the west shore of the Susquehanna River at several different points. During one of these, the tombstone was struck.

Blair William

At some later point, Blair’s tombstone was reset in a a larger monument. The larger stone contains his name and birth and death years as well as the notation that the damage to the original stone was caused during the Civil War. The walking tour distributed for the cemetery cautions visitors not to stick their fingers in the hole, as it is apparently a frequent home for wasps.

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Much of cemetery research is piecing together little tidbits of information from dozens of different sources to finally weave together some fragment of a story about the deceased. It means that just about any story you can learn enough to weave together is going to be more information that a casual visitor to the cemetery has at hand.

And then you encounter a tombstone like this.

Gamaliel Fenton

What else can I tell you about Gamaliel Fenton? This is more information than I usually can dream about finding on someone buried in a cemetery. In this case, I think the story of the memorial itself is probably more elusive than the story of this life.

As you have probably guessed, the stone pictured above is not Gamaliel Fenton’s original tombstone. It sits next to an earlier monument for himself, his wife, and at least some of his sons. I don’t know if this monument is original to the date of his death.

Gamaliel Fenton

Information on Fenton’s intricate tombstone is sketchy at best at the moment. I’ve found a reference stating that it was unveiled as part of a public ceremony in 1941, but no more information than that. I will have to dig into the old newspapers to find out who sponsored and created the stone to honor him.

Both of Gamaliel Fenton's tombstones

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