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Frank Gray

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Frank Gray | The Journal Gazette
This marker is for Major John Wyllys, a Revolutionary War vet who died in Allen County.

Quiet 4th a chance to reflect on past

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, but it probably won’t be a raucous day for a lot of people in the area.

With the worst drought since the 1980s, a fireworks ban in place to prevent fires, temperatures in the 90s and tens of thousands of people with no electricity, doing anything that’s hot, such as shooting off fireworks, just doesn’t have the appeal it normally holds.

Let’s just say Independence Day will probably be a little quieter this year.

Come to think of it, practically no one calls it Independence Day anymore. It makes you wonder whether there are people out there who aren’t sure exactly why July Fourth is a holiday. Let’s just assume, though, for our own peace of mind, that people do remember how the holiday started.

Actually, Independence Day wasn’t celebrated early in our history. According to a credible website on the Constitution, people didn’t make note of it at all in the years immediately after it happened. It wasn’t until 1870 that the date was declared a national holiday.

So with Independence Day approaching, I began to wonder, how many Revolutionary War veterans are buried in Allen County. One doesn’t think about Allen County as having many such veterans. After all, the Revolution was fought mostly in the states along the Eastern Seaboard. This place didn’t even become a state until 40 years later.

It turns out, though, we do have a fair number of veterans of the Revolution buried in Allen County. For decades, the Daughters of the American Revolution have been investigating the various veterans who died here, and they’ve come up with a list of about 20.

What’s unfortunate, though, is that these old veterans didn’t seem to get a lot of respect, or at least the respect has faded as time went by.

There’s a man named Samuel Bird who served under George Rogers Clark. He died in Allen County in 1829 and was buried in the old Broadway Cemetery, but those graves were moved and there apparently wasn’t money for a new marker for Bird’s grave.

But some graves are known.

David Bryant, who died in 1835, was buried on the east Bank of the Eel River in what was then Allen County. Little more is known.

There’s a William Berry buried in Leo Cemetery.

A man named George Warner died in 1842 and was buried in Huntertown Cemetery. His tombstone is next to a Joseph Warner.

A William Tucker was buried in Huntertown, too.

Alexander Ewing died in 1827 and was buried in what is now McCulloch Park on Broadway. In 1860, though, he and all his relatives were moved to Lindenwood Cemetery, where the grave is marked.

A Michael Crontz, who was buried in what is now McCulloch Park, was later moved to an unmarked spot at Lindenwood.

Zachariah Griffis died in 1832 and was buried on a farm three miles north of Fort Wayne along the St. Joe River.

Others are simply known to have died here. A James Saunders died in 1834, but it’s not clear where he was buried. Same for a Charles Weeks, who died in 1842.

There’s no telling how many other Revolutionary War veterans are buried here.

On Edgewater Avenue is a nearly century-old stone marker, currently obscured by fallen trees, marking the spot where some other veterans were killed during an Indian battle in 1790.

John Wyllys is the only man named on the marker, but it is known that a John McMurtrey, Ebenezer Frothingham and Thomas Threlkeld died there along with perhaps 100 other men.

Where are their graves? According to the DAR, “probably buried in a trench along the Maumee River.”

Walking along the Rivergreenway along the banks of the Maumee, I wonder how many people know that somewhere underfoot are the graves of Revolutionary War soldiers.

Just something to ponder on Independence Day.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter (@FrankGrayJG).

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