NEW MADISON — The gravestone of Revolutionary soldier James Wood was dedicated on Veterans Day in First Universalist Church Cemetery on East Washington Street here.
Gathered around the old tombstone and the new stone, in addition to Fort GreeneVille Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) representatives who spearheaded this project, were Harrison Township Trustee Steve Bohn; Randy Schaar, who installed the new memorial stone; and representatives of the Greenville Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Richard Grow and Don Dietrich, who helped with the purchase of the stone.
According to DAR Regent Debbie Nisonger, who spoke at the event, James Wood was born July 4, 1761, in North Carolina and died Jan. 15, 1839 in Darke County. He entered the military on March 2, 1779, and was discharged in August 1783 after being twice wounded. Stones were provided by the U.S. government and placed at graves.
This is just one of the Revolutionary soldiers’ graves of which the DAR is working to preserve and/or replace.
Memorial Day weekend, DAR members Nisonger, Helen Wright and Shirley Hughes took a road trip to Darke County cemeteries that are known to have graves of American Revolutionary soldiers. A list of soldiers was found at the Garst Museum. At the June DAR meeting, Nisonger shared with DAR members of the graves that were observed. A lot of the grave stones, she reported, were unreadable, broken or possibly missing.
A committee was formed, due to the interest of the plight of American Revolutionary War Soldiers’ graves in Darke County, and comprised of Regent Nisonger, Caroline Petitjean, Doris Aultman, Helen Wright, Shirley Hughes and Penny Weaver.
“As you may realize due to the years gone by since our founding Patriots fought for our freedoms, their gravestones have become unreadable, damaged or missing,” Nisonger said. “Fort GreeneVille DAR is currently working to remedy the plight of these brave solders’ final resting places. Fort GreeneVille Chapter DAR believes in preserving the graves of American Revolutionary soldiers buried in Darke County.”
Thinking this would be a drawn-out project, the members proved Nisonger wrong. Members Petitjean and Aultman, along with Nisonger, began the surveying of soldiers’ graves in rapid speed.
“I could hardly keep up with the ladies’ research and pictures of the graves” Nisonger stated.
According to her, it was learned that there are approximately 30-plus American Revolutionary War grave sites that are being researched in this area.
“First a list was formed from the information gotten at the Garst Museum,” she said. “Each grave was visited, pictures taken and noted the condition of the stones. Graves were then categorized whether they needed replacement stones or plaques, repaired or were still in satisfactory condition.”
Nisonger indicated that military information was gathered on each soldier.
“If military information was proven, then an application was submitted to the U.S. government for a free military stone or plaque,” she said. “Graves that can’t get a government stone or plaque but proof of military service, then the Fort GreeneVille DAR will purchase a small granite stone.”
The original stones, if still in place, are left at graves with the new stones placed alongside as it was for James Wood.
“Before stones or plaques can be placed at graves, Fort GreeneVille DAR has to submit an application of each grave to the National DAR to be verified,” she continued. “The DAR doesn’t want to place incorrect information at a grave of such historical significance. Some graves will be ‘in memory of’ due to no apparent grave even though proof of burial is in Darke County.”
Due to the cost of such an extensive project when government stones/plaques cannot be gotten, Greenville VFW Post 7262 donated $2,000 toward the project.
“As each new stone/plaque is placed at a gravesite, a dedication will be scheduled,” Nisonger said. “Committee members attended township trustee meetings and have been met with support from the Darke County Township Trustees. Darke County residents should be proud of the fine job the townships trustees do in taking care of cemeteries in Darke County. Some of the cemeteries are very old and no longer taking burials.”
Harrison Township Trustee Bohn, who is supportive of what the DAR is doing, said, “If we can identify these people from back then, we need to preserve these stones. Once lost, they will be lost forever.”
The new memorial stones are engraved by Nickol Monuments of Versailles.
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