ITHACA — Darke County trustees, members of the Darke County chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and a pair of living descendants gathered at Ithaca Cemetery on Friday to dedicate a new tombstone in the name of William Walker, a Revolutionary War veteran who died in Darke County in 1837 after migrating to Ohio from Virginia.
Diana Shanks Wallner, one of Walker’s descendants who was present at the ceremony, had been involved with a Texas chapter of the DAR for many years before being contacted by Debbie Nisonger of the Darke County branch. Wallner has 44 ancestors who either fought in the revolution or contributed to the war effort in other ways, such as through various types of civil service. As members of the DAR, Wallner and others take part in volunteering with veterans’ groups, transcribing old records and historical documents, and educating today’s younger generations about the sacrifices of their ancestors.
“We’re preserving the history of the United States so that we have something for our children to learn about, and our children’s children,” said Wallner
William Walker ultimately left descendants in different parts of the country. It’s uncertain how much contact these separate branches of the family may have had in the intervening century or two, but that hasn’t stopped Wallner from reaching out to distant relatives via the internet.
“That’s the lovely thing about Facebook,” said Wallner. “I’ve managed to reconnect with a lot of Walkers.” Wallner has also utilized the website Ancestry.com for the purposes of reconnecting with disparate branches of the Walker clan.
And Wallner’s involvement with the DAR has been a family affair in more ways than one.
“It’s been great,” said Janet Wallner, Diana’s daughter. “Being in DAR has been a real mother-daughter experience.”
Diana was first contacted by the Darke County chapter of the DAR about taking part in the dedication ceremony earlier this year.
“I’d taken part in similar ceremonies for other vets,” Wallner said. “So I had it rumbling in the back of my mind that it would be nice to do something for a member of my own family. When Debbie called, it was like a dream come true.”
And tracking down and reaching out to living descendants of Revolutionary War heroes is not the only facet of honoring them, according to Debbie Nisonger, Regent of the Darke County DAR branch. The process for arranging a ceremony like the one in Ithaca is a long one, and involves contacting the national leadership of the DAR to apply for their approval.
“You have to match your paperwork with their paperwork,” said Nisonger, clarifying that, even if the DAR has records of a soldier who fought in the American Revolution, petitioners like Nisonger have to “start from scratch,” proving that the soldier they want to honor served in the revolution independently, unless they have the financial resources to purchase access to the DAR’s own database.
Challenges aside, however, the process of arranging the dedication ceremony for Walker has been a rewarding one, according to Nisonger, and both she and other members of the DAR have had plenty of help along the way.
“The Darke County trustees have been wonderful,” Nisonger said, praising the organization not only for their help with the Walker dedication, but with two other soldiers the Darke County DAR chapter has honored in Castine. The trustees poured the base for the new stone, while the stone itself was paid for by donations from VFW Post 7262 in Greenville.
Those wishing to donate to support the DAR’s efforts to honor Darke County’s Revolutionary War veterans may contact Brenda Arnett at the Garst Museum.
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