DARKE COUNTY — Since 1941, Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, has been a federal holiday in the United States, but our national celebration is rooted in the early days of American Revolution.
On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence from Britain and King George III. Two days later, on July 4, 1776, delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Thomas Jefferson’s masterpiece of linguistic elegance and style, known as Declaration of Independence. From 1776 to the present day, July 4th festivities have included fireworks, parades, outdoor and indoor concerts, family gatherings and backyard barbecues.
Yet, as we take a break from work and celebrate our freedoms for the day, it is important to reflect on the sacrifices made by our earliest patriots in the struggle. Here, in Darke County, residents and visitors can delve into our collective “origin story” a little deeper, thanks to the work of Darke County’s many genealogical organizations and local historical societies.
One group, the Fort GreeneVille Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), has actively sought to preserve the memory of these local Revolutionary patriots — telling the stories of ordinary men and women who, after serving in the war, came to settle in this local Southwest Ohio region — pioneering the land and preparing the way for future generations of American citizens. Since 2016, the Fort GreeneVille chapter has documented 24 American Revolutionary War Patriots buried in the Darke County area, and are still searching for others.
A few Revolutionary “ordinary people” that settled here also have some interesting historical connections.
Take a glimpse into the life of patriot Zachariah Hole, born in New Jersey circa 1752. Hole served in the Virginia Militia during the Revolution, as well as in the Kentucky Militia under Col. George Rogers Clark in 1780. By 1798 he had migrated and established Hole’s Station [current Miamisburg, OH]; in 1809, he purchased land in Preble County, where he started a grist mill. Hole is also credited with laying the foundation for the village of Lewisburg. Afterward, in 1815, Hole migrated to Darke County with his wife, Hannah Delay. Hole and his family were some of the earliest pioneers within Wayne Township, in Darke County. Zachariah died sometime after May 1822. His exact burial location is unknown but he has a stone in Greenlawn Cemetery, Versailles. Hole is the patriot ancestor of local resident, Marty Kumer.
Or perhaps, take a closer look at Henry (Thick) Penney, who was born Jan. 11, 1754, in North Carolina. During the Revolution, he served in Col. Brannin’s Regiment, fighting it Battles at Eutaw Springs, Cowpens, the Siege of Ninety Six, and Charleston. After the war, and having married twice, Penney and most of entire family had migrated to Miami County, Ohio, by 1820, coming through Kentucky. Henry died in April, 1841, and is buried with his wife and sons in Old Ludlow Cemetery near Laura, Ohio. Local residents Virginia Brown, Gloria Shafer, and Jeanne Wright were recognized by the DAR to commemorate their patriot ancestor’s service.
Another patriot of the region was Daniel Raysor, who was born in Germany in 1755. Both he and his future wife, Barbara Harshberger (also born in Germany) emigrated to America as children. They married in Dauphin Co., Pa. He gave patriotic service through paying taxes and serving, from 1777 to 1783, in two different Pennsylvania military units. Raysor moved to Montgomery County in 1809, receiving a land grant there in 1814. The family lived in the general area where St. Rt. 49 intersects with U.S. 40. Raysor is buried in the Swank Cemetery just north of U.S. 40. Local resident Sherri Miltenberger Jones is the 8th generation descendant of patriot Daniel Raysor.
One more local patriot of note was David Ward, who was born in Hampshire County, Va., in 1761. In the spring of 1777, he enlisted in the Virginia militia and was a private. Ward enlisted in the service of the United States and the War of the Revolution for six months. Thanks to sworn testimony from his nephew, David Ward, and Reverend John Wintermute, Private David Ward was able to collect a pension. Ward later volunteered after the War, and was sent to various frontier posts. According to his great niece, Rhoda, Ward served under General Anthony Wayne:
“David was serving with General Anthony Wayne. He was present at the storming of Stony Point, and when Wayne having secured, through various disguises, valuable information as to the strength of this fortress, asked the American commander for five hundred men with which to undertake the capture of the fort. He was one of the first to volunteer, and the fifth man to scale this supposedly impregnable position.”
In later years, Ward made his home with his nephew, David, and died in 1837 in Versailles (Jacksonville), Ohio. He is buried in the old Baptist Cemetery (near the mouth of Swamp Creek), known today as Hoover Cemetery. David Ward was the brother of George Ward, whose descendants are DAR members Helen Wright, Debbie Nisonger, Chris Eberst Nehring, Taylor Nehring, and Shirley Hughes.
Interested in learning more about the pioneers in your family? Or perhaps you are wondering if you might have a “patriot ancestor” in your family tree? Contact Debbie Nisonger at firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Fort GreeneVille DAR’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/fortgreenevilledar/.