Blue Water Chapter of SAR will host the event
By Barb Pert Templeton
Everyone wants to discover a war hero in the family and even though Bob Eager can’t say he has an ancestor with that claim to fame he did find 20 descendants who served in or supported the Revolutionary War.
“I can’t say one was an aid to (General George) Washington and there was no Ben Franklin,” smiled Eager. “These were just normal people who stepped up for their country.”
Eager, of Sandusky, is the registrar for the Blue Water Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. He spends many hours tracing and compiling evidence for applicants to the organization who must prove they have a direct ancestry line, be it as a soldier or a community supporter of the effort.
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It’s that work that brought Eager and current SAR Chapter President Vince Strongarone, of Richmond Township, together. After Strongarone discovered Revolutionary War soldier John Myers was buried in the Memphis Cemetery the duo teamed up on research and the planning of a patriot grave marking ceremony.
Strongarone also worked alongside Memphis Historical Society Historian Tom Cairns to locate the plot on the cemetery grounds off M-19. Cairns is expected to speak at the patriot ceremony sharing a brief history of the cemetery.
“This grave dedication in Memphis is kind of a big deal because as a newer chapter we haven’t done one yet,” Eager said. “In the SAR world it’s highly prized for chapters to do this.”
The ceremony, set for Sunday, June 27 at 1 p.m. is expected to last about 45 minutes and will include the singing of the National Anthem, an invocation and benediction by a chaplain and the reading of a short biography of John Myers. A 21-gun salute from American Legion Merrick-Potter Post 566 in Memphis will conclude the ceremony.
A glimpse at a soldier’s journey
Strongarone wrote a biography of Myers life including the time he spent as a soldier. He found information about battles he was involved in at the Little Falls New York Historical Society website. This is an excerpt:
John Myers was born in New Jersey in 1751, the oldest of 11 siblings. While a resident of New Jersey, he served in the American Revolution as a private under the command of various companies in the New Jersey militia from 1775 to 1779. On two separate occasions he even served as a substitute for his father, Sebastian Myers.
In 1780, Myers enlisted and served three months as a private in Captain Drake’s Company, Colonel Livingston’s New York Regiment. On October 19, 1780, John served in the Battle of Stone Arabia, also known as the Battle of Klock’s Field.
Notes on the battle read:
‘Moving to intercept the British forces, a combined army of around 950 patriot militia men marched all night and day, without proper food or rest, to aid Captain Brown’s patriot volunteers. The militia caught up to the volunteers in the late afternoon of October 19, and engaged the British in intense fighting at Sheldon Klock’s farm.
After nearly 26 straight hours of marching and fighting, the weight of the battle that began at the town of Stone Arabia turned in the patriot’s favor at Klock’s field. The intense battlefield smoke, onset of darkness, and solider fatigue allowed the British to flee the field.’
Whether he volunteered with Captain Brown or marched north with the militia is not certain, but Myers definitely fought in the Battle of Stone Arabia. The British and Loyalists never regained possession of their lands in the Mohawk Valley, and most resettled in Canada. Myers’ duty and heroism certainly had an impact on the turn of events.
While residing in New York, Myers applied for and was granted his pension and per those records, by 1836, Myers had a Mount Clemens address in Macomb County, Michigan. John and Mary Myers, with their daughter, Mahetablel, and son-in-law, Milan Closs, later moved to the Memphis/Riley area. It is not certain what his occupation was during his time in the area, but is speculated Myers was a farmer until his death in 1848.
Chasing trails left behind
A retired educator, Eager said he came from a family, his grandmother in particular, who felt keeping track of their history was very important. As a young man he would visit relatives to collect information and coupled with his photography hobby he’d capture photos too.
Doing so much research over the years, Eager said it’s nice that things have evolved now and he can do plenty of digging without leaving his home. Websites like ancestory.com, newspapers.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints online archive are great sources along with government agency files like census and pension records.
Pension records are a great source of biographical information because they required the soldier to actually tell a story of when, where, how and with whom they served during the war, Eager said.
Currently compiling biographical sketches for all 20 of his Revolutionary War ancestors Eager still does lots of research for individuals and groups too.
Strongarone is an example, he was able to trace his ancestor, sixth great-grandfather Anthony Brown, back and found he was one of the signers of the Oath of Allegiance Pledge in Maryland in 1778. The document is the swearing of allegiance and obedience to the state while denying the same to Great Britain.
Eager said many people will come to him thinking the documents they have are sufficient proof to join the SAR but most of the time they don’t have nearly enough.
Striving to fill every blank on the SAR application, things like birth, marriage and death certificates are required along with as many other details as can be found. Baptismal records and census data help and sometimes locating a family bible can be a gold mine, chalk full of important names and dates.
“The further back you go the trickier it is so you have to be more creative,” Eager said.
In his own family tree Eager said he traced his fifth great-grandfather, William Eager back to the war although he was actually older and had a leg injury so he was a supporter not a soldier. A farmer, William Eager delivered loads of hay and bread to the militia serving at Fort Montgomery in New York. He also discovered that William’s grandson, Samuel Eager, was a lawyer and a judge who helped write the first history of Orange County, New York.
“For me this is just a fun and interesting thing with mysteries to solve,” Eager said.
The Blue Water Chapter of SAR, started in 2017, boasts 30 members, all who have linage that can be traced to the Revolutionary War. The chapter meets about six times a year, except in June, July and August.