It was all part of a memorial service and grave dedication ceremony organized by the Ebenezer Zane Chapter of the Ohio Society Sons of the American Revolution and the Ohio Genealogical Society, Jefferson County Chapter, to honor Jacob Clark and Joseph Chambers.
The grave dedication part means government-issued bronze markers are unveiled, ones that list specific information such as a veteran’s date of birth, death and rank. It’s been the mission of the SAR chapter members, who come dressed in period attire, to properly mark Patriots’ graves, a pet project initiated in 2000 that has resulted in more than 55 markers being installed to date and 11 ceremonies conducted.
What distinguished last Saturday’s ceremony, however, was the presence of so many descendants of both Patriots, two men who lived and died in Smithfield Township after their role in the Revolutionary War.
They traveled from a distance to visit the area for the first time on a breezy Saturday where sun and fair skies prevailed temporarily in a May forecast otherwise dominated by relentless rain and an unseasonable chill.
Thirty-year-old Chris Mowery, for example, came with his wife and two children, and other relatives from the Mineral Ridge and Austintown area. Together they represented four generations of descendants of Joseph Chambers on hand. They were intent upon paying tribute to their ancestor in the company of a gathering that approached 60 people, including a healthy representation of members of the Adena American Legion Post No. 525, bagpiper Joseph Coughlan and taps bugler Norman Moran, vice president of the SAR.
Donald Baughman of Greenville, Pa., active as a Civil War re-enactor with the 10th Pennsylvania Reserves in Mercer, Pa., came dressed in Civil War period attire, the fourth great-grandson of Jacob Clark.
“It’s something that happens only once in a lifetime and maybe not even then,” Baughman said in expressing his thoughts on attending. “It’s important to keep track of your ancestors and what they did.”
The ceremony was occasion to give flesh and feelings to the lives of the two Patriots, both of whom died in Smithfield Township in 1841.
“Jacob (Clark) was a remarkable man who led a remarkable life,” Flora VerStraten, president of the local OGS chapter, told those in attendance. She read an overview of his war involvement provided by Wilma Clark, a descendant unable to make the trip from Florida because of health issues.
Born in 1754, Clark enlisted in the Continental Army in January 1776 from Baltimore, and in his pension deposition had detailed the battles in which he fought, the wounds received, his capture, escape and eventual recapture and time spent aboard the infamous British prison ship called the Old Jersey which was anchored in Wallabout Bay, N.Y., until the war’s end.
Clark personally experienced many monumental events that shaped the nation, according to VerStraten.
“Jacob was with Gen. George Washington on Dec. 25, 1776, when the troops crossed the treacherous ice-swollen Delaware River about nine miles north of Trenton, N.J. At this point in the war, a significant number of these men marched through the snow in ragged uniforms and many without shoes. Raging wind combined with snow, sleet and rain on the night of Dec. 25 was but one of many hardships endured by these brave soldiers throughout our country’s first battle for independence,” VerStraten read from Wilma Clark’s from-a-distance tribute.
In one of the largest and bloodiest battles of the war, Clark fought at Brandywine, Pa., on Sept. 11, 1777, and later rode with Washington’s Army to Chester County, Pa., to replenish rain-damaged ammunition.
On Oct. 4, 1777, Clark was engaged in battle at Germantown, Pa., and often told his children and grandchildren how “he raised his rifle, taking aim at one of the British” when suddenly a musket ball penetrated his head, rendering him immediately unconscious. In a crude field hospital, a trepanning operation was performed to remove the ball and a portion of his crushed skull. Forever after, he wore a metal plate over this wound held in place by a scarf tied around his head.
“Trepanning is an ancient type of brain surgery where an obsolete form of a drill resembling a carpenter’s bit and brace was used to bore a hole in the skull to remove the broken or damaged portion of the bone that could penetrate or damage the brain if it remained there. It was a simply horrible procedure and imagine it being done in a makeshift Army field hospital in 1777,” VerStraten would explain later to the Herald-Star.
Clark spent the rest of the winter recuperating at Valley Forge, often telling his family how he would hear Gen. Washington praying that God would deliver his troops from the enemy. He worked temporarily as a recruiting agent, then re-enlisted, achieving the rank of sergeant. By July 1781, Clark was reassigned to a scouting party of about 40 men who were following the movements of the enemy in New York.
Their third day out they were captured by a party of British and Hessian soldiers. Clark managed initially to escape but then was recaptured, sustaining a near mortal wound to his right side from an enemy bayonet. He would spend the rest of the war a prisoner in the infamous Old Jersey, a British prison ship with deplorable conditions that few Americans survived.
Clark ultimately was discharged and released in Baltimore sometime before the signing of the Peace Treaty of Paris on April 15, 1873, and Nov. 25 when the last of the British troops evacuated New York.
Shortly after the war, Clark and his brother James ventured in to the Indian territory that is Jefferson County today. They cleared land and built crude dwellings but in April 1785, Congress forced all settlers out. Negotiations were ongoing to purchase the land from the Indians as the Ohio territory was not yet open to settlement, VerStraten told the gathering. After raising his family in Cumberland, Md., however, Clark returned again to make his home in Ohio.
Before his death at age 87, Clark would instill the same patriotism in his own children as one son was a founding citizen of Washington, D.C., and fought in the War of 1812. Two of his grandsons fought in the Mexican War and six grandsons fought on both sides of the Civil War, VerStraten said.
Joseph Mowery, a youth pastor in Austintown and the fifth great-grandson of Patriot Joseph Chambers, came to the ceremony with his wife Tara and two small children, Rachel and Caleb; his uncle Craig Mowery; his grandmother Connie Mowery and her brother Don Whittaker; and other relatives.
Mowery explained that the mother of siblings Connie Mowery and Don Whittaker — Mildred Chambers Whittaker — was born near Rehoboth Cemetery.
“Neither of them has ever been to the place where their mother was born,” he noted. “We are excited to honor Joseph Chambers and his legacy because our stories are a part of that legacy. We are excited to see the place our family once called home and to discover a little bit more about who they were, and because of that, who we are.”
Mowery, who expressed gratitude for the service being arranged, took to the podium to give an overview of his Patriot ancestor, Joseph Chambers. Mowery was born and raised in Mineral Ridge, where his great-great-grandparents had lived before moving to Jefferson County in the 1900s.
Mowery said Joseph Chambers, who was born in 1751 in Lancaster County, Pa., was all of 10 when his father was killed by Indians at the Battle of Muncy Hill, Pa., near the end of the French and Indian War.
“He must have been enthusiastic about the cause of freedom as he enlisted even before independence was declared in May 1776. He served two tours as a first sergeant with Capt. Robert McKee’s company and Col. Alexander Lowrey’s Pennsylvania regiment in 1776 and again in 1779,” Mowery said. “After that, he moved west, settling first in Washington County, Pa., where he married Rachel Pegg and started a family. Around 1806, the family moved to Jefferson County, Ohio, where five more children were born, bringing the total to 11.”
That Chambers was a Patriot was obvious even in the names of his children as his final two sons — born during the War of 1812 — were named Harrison and Jackson after prominent generals in the war, Mowery noted. And his patriotic legacy survived him as at least one son served in the War of 1812 and at least two of his grandchildren fought and died in the Civil War.
Chambers spent the remainder of his days living in various places around Jefferson County, his final time in Smithfield Township. He died on Jan. 12, 1841, at the age of 90.
Mowery said there was good reason to celebrate the memory of his Patriot ancestor.
“I believe it is important to remember Joseph Chambers because the freedom he fought for in our war of independence should never be taken for granted,” Mowery said. “All the blessings of freedom we enjoy today — the freedom to do as we please within the law, the freedom to worship God, the ideas of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — we have them because of the men who fought in the Revolution,” Mowery said.
“Men and women like him have kept us free in the 232 years since he first enlisted. If we forget who they were and why they fought, we may lose the very thing they fought to defend,” Mowery said. “Every time we honor men such as Joseph Chambers, we honor what they stood for and remember why it was and is worth dying for,” he added.
VerStraten explained the memorial markers are in place despite the fact that the exact resting place of the two Patriots has not been located. “Many times these Patriots were buried on the family farm, and their original tombstones were made of native stone and are either sunken, broken, in pieces, illegible or just simply gone,” VerStraten said.
Rehoboth Cemetery, established in 1829, is maintained by the Smithfield Township trustees. During the past four years, it underwent an extensive restoration spearheaded by volunteers Terry and Tammy Hosenfeld and involved repair and documentation of grave markers along with other work.
“I think they deserve a really big thank you for all the work they’ve done,” VerStraten said of the Hosenfelds.
Gary DeNoble, commander of the Adena American Legion Post 525, described it as “a great honor” for members to participate in the service.
“If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here,” DeNoble said.
Officers with the SAR chapter agreed.
“This just goes with the mission of the Sons of the American Revolution — to perpetuate the memory of our Patriot ancestors and preserve our American heritage,” said George Livingston of Weirton, past president and historian.
“These people, you can’t believe what they sacrificed and went through to give us what we’ve got. People say the country’s screwed up. Well, it’s not their fault. They gave us the opportunity for fellows to make the Constitution. If there’s trouble in the country, it’s our fault, not theirs. They laid the groundwork. What we do with it is entirely up to us. They made the Constitution amendable so we can change it to suit the needs of the people, the majority of the people in this country, so we owe them a lot for the good foundation this nation has. That’s what we’re doing here today — to honor those people,” Livingston said.
George Ruch, president of the SAR, said such memorial and dedication services leave him nearly speechless.
“I get so wrapped up in it that I choke up,” Ruch said. “When I think back and try to reflect back to the type of lives these gentlemen had in the 1700s, I just can’t imagine even being through that.
“I am real proud to be here to honor these men who helped found our country.”
(Kiaski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Janice R. Kiaski
FOUR? GENERATIONS? ON ?HAND – A memorial service and grave dedication ceremony held May 17 at the Pioneer Rehoboth Cemetery in rural Adena paid tribute to Revolutionary War veteran Joseph Chambers, who died in Smithfield Township in 1841. Four generations of his descendants turned out for the event, including, front, Connie Mowery; and back, from left, Kay Leonhart; Patty Meszaros; Betty Whittaker; Don Whittaker; Kenneth Mowery; Chris Mowery holding son Caleb; Craig Mowery; Chris Mowery’s wife Tara with daughter Rachel.