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Revolutionary War Soldier's Grave Gets New Marker

Kathy Noble
Daughters of the American Revolution

At least two Revolutionary War soldiers are buried in Kalamazoo County. Daniel Wilson is one of them; you can see his grave in Yorkville. But the marker doesn’t mention his role in the war. A  local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution says his service should be recognized. On Saturday, the group plans to dedicate a new marker to Wilson. The ceremony starts at 1 pm.

More information about the Saturday grave marker dedication in Yorkville (May 23 post)

The DAR also sought to correct records that said Wilson was buried in a different state.

It’s understandable that some people thought Daniel Wilson had been buried in Connecticut. That was his home state and he lived there most of his life. His family had already lived in Connecticut for four generations when Wilson was born in 1757. As the DAR’s Kathy Noble explains, Wilson joined the Revolutionary War from his hometown, Harwinton.

"He was 19 years old when he enlisted with his local militia. His brother was a captain, another brother was a lieutenant. And they were sent off to defend New York City once the signing of the Declaration had happened," she says.

"He enlisted in June of 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed in July, and off they went in August – or right away – to New York because they knew the British would probably want to capture that city and have it for themselves.

"He served for six months there, as history knows and is well documented it did not go well for the American troops. They had to leave New York City and he was discharged from that service in December of 1776.

"He again in enlisted in 1777, in the latter part of September and was marched up to Saratoga. Stillwater was where they went to, where the first battle of Saratoga was fought in September. And then he was there also for the October of Saratoga where general Burgoyne’s army was captured. And that was the turning point, basically, for the colonial troops."

After the war Wilson remained in the militia, rising to the rank of captain. Decades after his service, he became eligible for a stipend. Noble says that’s when the government created a compensation program for Revolutionary War soldiers, though many would have died by then.

"They decided that in 1832, these Revolutionary War soldiers who were still alive deserved to have a pension. Because we’d already had the War of 1812, there were other things that were happening in the country and they deserved to be recognized and have a stipend," she says.

Wilson had no papers that proved he’d been a soldier in the war. Instead, witnesses testified to his role. Documents from that hearing still exist. Noble reads from Wilson’s testimony:

“In June 1776, I enlisted at said Harwinton into the company of Captain Amos Wilson, which was with other companies raised at that time of the State of Connecticut, to serve six months in the defense of the city of New York.”

As it happens, Amos Wilson was family – he was Daniel Wilson’s uncle.

In his late seventies Wilson visited what was still Michigan Territory. He wanted to see his daughter Ursula and her husband Tillotson Barnes. They lived in Yorkville, near Gull Lake.

"He was in good health when he arrived. He became ill and died on May 25, 1834. There was no cemetery in Yorkville, so Tillotson Barnes allocated a tract of land for his burial and Daniel S. Wilson was the very first person buried in Ross Township. And that cemetery is probably one of the oldest in Kalamazoo County," she says.

Ursula and Tillotson did not have children together, and no direct descendants of Wilson live in Yorkville. But his line did continue in other states. At one point an Iowa descendant joined the Daughters of the American Revolution. And other Wilson relatives descended from Wilson’s son Daniel, who died at 28.

"His widow, Nancy, had three sons," Noble says. "They moved to Illinois after Daniel’s death. So we know there are some descendants here in the Midwest. There are descendants of other children – he did have 10 children. Six of them were still alive when he passed away. He had an infant son who died when he was two years old. He had a daughter die when she was 23, and Daniel the son died at age 28, and another son died in Alabama in 1826."

While Wilson’s grave marker in Yorkville Cemetery does not mention his service in the Revolutionary War, it does refer to him by his postwar rank of captain. But there are other issues: The date of death on Wilson’s marker is five years too late.

"We are not sure why that happened. We could suppose that the grave marker wasn’t commissioned until 1839, and so the carver just kind of put the year that was there," Noble says.

"Or perhaps they couldn’t read the writing when they asked for it to be put on there because fours can sometimes be misconstrued as nines."

The marker the DAR plans to install Saturday will show the correct date. The dedication begins at 1 pm at Yorkville Cemetery, or at Yorkville Community Church in the event of very bad weather. Noble says if only a light rain is falling, attendants should meet at the cemetery where the group will decide what to do next.

Sehvilla Mann joined WMUK’s news team in January 2014 as a reporter on the local government and education beats. Before that she covered a variety of topics, including environmental issues, for Bloomington, Indiana NPR and PBS affiliates WFIU and WTIU. She’s also written and produced stories for the Pacifica Network and WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Sehvilla holds a B.A. in French from Earlham College and an M.A. in journalism from Indiana University.
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