Marking Time

Societies help landowners
honor Revolutionary War soldiers

Discovery leads to dedication ceremony
for soldier buried near Goshen, Ky.

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

GOSHEN, Ky. (October 2008) – When Bill Otter discovered an ancestor that he didn’t even know about who was buried on the property adjacent to his, it was as if he had found the missing piece of a large puzzle. A chance meeting with a distant cousin, Jim Hannigan, made Otter realize he was an indirect descendant of a Revolutionary War soldier.

October 2008 Indiana & Kentucky Edition Cover

October 2008 Indiana & Kentucky Edition Cover

Today, the 86-year-old Otter lives on what was once part of John Austin’s farm on Shiloh Lane near Goshen, Ky. Austin lived from 1736 to 1845 and was an affluent soldier during the turbulent years of the American Revolution (1775-1783). Austin is one of many long forgotten heroes of a battle that secured the freedoms Americans enjoy today.
Austin’s grave has lain unmarked for decades, prompting Otter to believe “he was being denied his place in history,” he said. “The people in Oldham County had forgotten about Austin. Something of value was lost for a time.”
Austin lived to be 109 years old and was buried on a farm that he had lovingly cared for and tended. In 1796, Austin was asked to guide a group of settlers to Clark County, Ind., and bought his second wife and children with him. He happened upon a site across the river in Oldham County and spoke to some squatters who told him that if he would guard the land for the man who held the deed, the man would give him a tract as payment.
Many individuals tried to take the land from him, said Otter. Austin was in litigation over the land until age 107. He deeded the land to a son, and upon the son’s death in the 1870s, it was sold to a neighboring family, the Henshaws. They, in turn, gave a piece of land to one of their freed slaves.
This tract was eventually purchased by a real estate agent and subdivided. Otter owns 23 acres of this land, and his neighbors, the Diebels, own the land containing the original family cemetery.
Even though Otter is not a direct descendant of Austin, it was important to him to have his gravesite marked with a ceremony by the Sons of the American Revolution. “I believe there are only two graves in Oldham County proven to belong to Revolutionary War soldiers,” said Otter. Both men are buried on Shiloh Lane off of Hwy. 42.
The second patriot, Commodore Richard Taylor, is buried on land currently owned by Robert Hancock, which shares a common boundary with Otter’s land. In November, a team of University of Kentucky researchers plan to visit the property that once belonged to Taylor to conduct an electronic study of the land.
This 175-acre property touches the river and Shiloh Lane. Otter said an important factor in researching these patriots of the past is the tie between Taylor, Austin and a third Revolutionary War soldier, John Armstrong, who is buried across the river in Clark County, Ind.

Bill Otter

Photo by April Wilson

Bill Otter, 88, stands
next to the grave of
his ancestor,
Revolutionary War
soldier John Austin.
Austin’s grave is
located on land
adjacent to his own
along on Shiloh Lane
in Goshen, Ky.

“The men were tied together historically,” said Otter. “There is a direct connection between three Revolutionary War soldiers.”
Austin was in four major Revolutionary War battles, but only three were selected for his Sons of the American Revolution plaque, said the Rev. Forrest B. Chilton. Chilton is president of the Gov. Isaac Shelby S.A.R. Chapter, which performed a memorial ceremony on Aug. 27. A patriot’s name, rank, unit and time of service are inscribed upon the bronze memorial plaque placed at their gravesite.
Chilton finds that many “community and family cemeteries are in a deplorable condition.” He said these plots should be looked upon as hallowed grounds but instead are often overrun with weeds, brambles and briars. This makes it hard to find the graves. Many times, the graves lay in cow pastures, where the stones are overturned and broken.
About 12 sites have been marked this year by Chilton and his chapter. Twenty-two sites were marked last year. Chilton is chairman of the state Color Guard and Patriot Graves Chairman for the Kentucky Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
The first requirement for marking a grave is that documented information must be compiled upon the patriot ancestor’s service. A descendant must purchase the eight inch bronze SAR patriot grave marker at a cost of $147. Additional costs may be incurred if the patriot’s headstone needs repairing.
Chilton’s own patriot ancestors, George and Steven Chilton, are buried in Woodford County, Ky. George was in the Battle of Yorktown, while his brother, Steven, was taken captive at Ruddle’s Station on June 8, 1780, and marched to Detroit with a group of captured settlers.
Fellow SAR member Charlie Scott, 69, is a fifer for the Gov. Isaac Shelby S.A.R. Chapter. “We’re a very active chapter,” said Scott. “Our chapter conducts a lot of memorial ceremonies.” Like Chilton and many others, Scott has spent countless hours researching his own ancestors.
He knows that his patriot ancestor Thomas Scott (1754-1834) is buried somewhere in Henry County. Thomas Scott was in the Battle of Kings Mountain.
“I’ve been there and stood at the site where the troops came up the mountain,” said Scott. He’s also visited Greensboro, N.C., where his ancestor lived for a time.
There is a Thomas Scott buried at a Baptist Church in Drennon, but it’s not the patriot ancestor Scott seeks. It would mean a lot to find this lost grave and “have a service to properly mark it,” said Scott.

Isaac Shelby Chapter Color Guard

Photo provided the National Society of SAR

From left, Edmund N. Myles, Commander Emeritus, Gov. Isaac Shelby Chapter Color Guard, and Noble L. Roberts, CHaplain, present the national colors to John Austin descendant William Otter of Goshen, Ky. Below, Charles E. Scott Jr. plays the fife during the ceremony.

The National Headquarters for the Sons of the American Revolution is located at 1000 S. Fourth St., in Louisville. The building contains a general reference library and museum of art and artifacts from the colonial and Revolutionary War period.
There are 50 state societies with more than 450 local or regional SAR chapters. With 27,500 members, the organization is steadily growing.
The interest in locating Revolutionary War era patriot ancestors is one that a lot of people share. “Genealogy is one of the fastest growing interests right now,” said Colleen Wilson, Director of Education for the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. “It answers the age-old questions, ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Where did I come from?’ ”
Wilson said people want to know “what people accomplished in the past that were related to them.” This direct human connection is what spurs them on in their quest to locate an ancestor and have him honored so that others will also note the significance of the patriot’s sacrifices. “History takes on a whole new meaning,” when an individual can personally relate to someone or some event that has happened in the past, said Wilson.
Joe Harris, NSSAR Executive Director, said it is rewarding to work with family members who are proud of their heritage. “The goal of the SAR boils down to three things; it’s a patriotic, educational and historical lineage organization.”
Harris, originally from the Yadkin Valley area of North Carolina, became interested in the SAR through the advice of his mother. Their common ancestor, Capt. Samuel Johnson (1757-1834), was enlisted in the Wilkes-Surry County Militia of North Carolina. Harris added to and documented his mother’s knowledge about their ancestor.
He found it a “neat tie-in to the ending of my military career,” he said. When he considered the sacrifices associated with his career, it seemed fitting to honor an ancestor who had fought for the same goals and with whom he shared a patriotic sense of duty.
The SAR organization, except for a few paid staff members, is comprised of volunteers. Their current focus is on educational outreach programs.
In an effort to expand this programming, the NSSAR has purchased two buildings on Main Street in Louisville, said Wilson. This enlarged space will provide the organization with more opportunities to reach the public and stir up interest in long forgotten heroes of the Revolutionary War period. The tentative opening date for this new location is 2011.


Photo by Don Ward

Jon Searcy operates the back hoe to remove caskets from the Giltner family cemetery near Milton, Ky. In all, 38 graves were moved to another location just east on Nugent Sand property to better maintain them.

“We’re restructuring ourselves to enhance others’ research,” Wilson said. She sees the educational outreach programs as a way to “enrich our cultural community.”
The SAR also conducts flag retirement ceremonies for torn or discolored flags that have borne service to our country. “It’s our civic responsibility to retire these flags,” she said.
Finding one of these long forgotten patriots is a rare feat because they “migrated here after the Revolutionary War,” said Evelyn Welch, Butler-Turpin Historic House Museum Manager. It was not as if the patriots were already settled in Kentucky with a family and property before the war to come home to. “This makes finding a grave unique.”
Many came to Kentucky to carve out a new life or take possession of land grants awarded them because of the war. After their service in the militia, they ended up staying and are buried somewhere, many in unmarked graves. “I’m sure there are plenty out there,” said Welch.
It’s not as rare to find a soldier who fought in the War of 1812, Mexican War or Civil War. “They settled here then came back home after the war was over,” said Welch.
General Butler State Resort Park has its own patriot buried in the Butler family cemetery. General Percival Butler, the First Adjutant General of Kentucky, entered the Revolutionary army as a lieutenant at the age of eighteen. He was with General George Washington at Valley Forge, Monmouth and Yorktown. Along with his four brothers, he earned a reputation for being one of the “gallant Butlers of the Revolutionary War,” said Welch.
Along the Ohio River in Carroll County where the Nugent Sand Co. is located, is the burial ground for another patriot of the American Revolution. The company’s vice president, Steve Schoenig, actually found his patriot ancestor and sixth-generation great-grandfather buried on the land.
Revolutionary War soldier Christopher Boyer and his wife, Mary Ann, rested beneath tall trees and grass until the Nugent Sand Co. cleaned the property up. The couple’s ancestors were very prominent in the Carroll County area and many took a large part in the Civil War as well.

Richard Taylor Marker

Photo by April Wilson

The gravestone of Commodore
Richard Taylor in Goshen, Ky.

One of Christopher’s daughters married into the Giltner family and today the graveyard is known as the Giltner Cemetery. An organization known as the DAR placed a plaque to mark Boyer’s grave.
Because the cemetery is in such a state of disrepair, the 38 identified grave sites in late September were moved to a location adjacent to the Hunters Bottom Cemetery beside St. Peter Lutheran Church, 6147 Hwy. 36 West. There, they can be more easily maintained and out of the way of Nugent Sand’s excavation for sand and gravel. The company hired Searcy monuments and Tandy-Eckler-Riley Funeral Home to move the stones and coffins.
“We have a list of 38 known graves that are located here, but there could be 20 or 30 more that are unmarked,” said Rob Riley of Tandy-Eckler-Riley. “Most of the coffins were wood or wood with metal lids or all metal. Many of them have deteriorated. We have also found human remains.”
The known graves date from 1829 to 1901 and include family names Giltner, Boyer, Hoagland, Spillman, and Yager, among others.
Carrollton, Ky., resident Nancy Jo Grobmyer, has been a member of the Polly Hawkins Craig Chapter of DAR member since 1948. She said that finding a patriot’s grave is rare but rewarding. One of her patriot ancestors, William Tandy Sr., is buried in the Ghent (Ky.) Cemetery.
Belonging to such organizations as the DAR or SAR is enjoyable, said Grobmyer. Above all else, “It’s patriotic.”

• Editor Don Ward contributed to this report. For more information on the Sons of the American Revolution, visit: www.sar.org. To learn more about the Daughters of the American Revolution, visit www.kentuckydar.org.

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