By Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
“We gather in this historic pioneer church building to offer our praise and thanksgiving to God! We come together from many different places – as many different people, yet united in the goodness of God as we share together in honoring our veterans, especially those of the War of 1812,” prayed the Rev. Mark Woodward, leading the War of 1812 bicentennial commemoration worship service in the historic Lenora United Methodist Church on June 16.
The commemoration service and honors began in the Lenora Cemetery, after which a “militia” led by a Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion color guard, fife and drum proceeded to the church, where the Chatfield Brass Band, comprised of a sextet, provided a musical prelude, lay speaker John Goutcher welcomed attendees and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited, followed by “The Star Spangled Banner,” performed by soloist Barton Seebach and organist Nancy Dahly.
Following the call to worship, the congregation sang “America,” Woodward gave the Scripture reading, and the Chatfield Brass Band played “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”
Woodward then took the pulpit, saying, “Our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, gave a remarkable talk known as the ‘Gettysburg Address.’ It wasn’t very long, but people still remember it today. My message is not very long, but I doubt people will remember it….” He then recounted how he and his wife discovered the Lenora United Methodist Church while touring Fillmore County one afternoon and how, during a lecture at Hamline University, he’d heard of the Rev. John Dyer, the circuit rider who founded the church and later was known as “The Snowshoe Pastor” because of his ministry in Colorado.
“This church’s origins are roughly 50 years after the War of 1812, but I believe that those veterans associated with the War of 1812 had some connection with the church, and it’s therefore appropriate that we gather here today…much has happened since the War of 1812. The nation has known heartache and loss, and many of the young men who helped build this church may have gone off to the Civil War and not returned,” said Woodward.
“Our country is blessed in so many different ways, and even though we’re human and make mistakes, I believe we can come together and give thanks to the people who served and serve, gather here for the cause of justice, equality and liberty.”
Woodward invited the descendants of the veterans of the War of 1812, and all veterans within the congregation, to stand and be recognized, at which point the congregation expressed their appreciation with applause. “We say thank you for your heritage and all you’ve given. We are a grateful nation.”
Woodward then introduced Mary Elise Antoine, vice president of the Prairie du Chien Historical Society. Antoine explained that while the conflict of the War of 1812 may not have seemed to be “a theater of the Upper Mississippi Valley,” it was, in fact, based on the British control of fur trading and relations with Native Americans in what would become Ohio, Michigan and Iowa. Exploration of the wild western territories by Louis and Clark and Zebulon Pike relayed to President Thomas Jefferson that the land was rich and peopled with various tribes, and Pike recommended fortification of the Mississippi River at Prairie du Chien, which the United States eventually did, naming the fort “Fort Shelby,” because most of the men in the company were from Kentucky and wanted to honor their governor, Gov. Shelby.
Strife erupted between the British, who felt that trading furs inside the United States was their right, and those who felt that the British should not be conducting commerce within the young nation. Antoine pointed out that Native Americans such as Tecumseh sympathized with the British, and the British in turn supplied his tribe with guns.
With the Louisiana Purchase, “traders and Native Americans saw an end to their way of life, to their livelihoods.” That spurred both sides to action – the United States to defend its trading rights, and the British and Native Americans who benefited from British presence to defend their trading rights. Ultimately, Fort Shelby was attacked by British militia, and when the Fort Shelby gunboat’s captain saw that his boat might not survive the fray, he loosed it and let it go downriver, forcing the American soldiers to ration their ammunition and supplies and limiting the fracas to three days, at which point the forces proposed a truce and later a treaty, which effectually returned all land and holdings to their original owners and established that the British were not to engage the Native Americans.
Antoine stated, “Your War of 1812 veterans never served in the Mississippi Valley theater of the war, but instead fought in the northern front between the United States and Canada. They had much in common – all of them served in the militia, and it’s likely that it was farming that brought all of them to Minnesota, because the United States moved westward after the War of 1812…veterans were offered bounty land, such as the land Jarvis Billings may have accepted.
“The land in Fillmore County was ceded from the Native Americans, the Dakota and Hochunk, and the veterans who came here were old men who likely came with sons or daughters and claimed their land. But the War of 1812 established boundaries and opened the land west of the Mississippi Valley to settlers, pioneers, old men who had served in the war and now wanted to farm.”
Fillmore County Veterans’ Services officer Jason Marquardt read the roster of War of 1812 veterans, beginning with Daniel Knight Babcock, of Pvt. Capt. Lampson’s Co., New York Militia, buried in the Lanesboro Cemetery; Nathan Blood, a Teamster with the Vermont Militia who is buried in the Chatfield Cemetery; Peter G. Benway, with Pvt. Capt. McMath’s Co., New York Militia, interred in the Lenora Cemetery; Jarvis Billings, of Pvt. Capt. Scovill’s Co., New York Militia, laid to rest in the Greenwood Cemetery; Alvin Crissey, of Pvt. Capt. Jamieson’s Co., New Hampshire 5th Infantry and Pvt. Capt. Tobey’s Co., New Hampshire 21st Infantry, resting in the Chatfield Cemetery; Isaac Farnsworth, a musician with Capt. Taylor’s 2nd Regiment Vermont Militia, now in the Waukokee Cemetery; Henry Walton Gates, Pvt. Capt. Adam’s Co., Detached Artillery, Metcalf’s New York Militia, now in the Hesper Cemetery; Elias Andrew Gray, with Pvt. Capt. Arnold’s New York Detached Militia, Bellinger’s 27th Regiment, now in the Lenora Cemetery; David Pickett of Pvt. Capt. Day’s New York Militia, resting in the Carimona Cemetery; James Riddle, with Pvt. Capt. Steger’s Co, Ohio Militia, buried in the Zumbro Hill Cemetery; Tyler Walker, of Pvt. Capt. Kimball’s Co., New Hampshire Militia, buried in the North Highland Cemetery; Charles Williams, with Pvt. Capt. Stonebreaker’s Co., Maryland Militia, found in the Chatfield Cemetery; and William Woodard, of Pvt. Capt. Balcom’s 23rd Regiment, New York Militia, in the Chatfield Cemetery.
Woodward closed the service with a pastoral prayer and a hymn, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” led by the Chatfield Brass Band and Nancy Dahly. Offering taken during the service was dedicated to the maintenance of the historic Lenora church.
The Friends of Lenora thanked all those that helped make the event possible.