Aug 17, 2012
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
GRIGGSVILLE, Ill. — Jerry Grimes knew bits and pieces about his maternal great-great-grandfather Thomas Scott.
But until just recently, Grimes didn’t know that Scott was a veteran of the War of 1812, part of the Tennessee Militia that marched from Knoxville, Tenn., to around Mobile, Ala.
“They were road builders and wagon guards,” said Grimes, who lives in Pittsfield and has another War of 1812 ancestor, a paternal great-great-grandfather buried in Green Pond Cemetery. “They served from September 1814 until May 1815.”
Scott and seven other War of 1812 veterans will be recognized for their service with a grave marking ceremony at 11 a.m. Sunday at Bethel Church cemetery near Griggsville.
The War of 1812 is “kind of the forgotten war … but it’s important they are not forgotten,” said Kathy Zimmerman, a member of the Sangamon River Chapter of the National Society U.S. Daughters of 1812.
“People really don’t know much about the War of 1812, but just like all veterans, we owe our freedom to them. These gentlemen went through a lot of hardships and sacrificed to give us our freedom. If there hadn’t been a War of 1812, we might have gone back under British rule.”
The men all served in other states in the war — Illinois became the 21st state in 1818 — but eventually made their way to Pike County with their families.
For their military service, “we believe all of them did get land grants in Illinois. Some settled in other parts of Illinois and moved to the Bethel area,” said Alice Cripe, a descendant of two of the War of 1812 veterans buried at Bethel and a member of U.S. Daughters. “We’re not sure why they came (here), if it was extra-good land here because it was between the rivers, or easy access because of the rivers. It was close to Atlas, which was a very early settlement in the area.”
Descendants of the eight men and the public are welcome to the ceremony, which opens the annual Bethel Homecoming celebration. A picnic on the church lawn begins at 12:30 followed by a service in the historic church at 2 p.m.
“It just continues a feeling of community when people get together and visit with relatives,” said Cripe, who serves as secretary-treasurer of the Bethel Church board. “I have some cousins that have lived in the St. Louis area for years, but they always come back to Bethel for the homecoming. It just becomes a tradition, kind of like a big family reunion.”
Several War of 1812 veterans played a key role in founding the church, open now only for the Homecoming and an occasional funeral or wedding, and adjacent cemetery. As part of the War of 1812 bicentennial, efforts are being made to find all of the war’s veterans buried in Illinois.
“We knew there were 1812 veterans at Bethel. We discovered there were not just three at Bethel, but eight. It’s unusual to have eight in such a small cemetery like Bethel,” Zimmerman said. “That little cemetery is just amazing. It has one Mexican War veteran, one Black Hawk War veteran, eight 1812 veterans and over 20 Civil War veterans in that one little cemetery.”
One large plaque, placed near the Civil War monument, recognizes all eight men, with individual markers at each grave.
“The men who served put their lives at stake. They were doing it to protect their families, their communities,” Cripe said. “They were fighting the Indians for their very existence.”
Cripe researched the stories of the men, which will be shared during the ceremony by either descendants or members of the 17th Territorial Rangers in period dress.
“It’s a shame I have to rediscover these stories,” she said. “Maybe my little contribution is to bring these little stories back to life and give these men some recognition.”
Learning more about an ancestor was exciting for Grimes and his family, who will provide music for the grave marking and homecoming.
“We knew about the family, but there were so many Thomas Scotts that there was a mix-up in names and stories,” Grimes said. “We want to know our roots.”
War of 1812 veterans to be honored are:
º Josias Wade, private, Kentucky Militia — He fought in the Indian wars alongside Daniel Boone and was at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 before serving in the War of 1812. Wade and his family moved from Logan County, Kentucky, to Pike County in 1830.
º Nathan Philips, private, Kentucky Militia — Philips and his family moved to Pike County in 1830. He bought the first lot in the town of Griggsville in 1834 for $75. Philips became a physician. His brother Nimrod came to Pike County and ran the Philips Ferry on the Illinois River where a small settlement began.
º George Evans, private, Kentucky Volunteers — The Pennsylvania native fought with Gen. William Henry Harrison on his various campaigns with the Indians, then in Capt. John Martin’s Company of the 5th Regiment (Lewis’s) Kentucky Volunteers during the War of 1812. He farmed south of Griggsville in 1830 and moved in 1846 to Newburg Township and farmed less than a mile west of the cemetery.
º Thomas Scott, private, East Tennessee Militia — A North Carolina native, Scott and his family moved to the Bethel community in Newburg Township in Pike County in the early 1850s.
º Richard Wade, private, East Tennessee Militia — The son of Josias Wade, he fought in the war of 1812, then decided to go west to claim the land grant for his service. He was commissioned a lieutenant of the Illinois Militia 15th Reg. on Aug. 30, 1824. He and his wife Nancy moved in 1826 to near the Illinois River in Pike County, settling on the river road up from Philips Ferry. Nancy Wade died in 1838 and was the second burial in Bethel Cemetery. He and his second wife Hannah donated the land for both Bethel Church and the cemetery.
º John Pearcy, private, Tennessee Militia — The son of a Revolutionary War soldier, Pearcy was a Virginia native. He died in 1835 was buried elsewhere and later moved to Bethel Cemetery. His wife Hannah later married Richard Wade, another War of 1812 veteran, and two of his grandsons were honored on the Civil War soldier’s monument in the cemetery.
º James Lytle, private, Ohio Militia — Born in Ireland, Lytle came to America as a young man. He and his family moved to the Bethel community in the 1830s. One of his grandchildren was the first to be buried in the cemetery; the boy had gone out in the forest on his pony and was killed by a panther. His son George was an early trustee of Bethel Church and suggested the name, inspired by a Bethel Chapel in Ross County, Ohio, where the family had lived for many years.
º John Dimmitt, private, Ohio Volunteers — An Ohio native, Dimmitt and his family migrated to Illinois in 1838. He was an early member and trustee of Bethel Church. He and Richard Wade made the shingles for the first church, and the trustees sent him to St. Louis to buy doors, window sash, glass and nails for the church. He suggested the name Olive Branch for the church, but the name Bethel was chosen. The first wedding in the church was his daughter Mary Ann to Ashley Bentley; the last wedding in the original church was his grandson Walter Bentley to Julia Rhodes.
The annual Bethel Homecoming follows the grave marking ceremony with a picnic on the church lawn at 12:30 p.m. and a church service at 2 p.m. People are asked to bring a lawn chair, table service and a dish to share.