Archive for Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Show your patriotism by investigating, claiming Revolutionary War ancestors

July 2, 2008

The Fourth of July means many things to Kansans. Firecrackers announce the impending arrival of the nation's birthday. Some will think of historic images - Old North Church, Trumball's painting of the Continental Congress signing the Declaration of Independence, or the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware. All of the images seem so distant across the decades and this vast land.

Kansas is closer to the American Revolution than one may think.

Think back to the mid-19th century. The earliest settlers could point to their fathers (most participants in the American Revolution were men) with pride as real examples of participation in gaining our nation's freedom. One of the best-known is Col. Henry Leavenworth whose father, Jesse, was a captain in the Connecticut Militia. Another son of a patriot is the Rev.Thomas Johnson, for whom the Kansas county is named.

From the end of the Civil War to about 1890, more than a million people migrated to Kansas. Many came from places like Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. And where did they live before these states? Try the 13 colonies.

Settlers came west following the Kansas-Nebraska Act and brought stories of "Grandpa' what did you do in the war?" They were referring to the American Revolution. With a nation less than 75 years old, a patriotic spirit and connection to the efforts leading to America's independence still ran strong. They have left their mark across our state.

The first to arrive painted the state with their patriotic sentiments. Look for the geographic signs of the American Revolution throughout Kansas. Consider the communities of Bunker Hill, Bennington or Independence, for example. Then ponder county names. Early, there was Madison County. Now, we count Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Marion and Washington counties as true symbols of a link to the independence of our country. Hamilton was named for the first treasury secretary and Marion for the "Swamp Fox," Gen. Francis Marion.

Today, that patriotic spirit is still alive in Kansas. Many Kansans display their patriotism by flying the flag, serving their nation in the military, or belonging to a service organization. Some men, women and children have taken a large step by tracing their genealogy to a Revolutionary War ancestor.

While many of those in the Revolutionary War bore arms, patriotic service took other forms as well. Where did the food come from? Shelter for troops? Hay for horses? And what about being defiant to King George by serving on a jury of peers? All of these other examples are recognized as proof of service by the leading Revolutionary War descendant societies.

Kansans who believe they have an ancestor with Revolutionary War service should explore their lineage. If there is a Civil War veteran in your past, there is a good chance that family was in America around 1776. Don't be misled by the "came over on the boat" story in the family. Many who immigrated to America in the late 19th century married someone who has roots back to the Revolution. Organizations like the Sons of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the American Revolution can aid in tracing one's family.

There is a great sense of pride when one can point to an ancestor who was in the American Revolution. You can proudly say "my great-great-great-great-great grandfather was part of forming our great nation." Then, the Fourth of July will take on an even greater meaning.

- Peter Grassl, Shawnee, is president of the Kansas

Society, Sons of the American Revolution.

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