NEW JASPER TOWNSHIP — Thirteen local veterans were honored for the first time Friday at Caesarscreek Baptist Church Cemetery.
Mid-morning Aug. 14, the Beavercreek VFW Post 8312 Honor Squad fired a ceremonial rifle salute in the cemetery, culminating the efforts of one Cedar Cliff Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) member.
“It happened because we felt that we wanted to honor veterans from previous wars,” Brenda Tolle, a chapter member from Xenia, said. “We felt it was necessary to honor those veterans who had never received recognition for what they had done. No one had bothered to decorate their graves. They didn’t have grave markers. We wanted to provide them.”
Veterans honored were: Revolutionary War — Patrick Killin (1755-1822) and Asher Reaves (1762-1845); War of 1812 — Thomas Beason (1790-1856), William Beason (1786-1853), John D. Burrell (1783-1864), Peter Hummer (1770-1836), Lewis Jones (1794-1857), John Smith (1801-1883), Henry Turner (1795-1870), and Joseph Wilson (1787-1872); and Civil War — Isaac Newton Johnson (1839-1862), Henry Turner (1838-1883), and Joseph S. Wilson (1829-1873).
The three-volley salute capped one phase of the genealogy research project Tolle started working on — 2,000 volunteer hours ago — for DAR.
Interested in old cemeteries in the area, Tolle worked to identify every person buried in the Caesarscreek Baptist Church Cemetery and connect the names to their ancestors. She’s written biographies for almost all of them — 122 so far.
“Everyone has a story. I wanted to tell theirs,” Tolle said. “I thought that was a good way to do it.”
Tolle used the Greene County Archives to find a list of known burials in the cemetery. Since then, she’s added 10 more names to the list of those who didn’t have gravestones, thanks to the help of two Greene County history books.
“It’s like putting a puzzle together and you can’t leave a piece out,” Tolle said.
During her project, Tolle discovered an unmarked grave of Killin. According to Tolle, Killin died before the first pension act for veterans of the Revolution had passed, so his service had never been verified to the pension board.
“Records were spotty, hard to find. I went to the researchers at the Pennsylvania State Archives and paid them to go through their records and do a search for him. They verified his service and military record,” Tolle said.
Killin was a member of the militia, staying at home unless needed.
“We felt because he was going out on patrol, trying to help the city of Philadelphia, doing other things soldiers did, that he should be recognized for it,” Tolle said.
Killin, who eventually moved to Greene County, didn’t have a gravestone, but Tolle was able to tell from a plot map where he was buried. Veterans Affairs couldn’t give him a stone without a verified pension record — so Tolle bought one for him.
Now it sits just a few feet from the grave of Reaves.
During the ceremony, Reaves’ great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson — Neil Reinsmoen of Beavercreek — accepted a flag for his service.
Reinsmoen had found Reaves’ grave 12 years ago when he was looking into his genealogy.
“We found him, and then Brenda got in touch with me and here we are,” he said.
Tolle’s work — which has been aided by many, including DAR members, Shawnee Hills Baptist Church Youth Group, and David Fields who helped locate, clean and mark headstones — is not done. She hopes to continue cleaning the rest of the tombstones and register the cemetery as a historical cemetery. After this one is done, she’ll move onto the next.
“I want to do all nine of the defunct cemeteries in the county,” Tolle said. “It’s a part of history that we should not forget, our ancestors. I hope that other people will take the initiative to clean up the cemeteries where their families are buried.”