Tales from the grave

By Linda Emley

I spend a good deal of time walking the cemeteries of Ray County. Sometimes I’m looking for a particular person and sometimes I’m just looking. I’ve never left a cemetery without finding a new story that needs to be shared. On the 4th of July, I took my cousin Mykayla to the grave of Revolutionary War solider Abram Hill. She’s a real history buff and enjoyed spending part of her “Independence Day” on our little journey to the past. Abraham Hill is buried in the Hill Cemetery, located north of Richmond on E.112th Street. His tombstone says, “ABRAM HILL, CT. MIL, REV. WAR.” I think it’s his original tombstone but it does not have any dates on it. The local D.A.R. chapter placed a stone next to his grave that gives the dates of 1760 and 1843. Abraham’s D.A.R. patriot record shows his birth as July, 24, 1759, in New Jersey and his death as May 26, 1843, in Richmond.

I recently found the grave of another Revolutionarily War soldier, James Willis, in the Old New Garden Cemetery. There is a list of Revolutionary soldiers buried in Missouri. It states, “James Wells resided with in son-in-law, James Clevenger in 1840 and died Aug. 17, 1855, aged 92 and was buried in New Garden Cemetery.” This info was obtained from the Probate Judge records of Ray County. I found a James Wells living with David Wells in Clay County on the 1840 Missouri Census of Pensioners.

I keep asking myself how many Revolutionary soldiers are buried in Ray County, and the list just keeps getting longer.

I’m still looking for the graves of William Miller, Daniel Hudgins, John Wallace, Littleton West, I. Lake and Isaac Odell. I’m also working on a lead that a John McGaugh who’s buried at Todd’s Chapel is another Revolutionary soldier to add it our list.

We recently got a request at Ray County Museum from a gentleman looking for information on Littleton West. He was born Nov. 20, 1755, in Delaware, lived in Virginia during the Revolutionary War and was an “Indian spy.” He migrated to Kentucky then to Missouri and settled in Ray County. He applied for a Revolutionary War pension in 1833 in Ray County. We don’t know when he died or where he is buried, but we think he was buried in the Turner-Siegel Cemetery, east of Excelsior Springs.

The following is part of the Revolutionary War soldiers’ pension record for Littleton West. It is on file at the Ray County Courthouse.

“State of Missouri County of Ray: On this 5th day of August in the year 1833 personally appeared the undersigned Littleton West, a resident of said County and State, aged about 78 years who being first duly sworn according to law doth on his oath make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the Provision made by the act of Congress passed June 7th, 1832. That sometime in the year 1774, he volunteered as a Private Militia man under Captain Benjamin Harris in the State of Virginia where I then lived for the defense of the Northwestern frontiers which were annoyed by the attacks of hostile Indians that we marched with a force of 100 men under the command of Captain Ben Harris for Point Pleasant on the Ohio River near the mouth of the Kanawha River, we arrived there with many of our men sic of the flux. I was detailed to wait on the sick and did not reach the point until after the Battle was fought with the Indians at Point Pleasant on October 10, 1774. I do not recollect the name of the Regiment I belonged to and the following officers are all that I recollect being in this Expedition: General Andrew Lewis of Virginia. I believe the said expedition was ordered out by the Governor Lord Dunmore of Virginia and I also believe it had his sanction. I returned home to the State of Virginia. The troops were discharged our tour of service was on this campaign three months.

About the year 1779 or 1780, as I think, I volunteered under Captain Thomas Wright of the State of Virginia in which County I still lived, with a body of Militia ordered out by the authority of Virginia. We marched from Greenbrier County in the said State under the command of Captain T. Wright and Colonel J Henderson – with about 30 men to Burnsides on the Frontier of said County of Greenbrier in said state where we were stationed for protecting the frontier settlements. We were in actual service this tour 30 days, was discharged and returned to my former residence in Greenbrier Virginia. In or about the year 1782, I again volunteered under Captain Wright and marched to the relief of Doneley’s forts on the frontiers of Greenbrier County with a force of about 45 men commanded by Captain Wright whilst at this fort the Shawnee Indians made an attack on the fort and killed 4 men; we, however repulsed them with several killed & wounded; having fulfilled our tour we were discharged.

I returned home to Greenbrier my place of residence after serving in this tour 30 days. As well as I can recollect and the requisition was made by the Governor of Virginia for troops to aid the settlements who were much distressed by the Indians. I was drafted in this Campaign but owing to my situation being lately married I could not go with the troops. I procured a substitute by the name of Joshua Boucher to whom I paid $50 to take my place for three months which he did. I have been on other campaigns against the Indians, which I cannot now by reason of my old age and consequent loss of memory, detail to any person. I have no documents or evidence of the aforesaid narrative nor do I know of any person now living that can testify to my services. I have served in all the tours put together the full space of eight months. I cannot say in what year it happened and during that time I was not engaged in any civil pursuit. Littleton West”

And my search continues for the Revolutionary War heroes of Ray County.


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