With Memorial Day just weeks away this month I thought it might be nice to revisit a story that I wrote for my book, “Strange Tales From Ohio.” Its a story about Ohio’s last veteran of the American Revolution. Here is an excerpt from the book:
He was a very old man when he died. In his dreams he could still hear the boom of cannons, the volleys of fire, the screams of the injured. He was a man who had seen war, but he was a most unique veteran.
His name was John Gray and he was not only a veteran of the American Revolutionary War, he was the last living veteran of that conflict when he died.
He lived, most of his life, and died, in Noble County, Ohio. He nearly died in abject poverty, if it hadn’t been for the efforts of another veteran. A veteran of The Civil War.
Incredibly Gray was born on George Washington’s Plantation, Mount Vernon, in Virginia. His family worked as day laborers for Washington. When the war came and Washington took command of the Continental Forces, Gray’s father joined him. At the battle of White Plains Gray’s father was killed and although only age 17 at the time, Gray immediately enlisted. He came under fire of the British at Williamsburg and he was at Yorktown when Cornwallis surrendered.
After the war ended he went back to Mount Vernon, but since he was not a landowner, under Virginia Law, he could not vote. Upon the advice of George Washington, Gray setout for the wilds of Kentucky and Ohio where he could clear and claim some land. He eventually settled near Brookfield, Ohio, in Noble County, where he built a cabin and operated a small farm.
A Civil War Veteran, J. L. Dalzell, who as a child used to play on Gray’s farm, rallied veterans of his war when he discovered that Gray received no pension for his services to the Continental Army. But Washington’s bureaucracy was just as bad then as now. It took weeks and months for bureaucrats to trace Gray’s history, to confirm that he actually had served in the Revolutionary War, that he was who he claimed to be and not just an old soldier living out a fantasy. But it was all true, he had known Washington, he had been on the bloody field at Williamsburg. Just one year before he died Gray finally was granted a pension from the U. S. Congress. How much was it? They gave him a little less than 50 dollars a month.
John Gray, the man who fought for our independence, and who also watched Ohio become a state, is buried in a small cemetery about 250 yards from where his cabin stood on Brookfield Township Road. There are two markers, one, a fading stone that calls Gray “One of Washington’s compatriots”, the other a modern military grave marker that simply says,
Born Jan 6, 1764
Died Mar 29 1868”.
If you go to visit the graveyard it is difficult to locate, there is a modern day monument dedicated to Gray located in a former roadside park on State Route 821 south of the town of Belle Valley. For more information contact the Noble County Tourism Board at www.noblecountyohio.com (74….
To read other stories like this see my book, “Strange Tales From Ohio”, Gray & Co., Publishers, Cleveland, Ohio or visit Amazon.com