Ancestors return Children of the American Revolution visit Lititz to honor patriots who died here in 1778
By: JOHN CRAWFORD Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer
They came to Lititz as patriots, wounded in service to their fledgling country in battles such as Brandywine and Germantown.
General George Washington had commandeered the Moravian Brothers House in Lititz to be used as a hospital in December of 1777 and the soldiers began arriving on Dec. 19.
“A total of four hundred and fifty sick and wounded soldiers of the Continental Army and a few Hessian prisoners of war were cared for in the Brother’s House until August 28, 1778 when the hospital was discontinued,” wrote Ron Reedy in his history of Lititz.
From those numbers, another number arose — 120.
That was the number who succumbed to a combination of wounds or camp fever during their stay. Of those, 110 were buried together, outside the young town’s limits while the other ten, presumably officers, were sent elsewhere.
Over time, the names of the soldiers and the exact location of the gravesite faded from history. The graves were found when “Morris Frederick was digging for a cellar for construction of a home on the property of Andy Althouse at 103 Locust Street,” wrote Reedy.
With the help of an Act of Congress and an appropriation of $2,500, Lititz moved the bones and created the current Revolutionary War memorial on East Main Street in 1930. The names remain lost to history.
Last Sunday, they came as patriots to Lititz, from Reading and suburban Philadelphia, to honor the unknown contemporaries of their ancestors when members of the Children of the American Revolution held a wreath-laying at the memorial.
During the brief ceremony, Tori Hain told the gathered members, “We are here today to honor 110 soldiers of the Continental Army. Although the identities of these patriots have been lost to history, we must not forget their sacrifice for our freedom.
“Kate Turner and Max Hain will now place a wreath as a symbol of our appreciation for their service and desire for all this country’s patriots to be remembered by future generations.”
Sunday’s temperature reminded many of the conditions endured by the soldiers like those buried in Lititz throughout the first winter of the Revolution.
“I thought about how harsh it was,” reflected Renee Gallagher, a DAR member and adult leader for the CAR. “Can you imagine if you are out fighting in a wool outfit and you’re hurt. How did they ever manage?”
To be a member of the CAR, one must verify the lineage of an ancestor who supported the Revolutionary War. Prior to the ceremony, they shared their heritage.
“My ancestor is William Via, a private in the Virginia Continental Army,” said Kate Turner of Reading. “He served in the Battle of Yorktown. I know he marched down to Charlestown and Savannah to help corral the British to prevent any further skirmish.”
“I love being a part of the society,” she continued. “To me, it’s an honor, because I know he fought at Yorktown and he survived. Because of some minute contribution of his, he helped create this country. That’s pride enough, that’s honor enough (for me).”
“My ancestor was Elijah Phelps, a captain who was with the Connecticut militia,” said Bruce Vaughn, 10, of Sinking Springs. “He fought alongside Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, capturing Fort Ticonderoga in 1775.”
Mary Frances Gallagher, the daughter of Renee, said of her lineage, “My ancestor is William Nelson. He was an officer in the Revolutionary War.”
Like many members present on Sunday, Gallagher became involved through a parent’s membership in the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) or SAR (Sons …).
“My mom is a part of the DAR,” she said. “She really got me involved. It’s a lot of fun. It’s interesting to meet folks who share your heritage and you also relate in a certain way (with) having an ancestor in the American Revolution.”
“Mary Frances and I really share a connection with history where we came from,” said Mrs. Gallagher. “It stems from being close with the generations who are here, then I think your mind starts to wander to ‘What about everybody else? Where do I come from?’ I had women in my family who had joined the DAR and done research going back five or six generations to reach back to William Nelson. Mary Frances and I talked about how even having just a name makes (the Revolution) very real.”
While the group often travels to sites like the memorial in Lititz, they also hold social functions. One such function last February led directly to Sunday’s memorial.
“This is the second trip we made to Lititz,” said Anne Hain, the senior society president. “I met the (Selena Mann) who owns the Café Chocolate. She came to a meeting for the Colonial Dame Society of Pennsylvania and she was so informative that I thought we need to bring the kids here. We came up here and when we were leaving, I saw the memorial. I thought, ‘OK, we’re going to come back and acknowledge this site.’”
The return trip came as a reward for one of the group’s activities for current vets.
“In January, we make Valentine’s Day cards for veterans and this is a reward for the kids. This year, we decided to tie in the wreath laying.”
The members attending came from several communities. Some, like the Gallaghers, came from the surrounding neighborhoods while others came from as far away as Ardmore.
“The societies of the Children of the American Revolution are all relatively small and we try to work together as much as we can,” explained Kate’s father, Floyd Turner. “Anne Green is the one who set this up. When she was setting it up, she sent the word out to the Conrad Weiser Society in Reading and the George Ross society, which is from Lancaster, and just asking for people to come join us.”
During a cold winter’s day, they came and honored those who arrived in Lititz generations before them. More REVOLUTION, page A18