D.A.R. dedicates new memorial plaque
to Revolutionary War veterans
Switzerland Co. groups support plaque
to honor 103 early settlers
VEVAY, Ind. (December 2013) – Researcher Marlene Jan McDerment of Wooster, Ohio, jokes that there is a saying among genealogists that “You haven’t done your genealogy if you haven’t found your horse thief.” Go back far enough in anyone’s family history and you are likely to find a few relatives whom they might be unhappy to claim.
However, when McDerment started looking into the life of her ancestor Griffith Dickason, she discovered a relative of whom she could be proud. Not only was Dickason a Revolutionary War veteran and early settler of Switzerland County, Ind., but he also became link to a whole line of living family members she otherwise would have never met.
A new memorial to Switzerland County Revolutionary War veterans was dedicated Oct. 13 during a ceremony held at Paul Ogle Park in Vevay. The plaque now hangs in the Switzerland County Courthouse.
McDerment’s research showed that while Dickason was no horse thief, he certainly was something of a character. While many others of the time were distilling whiskey to trade with then Spanish New Orleans, “Griffith Dickason was making absinthe; he was making hard liquor!” McDerment said, laughing.
In the 1790s while living in a part of Virginia that would later become Kentucky, Dickason and 11 other men petitioned the Legislature to create a new county, citing hazards of Indians and poor roads as obstacles to traveling to their current county seat. As a result of their petition, Logan County was formed. In 1798, Dickason would move to Switzerland County, making him one of the first eight settlers in the county. Of those eight early settlers, five were Revolutionary War veterans. Dickason also holds a special place in Switzerland County history since he and his business partner were the first in the county to travel to Cincinnati to register their property, making them the first recorded landowners there.
McDerment connected online with Judy Kappes, another descendant of Dickason who was researching his military record. McDerment said Dickason “served at Valley Forge that horrible winter” and also at Germantown, White Plains and Monmouth, N.J. He was one of five men selected for a mission from New Jersey to Virginia that was apparently kept quiet since Dickason was reported as AWOL for a time until it was discovered that he was on a different assignment.
“Apparently, he was a good soldier or he would not have been asked to go on this special mission,” McDerment says. Both Kappes and McDerment are members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and while looking into Dickason’s life they began learning more about the of Revolutionary veterans who had lived in Switzerland County.
“In the process we discovered no plaque, no memorial. We tossed it around between the two of us and decided we were going to do something about it,” says Kappes of Fairview (in Switzerland County).
Kappes and McDerment saw their idea of a memorial embraced by the community, so it was decided that the Vevay-Switzerland County Bicentennial Birthday Celebration was the perfect time to dedicate such a monument.
On Oct. 13, the plaque was unveiled to the public. The 6.5x5-foot plaque lists the names of 98 veterans of the Revolutionary War who lived in Switzerland County as well as five widows of revolutionaries who used their husbands’ land grants to settle in the county.
“We had a good turnout for our dedication,” says Kappes. She estimates that 600-700 people attended the event, including representatives from the American Legion Post No. 185; the Vevay Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 5396; the Women’s Auxiliaries of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars; the Indiana Sons of the American Revolution Honor Guard; and several members of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Today, the plaque hangs in the main hallway of the Switzerland County Courthouse.
Kappes said it is important to have the names of these veterans all in one place. She believes these early settlers have been largely forgotten, saying that history books “hardly ever mention those people. The Swiss didn’t come until the early 1800s.”
She said she is pleased at how the community came together to make the memorial a reality with woodcarvers donating their time and the Community Foundation of Switzerland County awarding a $1,200 grant for the nameplates and glue. The wood of the plaque came from Kappes’ farm, which has been in her family since 1843.
Kappes said she hopes the memorial will help to raise awareness of the veterans and possibly even lead to the discovery of more of their burial sites. Currently, only 15 of the 71 veterans who are believed to have died in Switzerland County have had their stones located.
“All these years, and only a few have been located and fixed,” says Kappes. “Hopefully, we may find a few more We do find some once in a while.”
The Switzerland County Cemetery Commission is cleaning up a few of these old cemeteries. The commission erected two stones this year. One was a replacement for a tombstone that had been damaged over time and “earlier in the year one of the Gullions – they uncovered his stone,” she says. No stone has yet been found for Dickason, and McDerment fears that his burial was washed away in past floods.
McDerment found that much of the information on the Switzerland County veterans had never been collected, which led her to write “Revolutionary Soldiers and Wives of Soldiers with Ties to Switzerland County Indiana,” published in April by Heritage Books. During her research, McDerment uncovered 10 pension applications made in Switzerland County that appear nowhere else.
“My ancestor and the other nine men never received a penny of pension,” she said.
During the course of her work, McDerment not only proved the service of previously forgotten veterans but also discovered a few mistakes that previous researchers had made. She explains that through her work she found that “some men mentioned in the past by DAR and other places never served.”
She points out one man whose tombstone named him as a Revolutionary veteran, but while, “he may have talked about the war, he was too young to even have been a drummer boy!” She also worked to disentangle the records of two men with the same name and found that the Arthur Andrews, who had been honored with a monument years after his death, was actually not the Arthur Andrews who had served.
McDerment says of her time researching the veterans, “There was so much divine intervention. These soldiers were helping me find them and record their stories. I felt them with me.”
Yet, beyond honoring those men of the past, she is also delighted that her work on Griffith Dickason would lead her to her distant cousin, Kappes, and other family members. At the dedication of the memorial, some of Dickason’s other descendants gathered and, according to McDerment, “We can kind of get an idea of what Griffith looked like.”
While she and Kappes do not resemble each other physically, McDerment says, “You can tell that we were related. We think alike. Our minds just work the same way. This is what brought us together. Griffith Dickason started the whole thing.”
• Marlene Jan McDerment’s book, “Revolutionary Soldiers and Wives of Soldiers with Ties to Switzerland County Indiana,” is available at the Switzerland County Historical Museum or online at www.HeritageBooks.com.
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