40th American Revolutionary War Veteran found

40th American Revolutionary War Veteran Buried in Iowa, just discovered and documented.

For the first time in perhaps 80 years or more, a gravesite of a Revolutionary War Veteran buried in Iowa has been discovered and documented. The entire story below is provided by Barbara MacLeish.

Lee County, Iowa, Has Yet Another Revolutionary War Veteran

by Barbara MacLeish

To uncover a “lost” Revolutionary War Veteran buried in Iowa, it took one woman in Minnesota, and two women in southeast Iowa who searched through tall grass and library records, aided by others in Washington, California and Connecticut.

Ebenezer Ayres died December 29, 1834 and is buried in Hickory Grove Cemetery, adjacent to the burial grounds of the Iowa State Penitentiary, on the north side of Fort Madison. Born in Fairfield Co., CT, March 2, 1761 and baptized at the First Congregational Church of Stamford April 12, 1761, his early life was to be dominated by the events of the Revolutionary War. He enlisted April 10, 1780 in Capt. Reuben Scofield’s company of the 9th Connecticut Militia regiment and served until January 1, 1781, with his brother John and brother-in-law-to-be, Gould Davenport.

How could his service have escaped becoming a matter of public record for Iowa and Lee County, especially when Thelma Shepherd of Fort Madison did the research and wrote the book on Iowa’s Revolutionary War soldiers? Until recent years, the National Daughters of the American Revolution attributed that record of service to his uncle, also Ebenezer Ayres, born 1716. However, their records have now been adjusted to identify the Ebenezer Ayres who died at Fort Madison as the man with that record of service.

Why wouldn’t the Iowa DAR have been informed of this change? The woman who applied and was accepted into DAR under his record indicated that the last record for him was the 1830 census in St. Charles Co., MO, and he was presumed to have died there. It is true that he appeared in that census and that his wife, Deborah Davenport Ayres, died there in 1826. Therefore, the national DAR is still attributing him to Missouri.

Fortunately, his family has had a long and distinguished history in the Fort Madison area and appear in local histories and records. They also had the money to erect fine stones in Hickory Grove Cemetery which detail the family record.

In May of 1834, he moved from St. Charles Co., MO, to Lee Co, IA, Washington township, with other family members, They included his son, Ebenezer Davenport Ayres and family, and a daughter, Rebecca Ayres Parmer, widow of Anthony C. Parmer, and her two sons. Joining them in October, 1835, were Emily Ayres Stewart, widow of Dr. Abraham Stewart, and her two children, Joseph Buffon Stewart and Martha Maria Stewart, who in 1838 married Dr. Joel C. Walker. One of the daughters of Dr. and Mrs. Walker married Rev. George D. Stewart, pastor of the Union Presbyterian Church for many years in Fort Madison. Their daughter Anna applied for membership in 1917 in the DAR under a Walker ancestor, rather than under Ebenezer Ayres.

Why did she not apply under Ebenezer? A genealogy of the Ayres family had just been published in 1916 which attributed the service in Capt. Scofield’s company to the elder Ebenezer Ayres, born 1716.

While doing research on the history of the first Fort Des Moines, which existed 1834-37 on the site of what would become Montrose, I stumbled upon the story of this Ebenezer Ayres as for some months, I have been trying to identify the elusive Revolutionary War veteran described by a dragoon of Fort Des Moines as living near Fort Madison in October of 1834. That soldier was so enamored of the veteran’s beautiful granddaughter that he neglected to give us the soldier’s name. Could this have been Ebenezer Ayres whom he and a group of dragoons visited? Two key details don’t fit, but it did lead me to the interesting history of this man.

–Born the son of John Ayres and Rebecca Potts Ayres.
–Married Deborah Davenport.
–Moved with a group of settlers called the Ohio Company to Fort Harmar, Marietta, OH. –Lived briefly at Cleveland, OH
–Moved to St. Charles Co. MO, by 1802; was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1803 (abundant records exist of his long service as a JP); was a founding member of the Presbyterian church with his wife Deborah.
–Moved to Lee County by May, 1834
–Died Dec. 29, 1834 during what has been described as a particularly harsh winter, and in an era when there was no church or local government to keep records or a newspaper to print an obituary.

Two stones exist for Ebenezer in Hickory Grove Cemetery, Fort Madison. A small foot-stone bearing “E.A. 1761-1834,” is set among other family foot-stones, and then, apparently in the late 1880’s, a tall, impressive stone was erected inscribed with the names and dates for a number of family members, including Ebenezer. One of the four faces bears this inscription:
“Ebenezer Ayres
A native of
Died Dec 29, 1834
Aged 73 years
and 9 months

His wife
died in Saint Charles Co, MO
April 27, 1826
Aged 64 years”

Mary Sue Chatfield and Linda Hayes of Montrose20visited this cemetery recently and took photos of the family graves which are enclosed with a low cement wall. Both have contributed significantly from the beginning to uncovering Ebenezer’s story. Linda, as registrar for the Fort Madison DAR chapter was immensely helpful in interpreting DAR records. At the Fort Madison Library they found obituaries for a number of family members and have transcribed from microfilm this obituary for Ebenezer’s daughter, Emily, which offers details not included in the county histories:
(Fort Madison Weekly Democrat, July 23, 1879, p.10, col. 4) DIED On Friday, July 18th, 1879, in this city, at the residence of her son-in-law, Dr. J.C. Walker, Mrs. Emily Stewart, aged 84 years.

Mrs. Emily Stewart was born at Ft. Harmer, in the Northwestern Territory, now Marietta, Ohio, January 22, 1795. Her parents, Ebenezer and Deborah Davenport Ayres, came from Connecticut to Marietta and afterwards lived in Cleveland, Ohio. About the year 1802 they moved with their family to St. Louis, in Upper Louisiana, then in possession of the Spanish government. Miss Emily was married to Dr. Abram Stewart, a surgeon in the army, in July 1816. He died October, 1834. She came with her children to Fort Madison in October, 1835. At the time of her death she was the oldest resident of the place. She was one of the original members of the Fort Madison Presbyterian organization, and was for more than seventy years a member of the Presbyterian communion.

Another interesting aspect of this family’s early history in Lee County involves his daughter, Rebecca Ayres Parmer, as the first woman teacher in Iowa. From the Annals of Iowa, Jan.1884, in an article by T. S. Parvin:

“’We learn, however, from a communication in the Gate City (in answer to an inquiry, from Marcus D. Box, whom we believe to be a son of Hon. John Box, one of the Representatives from Lee county in the Wisconsin Legislature of 1836, that a school was taught in Lee county, about two miles from Fort Madison, on the road lending to Augusta and Burlington, as early as May, 1834. The teacher was a lady, too, Mrs. Rebecca Parmer, sister to E. S. [sic E. D.] Ayres one of the old settlers of Lee county. “The house used was a small cabin with dirt floor and split rails for seats.” Some of her scholars are still living (1882). and we have heard from their own lips recitals of the events of their school days in that primitive school house.’”

Significant help has come from a number of people in clarifying this story of Ebenezer Ayres so that he might rightfully be recognized as a Revolutionary War Patriot buried in Iowa. Mike Rowley, President of the Iowa Society of the Sons of the American Revolution has been both encouraging and helpful in20finding records. Barbara Kaye, formerly of Stamford, CT, but now living in California, whose carefully documented records of early Stamford families have been invaluable, sent the key DAR document showing that indeed, the National DAR had changed their identification to the Ebenezer who died at Fort Madison. Maureen Mead, of Olympia, WA, Coordinator of the CTGenWeb, as part of the USGenWeb Project, as well as longtime coordinator of the Fairfield County CT genweb site, has been extraordinarily helpful in finding records.

As this story was developing in the last several weeks, Mike Rowley of the IASSAR, who was so excited about this discovery, jestingly said he was ready to go over to the monument erected a few years ago to honor Iowa’s Revolutionary War Patriots at the State Capitol in Des Moines, with his chisel to inscribe Ebenezer’s name. At times, as this story was unfolding, I had to tell him “Not yet.” Now that we have confirmation from the DAR in Washington DC that this Ebenezer Ayres is the one who served in Capt. Scofield’s company, Mike Rowley will probably not do the chiseling, but it is time that the name be formally inscribed.

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