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Always Soldiers: A Few Last Men of the Revolution

DAR Library Acquisition Assistant Andrew Boisvert is one crafty genealogist/historian. Years before we worked together on Rhode Island research projects. I’m well aware of his research skills.
 
A few weeks ago he thought, “What would happen if I searched for soldiers in the 1860 Federal Census?”
He used the parameters born in 1756 with soldier as an occupation.
 
To his amazement and mine he found several. These were elderly men born in the mid-eighteenth century who claimed to be soldiers. I wasn’t surprised by their birth year. Many members of the Revolutionary War generation lived past the mid-nineteenth century. The shock was that these men still thought of themselves as soldiers almost a century later.
 
Andrew found seven men.
 
Four of them are already in the DAR Patriot system. You can search for your Revolutionary War Ancestor, too. Bear in mind that not everyone is in the database. 
 
· John Spurlock (born North Carolina)
 
· Cornelius Clemons (born Georgia)  DAR as Cornelius Clement
 
· Ralph Farnham (born Massachusetts) DAR as Ralph Farnum
 
· Rowland Ware (born North Carolina) DAR
 
· Mathew Seav (born Virginia)
 
· Joseph Welb (born Virginia)
 
· Israel McBee (born Virginia)DAR
 
In the mid-nineteenth century, there was a renewed interest in these last men. Many received pensions to help them in their later years. More than a few posed for pictures too. These images are a testament to their age and service. Their likenesses were sold and collected.
 
Here’s the thing. The only one I have a picture of is Farnham. He’s in The Last Muster: Images of the Revolutionary War Generation (Kent State University Press, 2010).
 
You know what this means. I’ve started looking for pictures of them in earnest.
 
Where to start?
 
The census of course because that’s where Andrew found them. I wonder if they referred to themselves as soldiers or if that was a designation given by the enumerator? That’s unknown.
 
Here are the other 6 with a few details from the 1860 Federal Census.
 
John Spurlock (born 1756) lived in Eastern Division Barbar Alabama. He called himself a Revolutionary soldier.
 
Rowland Ware (born 1759) was designated, “Soldier of 1776.” The enumerator put a flourish underneath that occupation for extra emphasis. Ware lived in District 11 McMinn, Tennessee near the Athens P.O. with his wife Elizabeth.
 
Mathew Seay (born 1760) and his 98 year old wife Betsy claimed residence in Martinsville, Henry, VA. I’ll be looking for her picture as well.
 
Joseph Welb (born 1760) was a pioneer in the Kansas territory, Atchison.
 
Israel McBee (born 1760) was pretty specific about his age as being 99 ½ . The enumerator saw him in District 3 Union Tennessee Haynes P.O.
 
Cornelius Clemons (born 1757) resided in Camp Creek, Rutherford, North Carolina. The enumerator visited him on June 26, 1860. A month later, he wrote in the margin: “C. Clemons was born May 20th 1759. Served one year in the Revolution War, was in the Battle of “Kings Mountain.” He died July 28th 1860 being 103 years 2 months & 8 days old.”
 
To find their pictures, I’ll follow a set of research steps. They might lead me to other avenues to explore:
 
  • Pension applications for these men might contain more clues. Pension applications are available on Ancestry.com and on Fold3.
  • Use Google Images to see if any pictures of them are online.
  •  Reach out to descendants through the major genealogy companies.
  •  Search local historical societies for images too.
  • Look at local news stories. Sometimes they include references to pictures. Really!
 
These men could be your descendants. You might have a picture of them in your family collection or have seen one in the local historical society. If so, please let me know.
 
The truth is I’m not optimistic about this search. The men listed here all lived in areas where there were few photographers.
 
Andrew knows ( and I do too) that thousands of the men and women of the Revolution lived into the age of photography. These 7 are only a few. The fact that they still called themselves soldiers is unusual. It makes me want to know more about their narrative.
 
What do you know about your Revolutionary War ancestor?