Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Adams County

The marker for the gravesite of Revolutionary War Pvt. Daniel McCoy is in the cemetery west of Clayton. McCoy moved to Adams County from Girard County, Ky., in 1834. (Photo courtesy of Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County)
Posted: Nov. 10, 2012 12:01 am Updated: Dec. 4, 2012 1:15 am


New Yorker Daniel Wood may be the best known veteran of the American Revolutionary War buried in Adams County.

A medical doctor before the war, Wood became a surgeon in the regiment of Col. Aaron Burr (the same Aaron Burr who in a duel in July 1804 mortally wounded the nation's first treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton).

Daniel Wood's service in America's war for independence is noteworthy enough, but his notoriety is even greater for the odd way in which his body made it to Woodland Cemetery in Quincy. His son John, Quincy's founder, while governor of Illinois in 1860 had the elder Wood's body removed from its resting place in Cayuga County, New York, and brought to the Wood family plot at the center of Woodland, where it rests today.

Perhaps even more striking is the number of revolutionary soldiers, who risked their all to gain the nation's liberty, who lived and took their final rest in Adams County. Recently, my father-in-law, Joe Williams, discovered the gravestone of Continental Army Pvt. Daniel McCoy in a cemetery west of Clayton. His find aroused an interest by which we have learned that as many as 14 Revolutionary War veterans lived in Adams County. The scope of their combined service reaches from the "shot heard ‘round the world" at Lexington, Mass., in 1775 to Washington's victory at Yorktown seven years later.

Several of these American patriots chose to migrate to Adams County and were buried here.

One of the first to answer the revolution's call was Henry Covell, a Connecticut "Minute Man" who after the April 1775 battle of Lexington and Concord marched with his company to join the forces of Genl. George Washington at Boston. Although he was mustered out that December, Covell returned to service in the fall of 1781 and was captured by Indians aiding the British at Albany, New York. Covell spent the next 15 months in Canada as a British prisoner of war. He lived in New York City until 1832. Military pension records show that he then transferred his war pension to Adams County, where he had moved in September to live with his son. "Soldiers of the American Revolution Buried in Illinois" reports he was buried in Illinois but does not report where.

James Earel of Pennsylvania marched with his unit in 1775 to Boston where they joined Gen. Washington's siege. After the British evacuated Boston, Earel marched with Washington to Long Island, New York, where he completed his one year enlistment. He applied for a pension in Maryland in 1822 and almost immediately moved to Adams County. By vocation a laborer, he could no longer work because of rheumatism contracted in the service. He died in 1830 and was buried in a family cemetery in Columbus Township.

In the fall of 1781 the combined American and French Armies cornered British Gen. Charles Cornwallis on the peninsula at Yorktown. With the French fleet just over the horizon, Cornwallis surrendered to Washington, a victory that some Adams County immigrants witnessed.

Among those taking part in the drama were future Adams County residents Samuel Connor and Charles Kirkpatrick. Connor, whose trade was stone masonry, was with the Pennsylvania volunteers. Kirkpatrick had been drafted recently by the Virginia volunteers.

Teenaged Virginia militiaman Charles Shepherd was en route to Yorktown with his unit, which was diverted and assigned to guard a force of British captives.

Connor moved to Adams County in April 1846, where he applied for a military pension in April 1840, citing poverty, and he died shortly after taking up residence here at age 82. He is buried at an unknown location in the county.

Kirkpatrick did not apply for a pension but was known to have lived in Quincy, his service accepted by the Dorothy Quincy Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Quincy. He was buried near Ursa, and his family erected a monument to his memory nearby at New Providence Cemetery.

Shepherd, who had guarded prisoners taken at Yorktown, moved to Adams County and resided in Quincy. Pension records indicate that he was buried in Quincy but the location is not known.

Revolutionary War soldier John Cotton came to Illinois in 1819. Cotton's application for a pension stated that a broken shoulder suffered in battle kept him from physical work. His pension in later years was transferred to him when he moved to Adams County, where he died June 7, 1833, leaving a large family.

At about the same time as Cotton migrated into Illinois, war veteran Zachariah Lierly left North Carolina for Jackson County in Southern Illinois. He later moved north into central Adams County and settled near Liberty where he built a home and cemetery plot. He died and was buried there on March 15, 1847, at the age of 91. A simple stone records his passing: "Zachariah Lierly, Pvt., Col Cooks N. Carolina Co., Born June 2, 1775, Died March 15, 1847."

Daniel McCoy, whose grave's discovery launched this research, was found to be engaged in the horse business in Girard County, Kentucky, at the time he applied for his pension in 1818. He indicated he had been debilitated by rheumatism acquired in the swamps of South Carolina. In 1834 he moved to Clayton. He died February 23, 1836, and was buried in the cemetery near Clayton.

After the revolution, militiaman David Strahan bounced all over the South. In 1822 he moved to Schuyler County, Illinois, and in June 1832, at the age of 78, applied for a pension. Shortly afterward, he settled in Adams County, where he died in 1838. His remains were buried in the Baptist Cemetery at Honey Creek Township in Adams.

Irish-born Samuel Shaw joined the continental army almost as soon as he arrived in America. Enlisting in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, he served four tours between 1776 and 1778. He migrated to Adams County in November 1832 and died at the age of 77 on July 1, 1853. His pension records note his death in the county but do not indicate whether or where he was buried here.

Official records indicate there are at least four other revolutionary war soldiers buried in Adams County. The Pennsylvania Archives note that one John Fee remained in the Army after the revolution and moved to Adams County just before 1832. Archives documents say Fee "is probably buried there."

Shortly after he arrived in Adams County, Virginian John Martin applied for a pension but was denied for not having served six months.

New Jersey volunteer Stephen Jones fought with the 2nd Regiment from Essex County. After the war he moved to Adams County and moved into Quincy where he received his war service pension and where he died and was buried.

These men did their part to gain our freedom, some more than others, but none shirked their duty. To them we owe a debt of everlasting gratitude. They were among the first citizens of our nation and we are blessed to have their remains committed to our soil.


Cleve Barkley is a retired member of the U.S. Postal Service and amateur historian whose interest in World War II led to his book, In Death's Shadow: A Soldier's Story. He has published several stories about the war in history magazines and was a contributor to a WWII study guide for Minnesota school students.



Reg Ankrom, "Citizen Wood and His Woodland Cemetery," Quincy Herald-Whig. October 28, 2012.

People's History of Quincy and Adams County, Edited by the Rev. Landry Genosky, OFM. Quincy: Jost and Kiefer Co.

Walker, Harriett J., Revolutionary War Soldiers Buried in Illinois. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1997.

"Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900," NARA

microfilm publication M 804. Record of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Records Group 15, National Archives, Washington, DC.