BLOOMINGTON - McLean County is far-off from Bunker Hill, Yorktown and other battlefields of the Revolutionary War, a distance measured not only in miles but also time. In fact, the first wave of white settlers did not begin arriving in what would become McLean County until the mid- to late 1820s, a half-century after the signing of Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
Even so, McLean County serves as the final resting place for at least 15 veterans of the war against King George III and the British Empire, a not insignificant flesh-and-blood connection to our struggle for independence.
Vital records, such as birth and death dates, can be frustratingly hard to come by during this period. Yet thanks to the work of genealogists and the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, we know a little something about each of these 15 soldiers. Many were teenagers who served in state militias. After the war, many struck out for contested American Indian territory in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana, ending up, late in life, on the prairies and groves of Central Illinois, pioneers to the end.
Due to meager and sometimes conflicting primary sources, the list of Revolutionary War soldiers buried in the county is not etched in stone, as new information can - and has - overturned long-held assumptions.
For instance, within the last year or so, genealogists removed Philip Crose from the list. For years, area residents mistakenly thought he was buried at Miller Cemetery in Randolph Township, where a marker still reads, "Philip Crose, 1757-1848, Revolutionary War Solider." It now appears Crose, who fought at the 1781 Battle of Guilford Courthouse, actually is buried in Indiana.
Who, then, was laid to rest under this marker? Local genealogist Jack Keefe recently concluded that Crose's son, Philip Jr., is the likely candidate.
Revolutionary War veterans actually buried in McLean County include Frederick Eveland (who lies in Fremont Cemetery, south of Funks Grove); Francis Hodge (Frankeberger Cemetery, on the north border of Moraine View State Park); and William McGhee (Diamond Grove Cemetery, west of Downs).
The most famous veteran of the bunch is Joseph Bartholomew, who was 14 when he enlisted in the Pennsylvania volunteers, spending his time in service "driving back marauding Indians and breaking up Tory camps." After the war, he became a noted Indian fighter, participating in the campaigns of Gen. "Mad" Anthony Wayne and William Henry Harrison.
In 1830, Bartholomew arrived in what would shortly become McLean County, settling in Money Creek Township. He died on Nov. 2, 1840, and is buried in Clarksville Cemetery, west of Lexington.
The only known Revolutionary War veteran buried in Bloomington is David Haggard, who is at Evergreen Memorial Cemetery.
Born in 1764 in Albermarle County, Va., Haggard was 16 when he entered service. He was present at the decisive Oct. 19, 1781, Battle of Yorktown and the surrender of British Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis.
In 1792, Haggard moved to Kentucky, and there he remained for some 44 years. He came to Bloomington in 1836 at the age of 72, passing away on April 15, 1843. During his few years here, he lived on the 300 block of South Center Street and played a role in the organization of the city's first Baptist Church.
In the bicentennial year of 1976, the local DAR erected a plaque listing the names of Revolutionary War soldiers buried in McLean County. The plaque was on the north wall of the Law and Justice Center but was removed sometime in the mid-1990s and placed in storage. The plaque was then lost in the June 2003 fire at the Law and Justice Center.