Unlike most Tuscarawas County, Ohio, veterans, the grave of Jesse Stewart, who served in the War of 1812, has never been decorated with a flag on Memorial Day. This year, thanks to a chance meeting between two of his descendants and the mayor of Port Washington, that situation will be rectified.
Unlike most Tuscarawas County veterans, the grave of Jesse Stewart, who served in the War of 1812, has never been decorated with a flag on Memorial Day. This year, thanks to a chance meeting between two of his descendants and the mayor of Port Washington, that situation will be rectified.
Last October, Rev. David H. Reed, a Lutheran pastor from Auburn, Mich., and his brother, Tom Reed of McKinleyville, Calif., stopped at Port Washington with their wives to try to find Stewart’s grave. They were looking for River Hill Cemetery, which they knew was somewhere in the vicinity.
The Reeds asked two men working in a garage if they knew where the cemetery was, according to David Reed. The men didn’t, but they said Tom Gardner, Port Washington’s mayor, would. The Reeds found Gardner in the town cemetery, picking up flowers that had been strewn by a recent windstorm.
The mayor hadn’t heard of River Hill Cemetery either, but after making a phone call he learned that it could be found three miles southeast of town on River Hill Rd. in Clay Township.
Gardner accompanied the Reeds to the tiny cemetery, located on a hillside at River Hill and Enos Rds. The mayor was also the one who found Jesse Stewart’s marker, a weathered gravestone that was still legible.
The Reeds left Ohio satisfied, but Gardner wasn’t. He contacted the Veterans Administration and secured a flag marker appropriate for the site and then put together plans for a ceremony to honor Stewart.
The event will be held at River Hill Cemetery on Sunday at 2. Robert Hathorn, president of the Tuscarawas County Veterans Service Commission, will be guest speaker and will present a flag and flag holder. Members of the Newcomerstown American Legion Honor Guard will give a 21-gun salute, and taps will be played by Mathew Wolf, a fifth-generation descendant of Stewart.
Twelve members of Stewart’s family will be present for the ceremony, including nine direct descendants. Among them will be David Reed, his four daughters and four of their children.
Jesse Stewart was born Oct. 12, 1777, in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the eldest child of James and Barbara Stewart. Jesse and his family moved to Ohio in 1805 but soon returned to Virginia, where he served as a private in Capt. Joshua Early’s Company of Infantry, 3rd Regiment, (Dickinson’s) Virginia Militia. After the war, the Stewarts headed back to Ohio, settling first near Marietta before they moved to Tuscarawas County. Jesse Stewart was a millwright and later a house carpenter. He died of cholera on Oct. 8, 1846.
David Reed’s daughter, Christine Miller, who is a teacher at Trinity Lutheran School at Crown Point, Ind., is pleased that her ancestor will be remembered.
At a Veterans Day assembly at her school last November, she told her students about Gardner’s determination to honor Stewart on Memorial Day.
“If only I could show you the looks of awe on those faces and have you hear the sounds of ‘Wow’ and ‘Cool!’ that I heard,” she wrote in an e-mail to Gardner.
“Some people may think I’m crazy to drive more than 400 miles to honor a man that’s been dead over 160 years,” she wrote in an e-mail to The T-R. “Jesse Stewart was no one’s hero – his contribution to the War of 1812 was short. But in honoring him, I also honor all those other members of our nation’s military history who have been unknown or forgotten by the passage of time.”