Revolutionary War soldier memorialized in Lake County
At 16 in the 1780s, a soldier fought for America. Friday in Wadsworth, he was honored.
One of two known Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Lake County was memorialized Friday at a rededication ceremony at his gravesite in Wadsworth.
At the ceremony, which honored patriot Henry Collins, a new granite marker was unveiled. It included commemorative plaques from both sponsoring organizations: the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Sons of the American Revolution, nonprofit organizations composed of Revolutionary War descendants. Almost 70 people attended.
"It's been estimated that about 1,000 patriots of the Revolution are located here in the state of Illinois, and it's one of our missions to find each and every one of those sites and to make sure that they are properly marked," said Bruce Talbot, Illinois SAR president.
Henry Collins served a two-year enlistment at the age of 16 when a levy to supply soldiers was placed on his hometown in Southborough, Mass. He was discharged at the end of the war in 1783, and after moving around the country and even to Canada at one point, Collins settled in Newport Township in Lake County in 1844.
The DAR first learned of Henry Collins in December 2010, which was when Regent Denise Burja, of the Ansel Brainard Cook Chapter in Libertyville, and Valerie Perron, past District IV director of the Little Fort chapter in Waukegan, began researching the soldier. The national organization requires that significant proof be verified at its headquarters before a marker can be placed on any grave.
About six months later, after Burja and other officers worked to locate 30 pages of documents such as land records and war pension papers, the national DAR historian general approved their request to mark Collins' grave.
"We would honor anybody (in the military), but because we are the Daughters of the American Revolution, this holds special significance for us to make sure that their (patriots') graves are tended to," Burja said.
This was not Collins' first marker, however. The DAR of Waukegan had marked the grave on the same day 86 years ago, but the marker had since gone missing for unknown reasons, according to Diana Dretske, Lake County historian. In 1964, the American Legion Post of Gurnee added a new marker to the grave. The SAR placed a plaque at the gravesite as well, which has since broken.
Collins was the first person to be buried at Mount Rest Cemetery, and his original headstone still stands.
When members of the SAR heard about the efforts of the DAR, they decided to replace their original plaque and create one granite marker with emblems from both organizations. As part of the project, they also cleaned and restored the original headstone.
"(Americans) focus a lot on the current military and, of course, rightly so," Talbot said. "One of the things that are important for us to do is to keep the memory alive of those men who founded the country and fought in the Revolutionary War."
The ceremony consisted of speeches from national and state officers, the granite marker unveiling and a presentation of a color guard made up of SAR and DAR members. The two SAR members from Fox Valley came fully dressed in uniform.
Krista Holst of the Ansel Brainerd Cook chapter of the DAR attended the event Friday and also dressed in 1770s-era clothing. "It's great to honor our patriots from any war — especially one that got our country started — even so many years later," Holst said.
Regent Hannah Perron of the Little Fort chapter in Waukegan said the event was not a one-time occasion, as both the DAR and SAR work to find other grave sites.
"Even though it's just one man, hopefully we find all the graves," Perron said. "This just brings awareness to our community of the value placed upon the Revolutionary War soldiers."
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