How a community effort restored War of 1812 veteran's cemetery marker in Antioch

  • Ainsley Wonderling, director of the museum operated by the Lakes Region Historical Society, talks with David Moore, of Strang Funeral Home Inc., at Hillside Cemetery in Antioch. The restored grave marker of War of 1812 veteran Leverett H. Barnes will be dedicated on Memorial Day.

    Ainsley Wonderling, director of the museum operated by the Lakes Region Historical Society, talks with David Moore, of Strang Funeral Home Inc., at Hillside Cemetery in Antioch. The restored grave marker of War of 1812 veteran Leverett H. Barnes will be dedicated on Memorial Day. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

  • A Memorial Day program at Hillside Cemetery in Antioch will include the dedication of the restored grave marker of War of 1812 veteran Leverett H. Barnes.

    A Memorial Day program at Hillside Cemetery in Antioch will include the dedication of the restored grave marker of War of 1812 veteran Leverett H. Barnes. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted5/27/2021 5:30 AM

A fortunate chain of events and the generosity of a monument maker will bring Memorial Day recognition to the earliest known soldier buried at Hillside Cemetery in Antioch.

On Monday, the restored headstone of War of 1812 veteran Capt. Leverett H. Barnes will be dedicated as part of a program beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the cemetery on Route 173, just east of Route 59.

 

Barnes was a Massachusetts native who died May 26, 1872, at age 84. He spent much of his adult life in New York state before moving west to the Fox Lake area in the mid-1840s and later to Antioch.

This is the marker of War of 1812 veteran Leverett H. Barnes at Hillside Cemetery in Antioch before it was uncovered.
This is the marker of War of 1812 veteran Leverett H. Barnes at Hillside Cemetery in Antioch before it was uncovered. - Courtesy of Ainsley Wonderling

The headstone beneath what now is an ancient pine tree had fallen flat and was partially covered by dirt and grass over many years. Having it identified and restored as a Memorial Day rallying point has been a collaborative effort.

"The restoration was truly a work of pride, patriotism and community spirit," said Ainsley Wonderling, director of the Lakes Region Historical Society museum.

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Local veteran groups also have been energized by the upcoming event. American Legion Post 748 and Sequoit Post 4551 of the VFW, are co-hosting with the historical society.

"This is the first time we've done a Memorial Day service for many years," said Margaret Cole, president of the Antioch American Legion Auxiliary Unit 748 and secretary of the historical society. "This has been a team effort."

This is the headstone of War of 1812 veteran Leverett H. Barnes after it was unearthed but before being cleaned and reset.
This is the headstone of War of 1812 veteran Leverett H. Barnes after it was unearthed but before being cleaned and reset. - Courtesy of Tony Zoia

The War of 1812 against Great Britain is sometimes referred to as the "Second War of Independence" and was the first time the U.S. declared war on a foreign nation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

And it was a successful defense at Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the war that inspired Francis Scott Key to write a poem that later was set to music and became known as "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Barnes' service with the New York Militia was brief. He apparently served only two months in the fall of 1814, just before the Treaty of Ghent signed that December officially ended the war.

He was 26 and married with a child when he served under commands assigned to Sackett's Harbor on Lake Ontario in New York state. That was the center of U.S. naval and military activities and the base for raids into Canada.

Mick Zawislak/mzawislak@dailyherald.comThe cleaned and restored grave marker of War of 1812 veteran Leverett H. Barnes at Hillside Cemetery in Antioch.
Mick Zawislak/mzawislak@dailyherald.comThe cleaned and restored grave marker of War of 1812 veteran Leverett H. Barnes at Hillside Cemetery in Antioch. -

He first is listed in historical society information as a lieutenant and ensign, an old British military term for an officer who carried the regimental colors.

He's next listed as a captain under another command at Sackett's Harbor.

Because tensions remained high after the war ended, one account said he was still there in 1816. However, detailed information on Barnes' military service and life after the war is scarce.

How long did he actually serve? How did he achieve his rank? What were his duties? Why did he come to Lake County? There are more questions than answers.

"It's been very hard to find information on him," Wonderling said.

Margaret Cole, left, president of the Antioch American Legion Auxiliary Unit 748, and David and Dave Moore, of Strang Funeral Home Inc., review the gravesite of War of 1812 veteran Leverett H. Barnes.
Margaret Cole, left, president of the Antioch American Legion Auxiliary Unit 748, and David and Dave Moore, of Strang Funeral Home Inc., review the gravesite of War of 1812 veteran Leverett H. Barnes. - Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

The process began last fall when Wonderling was talking with Dave Moore and his son, David -- owners/operators of Strang Funeral Home Inc., a mainstay in the area since 1912 -- about having the headstone restored.

Wonderling had information identifying Barnes as the earliest known soldier at Hillside Cemetery.

Independently, so did Cole, who had the handwritten spiral-bound notebook of Floyd Horton, a disabled World War I vet who died in 1999 at the age of 106. Horton had chronicled those who had served in the military and were buried at Hillside -- about 300 veterans.

"We went to the Moores about doing this and they jumped right in," Wonderling said.

The Moores turned to Anthony Zoia, the fourth-generation owner of the Zoia Monument Co. in Woodstock founded in 1890.

"We always had a connection over there -- it started with my grandfather," Zoia said. "We've got a long history in Antioch and felt it was something we should do."

A Memorial Day program at Hillside Cemetery in Antioch will include the dedication of the restored grave marker of War of 1812 veteran Leverett H. Barnes.
A Memorial Day program at Hillside Cemetery in Antioch will include the dedication of the restored grave marker of War of 1812 veteran Leverett H. Barnes. - Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

The soft limestone marker was unbroken and the inscription still legible. Zoia carefully uncovered the stone and cleaned it on site using a soft brush, adding a concrete base for stability. He donated the time and materials.

With the stone quickly restored and back in place, Wonderling and Cole considered the possibilities, especially since Barnes died on May 26, very close to what is now Memorial Day.

"It just all pulled together," Cole said.

The expected list of attendees was at about 60 and rising as of Wednesday. The program will include the presentation of colors, singing of the national anthem, three-volley salute and the playing of taps.

According to Wonderling, Barnes moved to Goodale, now Grant Township, in 1845. He later moved to Antioch, where he continued farming until he died.

"There were a good number of men who fought in the War of 1812," according to Diana Dretske, curator and Lake County historian at the Dunn Museum operated by the Lake County Forest Preserve District.

The most famous locally is Daniel Wright, who is credited as being the first permanent nonnative settler in Lake County, she said.

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