Three of county’s earliest soldiers get new grave markers

GAVERS – Three men who served the country and later returned to our area were honored Sunday with new grave markers in the New Lebanon Presbyterian Church cemetery.

James Figgins, a Revolutionary War veteran; John McMillen, a War of 1812 veteran; and Richard Lesnet, a Civil War veteran either had no grave marker or it was not marked to reflect their military service. On Sunday, new markers were dedicated.

Mary Davis, who researched all the veterans buried in the cemetery, gave a history about what she was able to learn about each of the men to the 52 people who attended.

James Figgins, who later in life owned an 80-acre farm in Wayne Township, was born on July 23, 1763 in Westmoreland County, Va., which meant he was only 13 when he served in the war. Davis points out many soldiers lied about their age to get into the military and some records show he was born in 1758. He served as a private under General Baron Von Steuben in the Virginia line.

Figgins would marry a woman named Mary, who also went by the name Molly, and lived the later days of his life on the farm in Wayne Township. He died at age 90.

Johns McMillen fought in the War of 1812 in a militia calvary unit under Daniel Harbaugh of Lisbon in group known as the Light Dragoons. Little is known about him, except he married a woman named Anna and died at the home of his son, John, at the age of 87.

Richard Lesnet fought in the Civil War and died at his brother’s home in 1864 near the end of the war. Davis said Lesnet was born in 1818, the sixth of nine children and he married Sarah Sherman. The couple had three children, but Sarah died in 1858 and one of the daughters also died within a few years of her. Lesnet took his remaining two children, Lee and Nancy Jane, and moved for a time to Illinois, before returning to the area.

While Lesnet lived with his brother, Shepley, he enlisted in the Union army, the Invalid Corps of Company D, Seventh Regiment in Franklin Township, then later transferred to Company H of the 33 Illinois Infantry. He left Lee, age 13, and Nancy Jane, 16, behind when he enlisted.

Besides giving the stories of the three veterans, Davis took the time to read the list of all the veterans buried in the New Lebanon cemetery:

Milo Brown, Army 1948-1949; Joseph Chambers, Civil War; John Charles Ewing, Army, World War II; Robert Fife, Civil War; John Graham, War of 1812; George W. Grooms, Civil War; Phurriott E. Henry Jr, Korean and Vietnam Conflicts; David Martin, War of 1812; Hugh Martin, War of 1812;

John McGeehen, Civil War; Nicholas Miku, Army 1976-1978; Junior C. Morris, Army 1964-1966; Donald W. Roseburg, Army 1943-1945 and 1946-1949; Oliver Shook, Civil War; Roy W. Toley, Air Force World War II; Joseph R. Weston, Marines, World War II and Korean Conflict.

A Vietnam veteran himself, Joseph Hendricks gave the closing remarks and benediction. He described the years when the three men served during the first 100 years of this country.

“The people were starved for freedom,” Hendricks said, “the wonderful freedom we have today, the wonderful liberty we have today and the wonderful justice we have today… We pray for peace here today, no only for our country, but all over the world.”