Daily Herald Article August 14, 2007
Israel Warner’s gravestone was face up in the dirt and broken when Donald Parrish found it in the Big Woods Cemetery west of Naperville.
As president of the Fox Valley Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, Parrish’s discovery ended a three-month search for the illustrious Revolutionary war veteran’s 145-year-old grave dating to Jan. 22, 1862.
Mike Johnston, SAR vice president, said the search began with a phone call from Iowa looking for Warner, a patriot with an impressive pedigree.
"We were contacted by Jean Anderson of the Naperville DAR Ft. Payne Chapter," Johnston said. “She was contacted by the descendant of Israel, Rebecca Hougher of Iowa, asking for a marker on the grave. When we found the grave of Israel Kenyon, we thought that was it.”
But Johnston said they realized that grave couldn’t be correct because Kenyon’s grave was marked with a metal star for the Grand Army of the Republic of the Civil War. When it was determined he was Warner’s grandson, Parrish kept searching and located Warner’s gravestone, face up and broken, on June 20, 2007.
Johnston said what makes finding this grave so significant is that Warner was illustrious and one of the few Revolutionary veterans buried this far west.
"The most amazing thing is that this descendant came looking for him and the fact that he’s been dead since 1862," Johnston said. "For all practical intents and purposes, he was lost. Now we’re trying to find his descendants and ask them to participate in the ceremony in 2008. Rebecca said she’ll be there. It’s nice for descendants to see some recognition for their ancestor."
"This stone is so old, in a couple of years we might never have found him."
So the SAR chapter is involved in a two-part process for Warner’s grave. The first is getting bids for restoration of his headstone, and the second is purchasing a new commemorative stone to be put in the ground after donations are received from the community. The ceremony is planned for Memorial Day weekend 2008.
Johnston said it’s unusual to find Revolutionary patriots’ graves in this area.
"There are only 15 or so in northern Illinois, and none past Iowa," he said. "After the American Revolution, soldiers were given land bounties in Georgia or Kentucky, so many are buried there. After the War of 1812, they got land in Indiana and Illinois."
Along with Downers Grove resident Parrish and a committee, Johnston is working to compile Warner’s biography for the commemorative ceremony. So far they determined that Warner came here in the 1840s or 1850s as a surveyor and was listed as living in Warrenville in 1857. He is buried at Big Woods with his two grandsons, his daughter and son-in-law.
His Patriot Profile at the Fox Valley SAR Web site at www.foxsar.org includes details that Warner, 1768-1862, was the eldest son of Col. Seth Warner, a co-founder of the famous Green Mountain Boys in Vermont with Ethan Allen. Col. Warner was elected commander of the group over Allen and credited with winning the Battle of Bennington.
Israel joined the Continental Army in 1777 when he was only 9 and served six years, the entire duration of the war, as a messenger boy and scout reaching the rank of private. He is credited with carrying a critical message during the Battle of Bennington.
Because the elder Warner received many wounds during the Revolutionary War, he died at age 41 in 1784 leaving a widow and three children and a heavily mortgaged farm.
The story of Col. Warner’s patriotism and what it inspired was described by D.P. Thompson for Harper’s Magazine in 1864-65. The entire anecdote appears on the SAR Web site. Thompson writes that General George Washington came to visit the Warner family in 1789 after the father’s death and brought the exact amount of silver needed to repay the mortgage of more than $900 with Washington using his personal salary. Israel met and talked with Washington on that day.
Johnston has a personal passion for genealogy searches and joined the SAR in 1999. So far he has found seven ancestors who served in every war since the French and Indian war of the 1750s. He said the Fox Valley SAR chapter includes 70 members from several generations — they range in age from their 20s through their 80s.
The group tries to recognize a patriot every year. They plan to commemorate John Dudley of Naperville in 2009.
"We try to get the community involved," he said. "We are aware the American Revolution is not at the top of history teachers’ lists. One of the goals of SAR is to keep this period of our history alive — a time when we took on the world’s only super power and fought for our freedom, independence and religion."
To learn more about the Fox Valley SAR or make donations for the grave markers, visit the Web site at www.foxsar.org.