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Terry Dickson: Recognition for a Revolutionay War soldier

Posted: January 23, 2014 - 12:05am  |  Updated: January 23, 2014 - 11:31am

WAYNESVILLE, GA. | Randy Highsmith has always liked history, including his family’s. After learning he had ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War, he applied for membership in the Sons of the American Revolution.

But like other historic organizations, the SAR doesn’t just take people’s word. They want documentation. If everyone’s claims on how their ancestors got here were true, the Mayflower would have been the size of the Queen Mary.

Highsmith, a 48-year-old Gainesville, Fla., accountant, spent a year tracking down records. He found birth certificates, death certificates, census records and genealogical records. He learned that his great-great-great-great-grandfather, Jacob Highsmith, had served with the Pitt County Militia in North Carolina.

He found handwritten “pay roll” records for Jacob Highsmith, 18, and his father, John, also a Pitt County militiaman.

“I found documents showing they had applied for pay vouchers with sequential numbers. That means they were in the same line,” Highsmith said.

The Pitt County militia went into battle but Highsmith doesn’t know if the Highsmith father and son came under fire.

In the 1800s, Jacob Highsmith moved to Waynesville and became a plantation owner in what was then Wayne County. He died there in 1829 at 71, and in his will, Jacob Highsmith wrote, “I allow my wife, Sarah, to use the plantation during her lifetime.”

After her death, their sons got the land and their daughters got beds, linens and other household items.

An old cemetery record says the Highsmith Cemetery was located in the northeast corner of the Highsmith Property. It sits on the southern side of U.S. 82 and is still used.

There were a few words in that record that ate at Randy Highsmith.

“Jacob and his son James are buried here,” it says, “graves unmarked.”

He couldn’t let that lie.

“Someone who had fought for our freedom was in an unmarked grave. That wasn’t right,” he said.

He bought a grave marker for his patriot ancestor and contacted Jason Deal, president of the Altamaha Sons of the American Revolution, who helped secure an SAR marker.

Since that old cemetery record was written, a veteran’s stone was put at the head of James Highsmith’s grave. It says he was a private in Capt. Walker’s regiment during the Indian Wars and died in 1877.

In October 2004, they buried my friend Henry Varnes Jr. in the cemetery. He was a Marine Corps sergeant who fought in Korea. A Marine funeral detail played taps and folded the flag that had covered his coffin.

On March 22, a color guard and the Gainesville, Altamaha and Marshes of Glynn chapters of the Sons of the American Revolution will gather at the cemetery.

No one knows where Jacob Highsmith is buried, so they’ll place the markers near his son’s grave.

Throughout the cemetery, there are headstones recognizing Henry Varnes and others who fought to preserve our freedom. Finally, there will be a marker to one who fought to establish it.

terry.dickson@jacksonville.com,

(912) 264-0405

 
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