POMEROY — Keith Whaley always noticed something as being out of place whenever he used to visit the grave of his ancestor, James Whaley, in Pomeroy’s Beech Grove Cemetery.
Keith, a Meigs County native who now lives in Lancaster, said other war veterans buried in the cemetery were decorated with special markers provided by veterans’ service groups, but there was nothing of the kind for his great-great-great-grandfather, a veteran of both the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
“My wife and I come up here and put flowers on his grave and noticed there wasn’t any kind of a marker like the other buried veterans have here,” Keith said. “When that’s not recognized, that history slowly fades away over time.”
It fades much like the two markers on James Whaley’s gravesite. The main headstone, which can only be read by applying “sidewalk chalk” over the inscription, says: “JAMES WHALEY, A Soldier of the Revolution, died Dec. 4, 1840. Aged 89 years, 11 months, 19 days.” A second marker indicates that James Whaley was a captain in the 2nd Pennsylvania Militia during the War of 1812.
But thanks to the members of American Legion Post 39 and the Meigs County Veterans Service, James Whaley’s service so many years ago will now be recognized every day with the appropriate veterans markers. The groups will also adorn the gravesite with American flags for all of the veterans’ service observance days.
“Keith contacted me one day and wanted to know if the Legion could provide markers for the grave,” said Wally Hatfield, adjutant for Post 39. “We arranged that with the Meigs Veterans Service office. They were provided within a week and here we are, honoring this great man.”
Keith Whaley, who grew up in Meigs County’s Bedford Township and attended the former Pomeroy High School, said he’s always been aware of his great-great-great-grandfather’s service in the American Revolutionary War and War of 1812. A self-described history and genealogy buff, Keith Whaley said he “enjoys looking up things” and when his family came across a book about the family’s history, the search was on for the grave’s location.
“We’re not sure where (James Whaley) was born, but it was on or about Dec. 10, 1750,” Keith said. “He enlisted in the Continental Army in 1776. He later married for the first time in 1808 at age 58 and had 10 children.”
According to Keith, another ancestor, the Rev. Samuel Whaley penned a book in 1901 about the Whaley family history. Keith’s father borrowed the book from another Whaley descendent of David Charles Whaley, a well-known Pomeroy dentist in his day. After looking up information provided in the book, the family realized that James Whaley was buried “somewhere” in Beech Grove Cemetery.
“We were looking for it one day … and kind of stumbled up it here because there was no record of where he was actually buried,” Keith said. “There was no map that I was aware of.”
According to Keith, James Whaley was involved in three battles during the Revolutionary War: Battle of Brandywine Creek in Delaware, Battle of Germantown, Pa., and Battle of White Marsh (also known as Battle of Edge Hill), also in Pennsylvania. He was later discharged at Fort Pitt, Pa., which is now present-day Pittsburgh, on Dec. 4, 1777.
He enlisted, according to Keith, and served under Commander Col. William Crawford of the 13th Virginia and fought for Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene’s “wing,” as it was called in those days.
“He didn’t finish his enlistment, for whatever reason, but he was involved in those battles,” Keith Whaley said. “In the War of 1812, he volunteered again and was part of the force that was commanded by William Henry Harrison (the eventual ninth president of the U.S.).”
The rest, as they say, is history.
“We have a lot of family buried in the area and elsewhere,” Keith said, who also noted that some of those ancestors have a solid record of military service, having fought in the Civil War and World War I, among others.
“Growing up, Memorial Day was all about seeing veterans’ graves decorated with flags. That’s how I remember it,” Keith said. “Thanks to Post 39 and the Meigs County Veterans Service, my great-great-great-grandfather’s service will be remembered and recognized along with all the others.”
“It’s been a wonderful experience and quite an honor, a privilege to honor this man,” Hatfield said. “I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Reach Michael Johnson at 740-446-2342, ext. 2102, or on Twitter @OhioEditorMike.