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Fayette County, Pa. Honors Its Veteran’s


As I’ve too often explained in our Farm Almanac, it has been an awful year to be a farmer around here!  My writing and research really suffered from having to pour my life’s energy into a wet hole in the ground.  But a month ago I learned from the Fayette County Genealogy Society that they were planning a Veterans Day commemorative writing project.  So for a week I got up at 4AM, and went through my research and scribblings about my Fayette County family connections.  Fortunately, the program director, Pam, is also a whiz-bang editor and she was able to whip my early morning scribblings into quite a nice contribution.  I’d also like to thank my cousin Diane Seemiller for introducing me to my grandfather McClelland Shipley Johnson’s family, people who were denied to me in my childhood.

I traced my Chester County, Pa. “Fighting Quaker” Jefferis and Woodward ancestors who were disowned by their Meetings for taking up arms in the Battle of the Brandywine, on their own family lands, during the Revolutionary War.  I also wrote about “Fighting Joe” Mendenhall, who had been one of their captains in the war, and who was an early pioneer of Fayette County.  Many of these veterans were awarded, in lieu of pay, land in Southwest Pa. I also included the Essington family, who also were related through marriage and friendship with my Fayette County Cumberland Presbyterian families;  Ghrist,  Simpson, Kelley, and Johnson.

I was able to identify members of most of these families who served in the War of 1812, the Mexican War, The Civil War, and the Spanish American War.  I do not yet have all these veteran’s stories sketched out yet, but I’m working on it.

I was able to learn about 3 of McClelland’s brothers who also served in the Great War;  eldest brother Dearth, William, and Dale, but so far have few details of their service.

In World War Two the Johnson family suffered heavily.  My grand uncle Grover Johnson Sr.’s  youngest son Grover Jr.,  enlisted in The US Army Corp of Engineers in 1942.  He died while deploying to India, through the Mediterranian when the German Luftwaffe sunk his transport, HMT Rhona with the first successful air to sea missile.  Security clamped down, and the thousand plus troops and crew lost were buried under a  news blackout.

Grover’s family lived with this MIA report until finally he was reported KIA, but his body was never found.  Grover Sr. and his eldest son Edward did not do their service in the military.  They were coal miners, and the National War Board declared them exempt from service, since coal fueled the war factories. Three months before the end of the war, Grover and his son were timbering up a shaft in the Crucible Mine.  They were crushed to death with 3 of their 4 co-workers.

My research has not yet progressed to the Korean, Vietnamese, and now Middle Eastern Wars, but I have a feeling that many of these families’ sons and daughters are now serving.                        Thom Dunn Marti

PS:  Oh, I was a 12 year veteran of the United States Coast Guard, with eight years of sea duty.  I was never a hero, but I did my job, and I served with some real heroes!

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