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Latest Revolutionary War memorial plans outlined at Highland County commission meeting

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From left, Mary Hawthorne, Gary Duffield and Gerold "Buzzard" Wilkin are pictured at the March 20 Highland County commission meeting. (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
By
Caitlin Forsha, The Highland County Press

Highland County commissioners David Daniels, Brad Roades and Terry Britton received an update on the long-discussed new Revolutionary War memorial at the Highland County Courthouse during their Wednesday, March 20 meeting. 

The project is a joint effort of the Sons of the American Revolution Highlanders Chapter and Daughters of the American Revolution Waw-wil-a-way Chapter. Present for the meeting were Gerold “Buzzard” Wilkin and Gary Duffield of the SAR chapter and Mary Hawthorne of the DAR chapter and the Southern Ohio Genealogical Society. Highland County Engineer Chris Fauber also attended that portion of the meeting, as some of the group’s requests were aimed at his office.

As previously reported, the original idea for the project was approved by Highland County commissioners in July 2019 after SAR and Daughters of the American Revolution representatives brought the proposal to a commission meeting. 

The local DAR chapter placed a plaque with the names of 93 Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Highland County on the south side of the courthouse in June 1930. According to the groups’ plans, that plaque “will be relocated” to the new memorial, on the right-hand side. The left side of the memorial will be another plaque (for the SAR) that will include names of additional “patriots that were born, lived and died or buried in Highland County.” In the center is the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. The proposed design also includes “etching pictures” in honor of “early Highland County patriots.”

The group had several questions and requests for commissioners Wednesday as well as their updates. 

Wilkin said they hope to “put the monument in place” by spring 2026 and are seeking permission to put a sign/banner on the courthouse grounds that says “Future Site of the Revolutionary War Memorial for Highland County.

“It will be an inch and a quarter of solid steel rod that will be driven down in the ground,” Wilkin said. “I would like to have that in place by Patriots Day, which is April 19.” 

In order to do that, Wilkin and Duffield said they needed permission to “pound the stakes into the ground next to the memorial base.

“We’re going to be disturbing the ground,” Wilkin said. “I’m concerned about if there’s any water or electricity in that vicinity.” 

Wilkin said the engineer did not have “any records” for the courthouse, and Roades suggested that he talk to Shawn Adkins, City of Hillsboro public works superintendent, to see if he has more information.

Wilkin and Duffield said the contractors for the monument are also asking them to do some of the work to prepare the site, including to “make sure the existing memorial base is level and true” and to “drill pilot holes to determine if rebar is present.

“We were told that that slab is really deep, so it should be able to hold this monument without any trouble,” Wilkin said. “There's three pieces to the monument, and a piece that will cross over to connect them all at the top.”

Wilkin said he didn’t know “whether there’s rebar in” the existing base, and Fauber said he didn’t think it would be an issue if they rented the right equipment.

Another concern, Wilkin said, is making the area wheelchair-accessible, and the group asked about whether the county can build “entry ramps to, from and around the memorial” and handle related “permits, funding and construction.

“This will come into a situation to where the sidewalk running north and south out of the front entrance to the courthouse runs behind the fountain would be the easiest place to make an access, putting a sidewalk into where that memorial’s at,” Wilkin said. 

In addition, the groups are still seeking information on any gravesites of possible Highland County patriots, as they said they need the help of township representatives to “verify the locations and verify road access is available” to possible abandoned gravesites.

The groups also are hoping to partner with Southern State Community College for help locating information on the over 200 patriots they have identified from this area, as they are seeking a grant to help pay students to assist them, Wilkin said.

“Working with the college, we plan on preparing a paper trail as a book that will be representing all those 222 [patriots] that we have,” Wilkin said. “That book will carry up through the the families and so on that are still on those original farms.

“We need a representative from somewhere that is going to help us with the townships, the graveyards and the history of it.”

At the groups’ last update to commissioners in August 2023, Wilkin had asked for the commissioners’ office to reach out to area township representatives asking for their help. Commission clerk Ashleigh Willey confirmed that they contacted “all the fiscal officers,” but Wilkin said he had not had much cooperation thus far.

“What we'd like to do once we find all the cemeteries is to go out and place a plaque or a stand that lists the Revolutionary War veterans are buried there,” Duffield said, adding that it would correspond to the book they want to write.

Hawthorne said that using the SOGS resources, they hope to “name each veteran and tell what we know about them” — including unit, rank and battles — in the book.

Daniels said they could resend a message to the townships and asked if there’s “anything we should add” to the previous letter. Wilkin said he wanted to know if any of the townships had a “historian” for the graveyards that they “can work directly with.” 

Another request from the groups was “permission to determine if the existing DAR plaque on the courthouse wall can be relocated to the Revolutionary War memorial without damaging it.” Wilkin said that their contractor “doesn’t want the responsibility of moving it” off of the courthouse.

“You probably need to be working with somebody that really understands how that was put up there,” Daniels said. 

Britton suggested that they reach out to Harsha Monument Company for guidance. Commissioners also told the groups to get permission in writing to remind the historical marker from the courthouse, as the existing plaque is supposed to be placed on the new memorial.

Looking ahead to 2026, Duffield said that they would be receiving a certified “Liberty Tree” with corresponding plaque and asked commissioners to determine “a place that needs a tree” to plant it.  

Wilkin also invited commissioners to attend the Vietnam War Veterans Day program at the Hillsboro Eagles on March 29 at noon and asked them to present a proclamation. Daniels said they would have one ready to approve at their March 27 meeting.

The community is invited to attend the event. Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Ronald Sampson, a local Vietnam War veteran, will be one of the guest speakers.

Any Vietnam War veterans who wish to bring memorabilia for display are welcome to do so. The “Fallen Sons of Highland County” book and plaque memorializing those killed in the war will also be on display at the Eagles. 

“I put the entire [“Fallen Sons of Highland County”] display in the arts and crafts show down at the VA in Chillicothe,” Wilkin told commissioners. “It took first place in that show, but they sent it to the nationals, and we got third place. 

“There's a presentation I'm going to go to next week where they present that award or whatever it is, but our Vietnam veterans traveling memorial got third place in the nation, so I thought that was really nifty.”

For more background on the proposed Revolutionary War memorial, see the most recent story by Duffield at: https://highlandcountypress.com/revolutionary-war-memorial-project-meet….

If you have information on Highland County Revolutionary War patriots, contact Wilkin at (937) 393-3730 or Duffield at gduffield@zoomtown.com.

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