Va. Revolutionary War patriots to be honored

Posted: November 1, 2012

The Winchester Star

Col. James Wood II Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution will have a grave registration ceremony in the Old Chapel Cemetery south of Berryville at 10 a.m. Saturday to honor patriots Edmund Randolph and Col. Nathaniel Burwell. Shown preparing for the ceremony are grave registration committee chairman Jack Lillis (left) of Frederick County and former president Ralph Pierce of Berryville. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Col. James Wood II Chapter Sons of the American Revolution members Jack Lillis (left) of Frederick County and Ralph Pierce of Berrville clean leaves from the grave of Col. Nathaniel Burwell while preparing for a grave marking ceremony Saturday in the Old Chapel Cemetery south of Berryville. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Patriot markers installed by the Col. James Wood II Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution will be unveiled Saturday at two grave sites during a ceremony at the Old Chapel Cemetery.

BERRYVILLE — It’s Allhallows Eve, and Jack Lillis and Edwin R. Pierce are standing in a damp Old Chapel Cemetery, gazing at the imposing grave of Col. Nathaniel Burwell.

But the two members of the Col. James Wood II Chapter of the Virginia Society, Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) are concentrating on the block of granite at the foot of the grave that reads, simply, “Patriot.”

At 10 a.m. Saturday, the SAR is inviting the public to remember the efforts of Burwell and Edmund Jennings Randolph, also buried at Old Chapel, to win the country’s liberty.

The two new markers at the cemetery — located at the intersection of Bishop Meade Highway and Lord Fairfax Highway, south of Berryville — bring to eight the number of patriots’ graves the SAR has marked in this area.

At Saturday’s dedication ceremony, Ann Lesman will discuss the contributions of Burwell, while Robert Randolph will recall the service of Randolph.

Burwell was “very active in the Revolution,” said Pierce. A militia commander, “He was probably at Yorktown for the surrender of (Lt. Gen. Edward) Cornwallis [in 1781].”

Burwell supplied a lot of material for the war effort and his friendship with onetime local resident Gen. Daniel Morgan resulted in a partnership between the two men that created Clarke County’s Burwell-Morgan Mill.

The 18th century grist mill, renovated by the Clarke County Historical Association, still grinds grain during its season from May to October.

Burwell supplied the land and money for the project, Pierce said, while Morgan lined up Hessian prisoners of war to do the construction.

Randolph was an aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington in Boston in 1775, Pierce said.

He came back to Virginia and became involved in politics as the state’s first attorney general and later governor. He also served as secretary of state for the United States in 1794.

Unfortunately for Randolph, Pierce added, his father remained loyal to the British cause and left Virginia when the war broke out.

“He never saw his father again,” Pierce said.

The SAR will continue to research the location of patriot graves in Frederick and Clarke counties, said Pierce, who noted that he’d also like to branch out into neighboring counties.

Lillis, who is chairman of the Grave Marking Committee for the SAR, has also recorded all the grave sites through a Geographic Positioning System so they will not be lost.

The whole process can take a lot of research, but the SAR members know how to do that. They must trace their lineage back to a Revolutionary War ancestor in order to gain membership in the organization.

In doing so, they also add to the history of the country and guarantee that the service of their ancestor in building a free country is not lost.

For more information on the grave-marking program, contact Jack Lillis at 540-877-2246.

— Contact Val Van Meter at