I descend from immigrants.
My fourth great grandfather came here from Ireland. My third great grandfather fought in the resistance and revolution to separate this land from Britain and establish a new country of immigrants. At the end of the war he fought on the frontier, tracking and killing native people, the originals who owned this land.
Two hundred forty years ago today, John Mahaffey signed up to fight for America’s independence.
Here’s what happened to some of America’s first heroes, now rock-stone and dusty bone stiff and piled up in a quiet graveyard of Revolutionary soldiers in Ohio.
Here is the original stone for my Revolutionary era ancestor.
Granted, John Mahaffey did get a new tombstone.
John Mahaffey was born August 31, 1759, in Sussex County, New Jersey, one of seven sons of Scotch-Irish immigrants, Moses and Jennet McIntyre Mahaffey. In the fall of 1774, at the age of 15, John moved with his parents to Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, where they resided two years. In the spring of 1776, near the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in nearby Philadelphia, in his seventeenth year, John accompanied his parents to Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.
The War of Independence began in 1775. John Mahaffey served four voluntary terms, totaling twenty-five months, during the War of the Revolution.
John was almost nineteen years of age when, on July 3, 1778, he originally enlisted for four months. He volunteered for two seven-month periods in April, 1779, and in April, 1780, serving as a “spy or ranger, watching the Indians and giving the earliest information on the approach of the Indians.” During the year 1779, in the frontier settlements of Pennsylvania, British Loyalists and Indians attacked American settlers. The Loyalists soon were defeated, and Americans destroyed many Indian villages whose residents were fighting on the side of the British. The British surrendered October 19, 1781. America was officially independent.
John Mahaffey’s blood now runs through my veins. I take after him. I stand up for this country. I will resist anything that makes her less and harms her, that which keeps us from worshiping in the religion of our choice, that which makes us less equal and takes us toward authoritarianism.
It was a proud moment standing at the grave of my fourth great grandfather, John Mehaffey, Revolutionary soldier, one of seven sons of Scots-Irish immigrants Moses and Jennet McIntyre Mehaffey, who came to these shores in the mid-1700s.
John was almost nineteen years old when he originally enlisted for service, July 3, 1778. He served four voluntary terms, totaling twenty-five months during the War of the Revolution.
He was also a scout and government spy among the Indians on the frontier in western Pennsylvania and along the Ohio River. He served under General Anthony Wayne.
In 1799 John traveled from Pittsburgh to Adams County, Ohio, to claim a 100-acre land warrant for his service in the Revolution. He was one of the earliest settlers in Liberty Township, so named to perpetuate among the early leaders’ descendants the memory of the cause for which they struggled.
John was too old to enlist in the War of 1812, so he went as a substitute.
He died in 1849 at the age of 91. I have a piece of his original tombstone in a bed of irises in my backyard.
Here’s a salute to John Mehaffey.