another Revolutionary War veteran from Tri-States
To uncover a “lost” Revolutionary War veteran buried in Iowa, it took
one woman in Minnesota and two women in Southeast Iowa who searched
through tall grass and library records, aided by others in Washington,
California and Connecticut.
Ebenezer Ayres died Dec. 29, 1834, and is buried in Hickory Grove
Cemetery, adjacent to the burial grounds of the Iowa State
Penitentiary, on the north side of Fort Madison.
Born in Fairfield County, Conn., March 2, 1761, and baptized at the
First Congregational Church of Stamford on April 12, 1761, his early
life was to be dominated by the events of the Revolutionary War. He
enlisted April 10, 1780, in Capt. Reuben Scofield's company of the 9th
Connecticut Militia regiment and served until Jan. 1, 1781, with his
brother, John, and brother-in-law-to-be, Gould, Davenport.
How could his service have escaped becoming a matter of public record
for Iowa and Lee County, especially when Thelma Shepherd of Fort
Madison did the research and wrote the book on Iowa's Revolutionary War
soldiers? Until recent years, the National Daughters of the American
Revolution attributed that record of service to his uncle, also
Ebenezer Ayres, born 1716. However, their records have now been
adjusted to identify the Ebenezer Ayres who died at Fort Madison as the
man with that record of service.
Why wouldn't the Iowa DAR have been informed of this change? The woman
who applied and was accepted into DAR under his record indicated that
the last record for him was the 1830 census in St. Charles Co., Mo.,
and he was presumed to have died there. It is true that he appeared in
that census and that his wife, Deborah Davenport Ayres, died there in
1826. Therefore, the national DAR is still attributing him to Missouri.
Fortunately, his family has had a long and distinguished history in the
Fort Madison area and appear in local histories and records. They also
had the money to erect fine stones in Hickory Grove Cemetery, which
detail the family record.
In May of 1834, he moved from St. Charles County, Mo., to Lee County,
Washington Township, with other family members. They included his son,
Ebenezer Davenport Ayres and family, and a daughter, Rebecca Ayres
Parmer, widow of Anthony Parmer, and her two sons. Joining them in
October 1835 were Emily Ayres Stewart, widow of Dr. Abraham Stewart,
and her two children, Joseph Buffon Stewart and Martha Maria Stewart,
who in 1838 married Dr. Joel Walker. One of the daughters of Dr. and
Mrs. Walker married Rev. George Stewart, pastor of the Union
Presbyterian Church for many years in Fort Madison. Their daughter,
Anna, applied for membership in 1917 in the DAR under a Walker
ancestor, rather than under Ebenezer Ayres.
Why did she not apply under Ebenezer? A genealogy of the Ayres family
had just been published in 1916, which attributed the service in Capt.
Scofield's company to the elder Ebenezer Ayres, born 1716.
While doing research on the history of the first Fort Des Moines, which
existed 1834-37 on the site of what would become Montrose, I stumbled
upon the story of this Ebenezer Ayres and for some months I have been
trying to identify the elusive Revolutionary War veteran described by a
dragoon of Fort Des Moines as living near Fort Madison in October of
That soldier was so enamored of the veteran's beautiful granddaughter
that he neglected to give us the soldier's name. Could this have been
Ebenezer Ayres whom he and a group of dragoons visited? Two key details
don't fit, but it did lead me to the interesting history of this man.
Two stones exist for Ebenezer in Hickory Grove Cemetery in Fort
Madison. A small foot-stone bearing “E.A. 1761-1834” is set among other
family foot-stones, and then, apparently in the late 1880s, a tall,
impressive stone was erected inscribed with the names and dates for a
number of family members, including Ebenezer. One of the four faces
bears this inscription: Ebenezer Ayres, a native of Connecticut, died
Dec 29, 1834, aged 73 years and 9 months; Deborah Davenport, his wife
died in Saint Charles Co, MO, April 27, 1826, aged 64 years
Mary Sue Chatfield and Linda Hayes of Montrose visited this cemetery
recently and took photos of the family graves, which are enclosed with
a low cement wall. Both have contributed significantly from the
beginning to uncovering Ebenezer's story. Linda, as registrar for the
Fort Madison DAR chapter, was immensely helpful in interpreting DAR
records. At the Fort Madison Public Library they found obituaries for a
number of family members and have transcribed from microfilm this
obituary for Ebenezer's daughter, Emily, which offers details not
included in the county histories:
From Fort Madison Weekly Democrat, July 23, 1879, p.
10, col. 4:
On Friday, July 18th, 1879, in this city, at the
residence of her son-in-law, Dr. J.C. Walker, Mrs. Emily Stewart, aged
Mrs. Emily Stewart was born at Ft. Harmer, in the
Northwestern Territory, now Marietta, Ohio, Jan. 22, 1795. Her parents,
Ebenezer and Deborah Davenport Ayres, came from Connecticut to Marietta
and afterwards lived in Cleveland, Ohio. About the year 1802, they
moved with their family to St. Louis, in Upper Louisiana, then in
possession of the Spanish government. Miss Emily was married to Dr.
Stewart was a surgeon in the army in July 1816. He
died October 1834.
She came with her children to Fort Madison in
October 1835. At the time of her death she was the oldest resident of
the place. She was one of the original members of the Fort Madison
Presbyterian organization and was for more than 70 years a member of
the Presbyterian communion.
Another interesting aspect of this family's early
history in Lee County involves his daughter, Rebecca Ayres Parmer, as
the first woman teacher in Iowa. From the Annals of Iowa, January 1884,
in an article by T. S. Parvin:
We learn, however, from a communication in the Gate
City (in answer to an inquiry, from Marcus D. Box, whom we believe to
be a son of Hon. John Box, one of the representatives from Lee County
in the Wisconsin Legislature of 1836, that a school was taught in Lee
County, about two miles from Fort Madison, on the road lending to
Augusta and Burlington, as early as May 1834. The teacher was a lady,
too, Mrs. Rebecca Parmer, sister to E. S. [sic E. D.] Ayres one of the
old settlers of Lee county. “The house used was a small cabin with dirt
floor and split rails for seats.” Some of her scholars are still living
(1882) and we have heard from their own lips recitals of the events of
their school days in that primitive school house.
Significant help has come from a number of people in
clarifying this story of Ebenezer Ayres so that he might rightfully be
recognized as a Revolutionary War patriot buried in Iowa. Mike Rowley,
president of the Iowa Society of the Sons of the American Revolution,
has been both encouraging and helpful in finding records. Barbara Kaye,
formerly of Stamford, Conn., but now living in California, whose
carefully documented records of early Stamford families have been
invaluable, sent the key DAR document showing that indeed, the National
DAR had changed their identification to the Ebenezer who died at Fort
Madison. Maureen Mead, of Olympia, Wash., Coordinator of CTGenWeb, as
part of the USGenWeb Project, as well as longtime
coordinator of the Fairfield County, Conn., CTGenWeb site, has been
extraordinarily helpful in finding records.
As this story was developing in the last several
weeks, Rowley of the IASSAR, who was so excited about this discovery,
jestingly said he was ready to go over to the monument erected a few
years ago to honor Iowa's Revolutionary War patriots at the State
Capitol in Des Moines, with his chisel to inscribe Ebenezer's name.
At times, as this story was unfolding, I had to tell
him “Not yet.” Now that we have confirmation from the DAR in
Washington, D.C. that this Ebenezer Ayres is the one who served in
Capt. Scofield's company, Rowley will probably not do the chiseling,
but it is time that the name be formally inscribed.
Born the son of John Ayres and Rebecca Potts Ayres.
Married Deborah Davenport.
Moved with a group of settlers called the Ohio
Company to Fort Harmar, Marietta, OH.
Lived briefly at Cleveland, OH
Moved to St. Charles Co. MO, by 1802; was
appointed a Justice of the peace in 1803 (abundant records exist of his
service as a JP); was a founding member of the Presbyterian church with
his wife Deborah.
Moved to Lee County by May, 1834
Died Dec. 29, 1834 during what has been described
as a particularly harsh winter, and in an era when there was no church
or local government to keep records or a newspaper to print
Used with permission of the Daily Gate City, written and
submitted by Barbara MacLeish