I. A NEW FRONTIER
It was the time of General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, William Henry Harrison, Little Turtle, Blue Jacket, and Tecumseh. It was the age of a young America fresh from winning its war for independence from Great Britain. It was an age of Native Americans fighting back the wave of settlers threatening their homeland. It was an age and a time which would determine the future of the young American Republic and of Dearborn County.
The American nation was determined to settle the Northwest Territory. The Native Americans formed a Confederacy which they hoped would be strong enough to drive the white settlers from their lands. Joining together were the Miami’s, led by Chief Little Turtle; the Delaware’s and the Shawnees, led by Chief Blue Jacket.
In January of 1791, Congress authorized President Washington to raise an army of 3,000 men to be placed under the command of Northwest Territory governor, Major General Arthur St. Clair. It was Washington’s belief that once spring arrived, that the Indians would spread “desolation” over the settlers.
On September 17, General St. Clair and about 2,300 men marched from Ludlow Station near Cincinnati. His army was poorly trained and undisciplined, and lacked promised supplies and armaments. According to legend, Chief Little Turtle appointed a young Tecumseh to scout St. Clair’s movements.
During the early morning of November 4, St. Clair’s army was surprised by the Indian Confederacy led by Little Turtle. Of the 1,500 men engaged in battle for St. Clair, more than half were either killed or wounded. It was an epic disaster.
Immediately after St. Clair’s defeat, the Federal government raised another large army to attack the hostile tribes. In August of 1794, after 3 years of preparation, this army, led by General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, once again faced the Indian coalition. The battle took place near the Miami Rapids in Wood County, Ohio. Unlike St. Clair, General Wayne was prepared. Wayne was known to the Indians as the “Chief who does Not Sleep.” He would not be surprised.
Wayne’s army marched north from Fort Washington in Cincinnati. Blue Jacket, took a defensive position along the Maumee River not far from present day Toledo, Ohio, where a strand of trees had been blown down by a recent storm. The famous engagement, which became known as The Battle of Fallen Timbers, took place on August 20, 1794 (220 years ago). One writer described the battle as follows:
“The front line of infantry ... halted to deliver a deadly aimed fire at the warriors, who were hidden behind their cover of logs and trees. Then, before the Indians could recover from the shock of the Legion’s volley, the Americans rushed forward in a bayonet charge, howling at the top of their lungs. Under the weight of this unrelenting and highly disciplined advance, the Indians broke and ran.”
In the aftermath of the defeat, the Indians signed the Treaty of Greenville in 1785. This treaty ceded much of present day Ohio to the United States and also included what is now Dearborn County. Wayne’s victory paved the way for Dearborn County’s founding and settlement.
One soldier who lived this bold and epic time in America and Dearborn County’s history was Captain Samuel Vance.
II. CAPTAIN VANCE
Samuel Vance was born in 1770 and grew up on the Pennsylvania Frontier. His grandfather fought in the French and Indian War, and his father fought for America in the Revolutionary War. When Samuel was approximately 20, he joined the army. He received his commission from President George Washington. He fought with General St. Clair and also with General Anthony Wayne against the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers.
Vance originally planned to become a career army officer. He was quickly promoted to Lieutenant and was posted at Fort Washington in Cincinnati. During his career he served in Detroit, Fort Wayne and other frontier forts. By 1797 he was promoted to Captain.
Vance met and married Mary Lawrence, who was nicknamed Molly by her family. Her grandfather was General St. Clair. St. Clair had become friends with Vance during the Indian Wars, and stated that, “He could not have chosen a better husband for Molly.” His one reservation was Vance’s choice of a military career. Samuel and Molly began a family. Soon thereafter, Captain Vance resigned his commission and returned to private life.
In 1801 Vance began speculating in land. He and Benjamin Chambers bought a huge tract of property in what was to become Southeastern Indiana. Vance platted his new town and named it “Lawrenceburgh” for his wife’s family - the Lawrence’s.
Indiana was set off as a separate territory and Dearborn County was established in March of 1803. The first Governor of the Indiana territory was Vance’s friend, William Henry Harrison. It is fairly clear that Captain Vance later used his association with Harrison to establish Lawrenceburg as the county seat of Dearborn County. He also received an appointment by Harrison as Dearborn County’s first Clerk of Courts.
In future years, Vance was involved in a project to provide ferry boat service to Boone County, Kentucky, and across Tanner’s Creek. He also opened a store and helped found a bank in Cincinnati. Vance was later appointed as a director of the Indiana Canal Company which was supposed to find a way to build a ship canal around the falls of the Ohio at Louisville. Also appointed to this board were George Rogers Clark and former Vice President Aaron Burr. Some members of this board were later tried for conspiracy with Burr in his scheme to form a new country. There IS no evidence that Vance was involved in this plot.
Vance built a grand house on the Ohio River, which now serves as the home of the Dearborn County Historical Society. He was described by one early historian as being tall and commanding; “His nature was frank, noble, magnanimous, and generous”. It is said that he was honored and respected by all who knew him. One history of Dearborn County also lists Vance as serving in the War of 1812.
Life is not always kind to our military heroes. Records indicate that Captain Vance suffered significant financial problems over the years. The Vance family also knew its share of personal tragedies, which included witnessing a 6 year old son die in a riding accident in 1817. Captain Vance’s wife, Molly, died in the Spring of 1823 after a lingering illness. By 1824, Vance’s financial condition became so serious, that he deeded all his Lawrenceburg holdings, including his house on High Street to his son Arthur.
Captain Samuel Vance died in March of 1830 at the age of 60. He was buried in a cemetery at the end of High Street. The cemetery was later moved to Newtown because of construction of a floodwall. His grave was eventually moved again here to Greendale Cemetery. Vance’s tombstone is now located here in the Soldier’s Circle. This monument, with its scrolled edges, stands out among the plain rounded stones of other soldiers in the circle. An early history of Dearborn County says that when he died, he was, “full of honor, and of goodwill of the community.”
III. A NEW GENERATION
The Lawrenceburg Community founded by Vance has grown and prospered since those early days. But as shown by the headstones and the names and dates in our Veteran’s section in Greendale Cemetery, one thing which has not changed is the willingness of the young people of this community to step forward and to serve. One such young man of this generation is a 2011 graduate of Lawrenceburg High School, Airman 1st Class, Sean Stott.
Looking back, Sean’s father, Mike, says he was not surprised when Sean announced during his junior year that he was interested in joining the military. Mike says that Sean had shown interest as far back as the second grade. But once Sean made his decision to seek a position in the United States Air Force, it became a test of his perseverance and dedication.
He injured his knee playing football, which required surgery and months of therapy. He was initially told by one recruiter that because of the injury he would never be able to enter the Air Force. He also was required to lose 55 pounds. He worked out a training plan with Coach Dave Armstrong of Lawrenceburg High School and he met his goal. After working with recruiters for 1 1/2 years, he was finally accepted and left for boot camp in April 2012.
On New Year’s Day, 2013, Sean shipped out for service at Osan Air Force base in South Korea, where he was stationed for a year.
Parents, Mike and Dawn, were concerned that their son was a short distance from a country ruled by a mad man with nuclear weapons; but Sean assured them that they were trained to be prepared at all times. In South Korea you’re always ready for an attack.
Sean says it gives him a great source of pride to wear his uniform, but sometimes he feels uncomfortable wearing it because he believes that so many others before him have done so much more.
At 21 years old, he has a new respect for those who have served. When he now sees veterans, he takes the time to thank them. He has a greater appreciation of his own decision to join in their legacy.
Airman Stott’s parents, Mike and Dawn, are unable to speak about their son without shedding tears. Their pride is sometimes overwhelming. Sean gave them a piece of barbwire from the demilitarized zone separating South Korea from one million North Korea troops. It is a reminder of the danger and the responsibility of serving in the United States military. He is now preparing for another deployment to the Middle East.
IV. HONORING THOSE WHO SERVE
President John F. Kennedy once said, “A nation reveals itself, not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”
Today we live in an America where the Pentagon has proposed dramatic cuts to the benefits received by our military families. An America where more military families are using food stamps. An America in which the defense department proposes to limit pay raises, to reduce the housing allowances and cut funding for commissary stores. An America where questions are raised about the provision of health care to our veterans.
We live in an age of a rising China, and of an aggressive and rearmed Russia. We live in a world in which nations explode in Civil War; in a world in which one mad man in Iran seeks a nuclear weapon and another in North Korea possesses one. And as America’s sons and daughters, our sons and daughters, are deployed to conflicts across the world, the United States announces its plans to reduce its forces to their smallest levels since before WWII.
In his first Inaugural Address, President Ronald Reagan reminded us of the importance of a strong America.
As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for itnow or ever.
Our forbearance should never be misunderstood. Our reluctance for conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will. When action is required to preserve our national security, we will act. We will maintain sufficient strength to prevail if need be, knowing that if we do so we have the best chance of never having to use that strength.
Ladies and gentleman, based on where America stands today, how will future generations judge how we have honored those who serve? Have we given them what they need to fight? Have we given them what they deserve to live?
V. THE NEXT FRONTIER
220 years ago, the frontier of young America was here in Dearborn County. Brave men like Captain Vance, fought to protect, defend, and expand our territory. It was a bold America looking to the West and always to the future. But where is America looking today? Where is America’s next frontier?
And rising from these white stones surrounding us here today echoes their sacred pledge, inspired by the Book of Isiah:
“ ... Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, Here am I; send me.”
They step forward to serve no matter the cost, no matter the burden, no matter the risk. That is their covenant with the American people. Have we kept our promise to them?
With gratitude to all who have boldly held America’s future in their hands; we fix our eyes on new frontiers; And pledge that their bravery has not been in vain; What they have given will never be forgotten.
God bless all of you for joining us here today this Memorial Day 2014. God bless the United States of America.
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