I had to make a run to Grand Rapids the other day, and, had the opportunity to visit the one and only Revolutionary War Patriot buried in Kent County-specifically-The City of Walker. And he has a cool story behind how he ended up here.
Although the City of Walker originally started as Walker Township, organized in late 1837, there are reports of eight families living on the Township land before it was incorporated. Credit to the first European settlers of Walker were Samuel White & his wife Lydia, whom, with his family, settled on section 23, in 1836. He erected the first log house within the township, built the first frame barn, and erected the second saw-mill on Indian creek, on the north side of section 15. With their team of six oxen, they cut the very first roads into the unsettled wilderness. Other pioneer families in the Township are names such as Wright, Covell, Taber, Cordes, Hilton, O’Brien, Turner, and Edison. Many of these families still have descendants living in the City of Walker.
These names are common in the oldest cemetery in Walker, Brooklawn Cemetery. I parked on the side of the busy Walker Ave, watching many cars whizzing by. As the average driver zips by, they may notice there is not a driveway into the cemetery. There are, however, weathered and crooked gravestones, and several large trees. There isn’t a building on-site, nor a creek, either. There are noticeable gaps in between gravestones. All of which, in its entirety, demonstrates this is a very old cemetery.
One particular stone has a few adornments that make it unique to Kent County. Buried in Brooklawn is Moses Clark, a fifer who served in the Revolutionary War. In 1776, at the tender age of 16, he enlisted in Connecticut and served under the 1st Battalion, Connecticut State Regiment under Captain John Hart, and was discharged in Morristown in 1790.
In 1836, Moses Clark also came to Walker Township as a pensioner. His wife, Patty, and at least four of his children, Erastus, Martha, Sophia, & Charles, came here to farm the land.
Moses and Erastus had what most would consider a circuitous route to Michigan. From the Grand Rapid Press: “The fact he enlisted was no surprise. Public service was a family tradition at least from a 17th-century ancestor who was the first Secretary of the Massachusetts Colony. His own father was a Minuteman. What made Moses Clark unusual was his age. He was only 15 when he joined the fight for American Independence. Joe VanderMuellen is nearly 10 [years old] and shows no sign of running off to join the army. He stood before a weathered headstone in Walker’s Brooklawn Cemetery one recent morning reading the inscription: Moses Clark, Died January 2, 1844, Aged 82 yrs 3 mo.”
“Joe had heard of Moses Clark and knew they somehow were related. But only recently did he learn he is a direct descendant of the only Revolutionary War soldier buried in Kent County. “I knew he was related to my mom and me somehow,” said Joe, adding that “I feel lucky” to be the great-great-great-great-great-grandson of a man who served in the American Revolution. That war, Joe knew, had something to do with the reason we celebrate the Fourth of July. “The British wanted to control America,” he said, “and we didn’t want them to, so we went to war, and we won”.
“Moses Clark’s role in that victory, and the events that eventually would bring him to Kent County, began in May 1777, when he enlisted at his hometown, Lebanon, Conn. His father, James Clark, was a captain (later promoted to Major, then Colonel) who fought at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. Moses was a fifer, serving under Capt. John Hart, Col. Samuel Webb and Col. William Livingstone, according to military records. In those days, army musicians also sometimes assisted physicians during battle.
“Family legend has it that Moses, stationed at Valley Forge, sometimes sneaked into Philadelphia, where he played for dances, often attended by Gen. George Washington. He was discharged on May 31, 1780, at Morristown, N.Y., on the St. Lawrence River, military records show. He returned to Connecticut, where he married Patty BILL in 1786. His journey to Michigan began in the summer of 1805, when the family moved to Canada, just across the St. Lawrence from New York. The family took a step closer to Michigan in 1819, when they moved to the Lake Simcoe region north of Toronto, lured by word that the government was giving land to new settlers. But when Moses arrived, he found he could not agree to the government’s one condition: that he become a British subject and swear allegiance to the King. Instead, the family rented.
“The move to Michigan was precipitated by the same rebel spirit that prompted Moses Clark to enlist. In 1837, Canada faced a rebellion in the Toronto area. Moses Clark’s son, Erastus, collected arms and ammunition for the rebels, hid them in a wagon beneath bags of wheat and headed for Toronto. One evening, about 10 miles from Toronto, he was halted by guards posted at a small tavern, according to Walker Historical Commission files. The guards planned to search the wagon but decided to wait until morning. During the night, Erastus escaped into Toronto with his wagon and later fled back to the United States. By 1838, he had worked his way west to Michigan and sent for his wife and children. They took up farming six miles west of Grand Rapids in what is now Walker. In 1842, Moses and Patty Clark moved to Michigan and lived with Erastus and his family in a cabin on what is now Three Mile Road.
“When Moses Clark arrived in Kent County, he was among the few non-native-American settlers. Grand Rapids still was little more than an Indian trading post, a fact that may explain why more aging Revolutionary War veterans didn’t settle here. When Moses Clark died Jan. 2, 1844, he was buried in Brooklawn Cemetery, just down the road from the family homestead. Two and a half years later, his wife, Patty, died and was buried at his side.”
His son, Charles Clark, died in 1839 at 49 years of age. He is buried next to Moses and his wife, Patty. This would give Charles the distinction of having the oldest grave in the cemetery. The cause of death is unknown, and it is uncertain if he was first buried elsewhere then moved here, or if he was the first to be buried at Brooklawn.
History on the cemetery is scant, as a fire at the township hall in the late 1800’s destroyed many historical records. Moses passed away in 1844, at the age of 82.
To this day, there are many of his descendants living in the area.
Moses Clark is yet another Revolutionary War Patriot who ventured late in life into the Michigan wilderness. Thank you for your service, Moses Clark.