Address by the Reverend David Williamson
at the rededication of the grave marker of Jane Wilson McKisick
Centerton Arkansas Cemetery, April, 2003
It is altogether fitting that we come today to rededicate this marker,
but the greater opportunity for us is to remember the life
of this remarkable woman, and to rededicate ourselves
to those uniquely American ideals which she personified.
The events of her life exhibit those ideals and the American Experience
in a remarkable way. Her life is a revealing synopsis of America itself.
She grew up in those years when the people of the colonies in America
were growing indignant at their treatment by their mother county.
When she was 12 years old, a public meeting of the concerned
citizens of Rowan county was held. Her father, the Patriot
James Wilson, was appointed as a leader.
As a young woman, she married Daniel McKisick in 1776, the very year
that the colonists declared themselves to all the world to be
the Free, Independent, and United States of America.
Daniel, a mature man of 27 at the time of their marriage, was a lieutenant
colonel in the North Carolina Militia, and when the war came,
the War of the Revolution, he formed a company,
which he led as Captain.
In the Summer of 1780, he and his company were called into service
by Colonel Frances Locke to meet the threat of an armed body
of local loyalists or Tories.
That Summer had not been favorable to the cause of American liberty.
On May 12, the Americans had suffered their greatest defeat
in the fall of Charlestown to the British forces of Gen. Clinton.
The loyalists of North Carolina were emboldened by this victory.
John Moore, a prominent Tory of Lincoln County, called for the
local loyalists to gather on June 13 near Ramsour’s Mill.
Over the next week local men loyal to the crown continued to gather at the
encampment until there were between 1200 and 1400 of them.
Their intention was to join forces with the regular British army
just over the border in South Carolina
On the evening of June 19, the militia led by Colonel Locke, numbering
about 400 men began an all night march toward the mill.
The battle began at dawn on the 20th of June, 1780, a very different
kind of battle which tells us so much about the America of that day.
There was not a uniform on either side. Not a single British soldier, only
local people loyal to the crown. And on the other side,
a citizen militia made up of local people
dedicated to independence and liberty.
Every man engaged that day was an American.
Most of them knew the men they were fighting against,
as neighbor, friend, or relative.
The fact that there were not a uniformed army led to one of the most
interesting aspects of the battle: the Tories identified themselves
by wearing a fresh sprig of green in their caps.
The patriots, also know as the Whigs, wore patches of white paper or cloth,
which turned out not to be such a good idea, since the white patch
on the cap became an excellent target for Tory riflemen
It is not necessary for me to go into the interesting details of the battle;
it is sufficient to say that the Patriots decisively whipped
the Tory force of three times their number.
Losses were heavy on both sides, about 70 killed for each and
about 100 wounded, including Captain Daniel McKisick
who left arm was shattered from the elbow to the sholder
by a rifle ball, which would leave him handicapped for life.
And here is the best part of the story: someone was sent to tell
Mrs. Mckisick who was at home about 10 miles away.
She left a small child and a baby and went out to the hill by Ramsour’s Mill,
found her wounded husband, took him to the Rhinehart house nearby
and cared for him there, until she could take him back home.
Reared in the home of a prominent Patriot, James Wilson;
married in 1776 to another Patriot, Daniel McKisick;
after Ramsour’s Mill, she is a genuine heroine of the Revolution.
And then in 1807, when she is 48 years old, the McKisick family
becomes pioneers as they move to Bedford County, Tennessee.
Both Daniel and his son James are prominent leaders
in early day Bedford County and the state.
When Jane is 69, her Daniel dies at his home near Shelbyville,
and there he is buried, his grave now suitably marked
as a soldier of the Revolution, wounded in battle.
But the story of Jane Wilson McKisick is not quite over.
Her son James had been appointed by the federal government
as commissioner to the five Indian tribes:
Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Seminole, Creek.
His responsibilities took him to the Indian Territory in the West,
and that is how he discovered beautiful Benton County, Arkansas.
He returned to Tennessee with the determination to move his family
there, and in 1835, when his mother was 77 years of age,
James led a caravan of McKisicks and Dicksons to Arkansas.
I must hasten to the “rest of the story”, for after the move West,
just 68 years to the day after the Declaration of Independence,
on July 4, 1844, Jane Wilson McKisick died at 85 years of age.
We honor her again today, and rededicate ourselves to the Spirit of America:
- A child of the years leading to Independence,
- Married in the year of the Declaration of Independence
- Heroine of the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill
- Pioneer in Tennessee and Arkansas
- Fitting that her death would be on July 4, Independence Day.
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