When the United States called its able-bodied men to arms a second time, Andrew Keown answered.
He had come from a family of patriots, and he followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, Thomas Keown, who was a veteran of the Revolutionary War.
But while every student knows of the heroes of the Revolution, Andrew Keown’s fight would become America’s “forgotten war.”
The War of 1812, during which the country fought the British a second time, was largely a draw, militarily. Its major conflict, the Battle of New Orleans, an American victory, was actually fought after the treaty to end the war had been signed.
We need not forget the veterans all over this county, but the ones in this place are special to us, you and me.
Sterling Schoen, Vincent Cemetery Association
Keown was 21 years old when he followed Gen. Andrew Jackson, who would later become the seventh president of the United States, into engagement with the British at New Orleans on Jan. 8, 1815. Keown as a member of the Kentucky militia. Jackson’s force of army regulars, militia, slaves, Native Americans, and even pirates, routed the Red Coats in what was one of the most lopsided victories in U.S. history.
Keown survived the war and returned home to Kentucky. After he married, he and his family came to Illinois, where he purchased land and raised his family.
“Uncle Andy was known far and near and was esteemed as an honest man and an upright Christian by all who knew him,” said Eunice Gibson of Godfrey, a descendant of Keown’s.
When he died in 1880 at age 86, Keown was buried in Vincent Cemetery, which is located along Mriscin Road in rural Madison County, between Alhambra and Livingston.
But just as his war was largely forgotten, so too was his final resting place. From years of neglect, the cemetery grew up in brush and became a dumping ground.
“I saw broken stones, weeds and trees, and garbage, and clutter, and refrigerators,” said Sterling Schoen of the Vincent Cemetery Association. “And then I saw one or two American flags, and I thought, ‘If there is a veteran out here, this is a crime and a disgrace.’ So, at that point, God laid a burden upon my heart for this place — we formed a cemetery board.”
The association has restored the cemetery to a place of dignity for those who eternally lie there.
Uncle Andy was known far and near and was esteemed as an honest man and an upright Christian by all who knew him.
Eunice Gibson of Godfrey, a descendant of War of 1812 veteran Andrew Keown
The Illinois Society of the War of 1812 has also made sure Keown’s service will forever be remembered. The society held a ceremony on Sunday, Oct. 23, where a special marker noting Keown’s service was unveiled. About 70 people attended, including many of Keown’s descendants.
“I am in DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) through his (grandfather). And so, my mother was big in DAR… My mother would be thrilled to death that I am here honoring the family, because she was very active. She just passed away five years ago. If she’d have been still alive, she’d have been here,” said Nell Thacker of Greenville, a fourth-generation great-granddaughter of Keown, who attended the ceremony.
“We need not forget the veterans all over this county, but the ones in this place are special to us, you and me,” Schoen said. “And we are so thankful for Andrew and his family members that are here today, and we appreciate what they sacrificed.”
About Andrew Keown
Born: April 11, 1793, in Butler County, Ky., the son of John and Margaret (White) Keown.
Military Service: Veteran of the War of 1812, serving as a private in Lt. Col. William Mitchusson’s 14th Regiment of the Kentucky Militia; veteran of the Battle of New Orleans, where he served under Gen. Andrew Jackson.
Family: Married Sarah Goodwin. They were together for upwards of 50 years. They had four children, John, Mary, Calvin and Alexander, all of whom had families of their own and survived him.
Life in Illinois: He came to Illinois in 1819, but returned to Kentucky in December 1819. He came back to Illinois with his family in 1825.
Died: Feb. 20, 1880, at age 86.
Buried: Vincent Cemetery, located in rural Madison County, northeast Alhambra.