While their exact resting places are a mystery, local historians know Illinois pioneers and Revolutionary War soldiers Lt. William “Turkey Hill” Scott and Pvt. Larkin Rutherford are buried somewhere in Shiloh Valley Cemetery. And, in a couple months, these early patriots will have markers next to one another on that hallowed ground.
The O’Fallon Historical Society has been working over the last several months raise money to pay for the markers, which Rutherford’s has been met at over $1,000. With help of Shiloh officials, the fundraising goal for Scott’s has almost been met.
Thomas Marshall Schwarztrauber, vice president of the OHS, said the organization has nearly reached its $1,000 goal, thanks to the village authorizing $500 in tourism funds.
“It’s only through the donations of individuals who are making this possible, and there will be a line on the marker stating such. Plus, supporters will be provided with a tax-deductible receipt, and our gratitude — no donation is too small or too big,” Schwarztrauber said.
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Other recent donors includes Ed Funk, an OHS member who lives in Texas; Jim and Ellen Vernier, and Whitney Wisnasky-Bettorf.
Once the makers are completed, the final step will be a dedication ceremonies. The first is slated for 2 p.m. at the Shiloh Valley Cemetery on May 20, when the Belleville Chapter of the Daughter of the American Revolution will be dedicating a DAR plaque on the back of the Rutherford cenotaph. The Scott ceremony information is to be announced later this spring.
“I think the idea is to honor the few American Revolutionary War veterans who lived or were buried in the O’Fallon-Shiloh area with their own individual monuments,” OHS president Brian Keller said.
Scott was born in Botetourt County, Virginia on May 17, 1745, and was a captain with Baird’s Company of the Virginia Militia during the Revolution.
After the war, Scott brought his family, including his wife Mary, six sons, one daughter and a son-in-law to Illinois. In 1797, he became the first settler at Turkey Hill, the only American settlement in St. Clair County before 1800.
“He was a man of honest and moral character. He possessed a sound judgment, and much practical experience, and was ambitious of neither wealth not worldly distinction. He served some time as justice of the peace. Toward the close of his life, he turned his attention to books and study, and passes his advanced years in the pleasures of meditation and reflection,” the “History of St. Clair County” states of Scott.
Scott passed away Jan. 1, 1828 at the age of 84 and was buried somewhere in Shiloh Valley Cemetery. Mary Scott died in 1820. Her final resting place is also unknown.
Schwarztrauber said that Scott was a Methodist and was the largest contributor to building one of the early versions of Shiloh Methodist Church, which is today located at 210 S. Main St., across the street from the Shiloh Valley Cemetery.
“The current one standing today is actually the fourth church in that spot with the first being a log cabin,” he said.
Like Scott, Rutherford was also a Virginia native who helped the defeat of British in the Northwest Territory, out of which the state of Illinois would later be carved. He served with the Illini Crockett Regiment. He was under the command of Gen. George Rogers Clark in the 1779 during taking of Fort Sackville, a British outpost in what is now Vincennes, Indiana.
“He was a large man of athletic frame and was bold and fearless,” according to “A Brief History of St. Clair County, Illinois.”
In 1781, he returned to Illinois in the company of James Moore, Shadrach Bond, Robert Kidd and James Garrison (Garretson) — the first colony of American families to settle in Illinois.
“It’s hard to say if Scott and Rutherford knew each other. I think it’s likely they did, or at least were aware of each other. There weren’t that many people in these parts back then, so it’s more likely that they did than didn’t,” Keller said.
Schwarztrauber said that Rutherford settled first at BelleFontaine in Monroe County in 1782 before traveling to St. Clair County in 1800 to settle north in Shiloh. He died in 1813.
“His actual burial location in the Shiloh Valley Cemetery is unknown also, yet his children and descendants are buried there,” Schwarztrauber said.
More work to do
Once the Scott/Rutherford project is completed, Schwarztrauber said the OHS “Cemetery Detectives” will continue their work of finding more unmarked graves.
“Myself and some others work on either locating lost grave sites with grave dowsing. (We) clean them up, repair stones if need be, and even install signage for identification and directions to the sites,” he said.
The site of Rock Spring now has 48 wooden cross markers and pavers for the previously unmarked graves, as well as signage to guide people down the lane, all thanks to the the Cemetery Detectives’ dedication.
Schwarztrauber said another future project will be the Freeman Cemetery, where Turkey Hill black families were buried.
“During the period of slavery, it wasn’t uncommon for slaves to hide seeds in their socks or pockets, such as Yucca or Periwinkle, to use as grave markers for their loved ones. Because they weren’t allowed to have ownership of anything, if they couldn’t find big rocks or other things, like old equipment or whatever, they would plant seeds. I’ve found these kinds of plants in these sites, and when I grave dowse, it only further confirms the site of a grave,” Schwarztrauber said. “They protected black families in Turkey Hill, and there was a black school, too. In fact, back then you weren’t supposed to teach a black person to read and write, and that was very rare.”