For many, the Fourth of July is holiday in the middle of summer that signals barbecues, fireworks and wearing all things red, white blue. While many may give a passing thought to the massive undertaking of us in the colonies defiantly declaring our independence from tyrannical British rule and the subsequent war for that independence, many do not dwell on it as most of the lessons taught in history books took place far away.
This Independence Day, however, I’d like to draw attention and thought to lesser or unknown heroes of the Revolutionary War, to those closer to home. Clay County is the burial location of many Revolutionary War veterans, a little-known fact to many.
One such veteran is William Cookskin Corum, buried, according to the Harry S. Truman Chapter of the Missouri Society Sons of the American Revolution, in the Corum-Judy family cemetery in Smithville. Corum served as a sergeant in Capt. Gibbs’ Infantry in the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard. The Commander-in-Chief’s Guard, also known as Washington’s Life Guard, protected Gen. George Washington during military engagements.
According to Missouri SAR, Corum served at the Battle of Brandywine, Battle of Germantown, Battle of Connecticut Farms, King’s Bridge Skirmish and Battle of Yorktown.
A Virginia native born in 1760, Corum lived a long life after service, dying in Clay County in August 1853. His patriotism is noted on his military and private tombstone in the family cemetery.
Patriot James Crowley served what would be a new nation as a private in the companies of Capts. Madison, Gamble and Nevill; and Col. James Wood’s regiment in the Virginia Militia. His service is documented in his pension application at the U.S. National Archives & Records Administration.
Crowley saw the surrender of Lord Charles Cornwallis and the British Army at Yorktown.
Where Worlds of Fun shoots off fireworks for its annual Independence Day celebration was once the farmland of Crowley. It doesn’t get more patriotic than that.
According to research done by the Kansas City Star, Crowley brought his family to Missouri in 1816 along with his brother John Crowley and his family.
“They came to this area around 1820 before Missouri’s statehood. After the Land Grant office was established in Lexington, James and John applied for Government Land Patients in Clay County,” states a Star 816 North article titled “Bringing the American Revolution closer to home.”
A portion of the Worlds of Fun complex was built on land originally owned by the brothers.
A tombstone was placed in the Crowley Cemetery in his honor by a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in the early 1900s. It’s located on a northern portion of the amusement park property. A county historical society marker now denotes the cemetery as a historic landmark.
Richard Simms Jr., born in 1752 and died in 1850 and buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery off Missouri Highway 92 in Kearney, served as a private in the Third Virginia Regiment in our nation’s war for Independence from 1776 to 1778.
Simms served under Cols. Hugh Mercer and Marshall and Capt. William Washington. The regiment was raised Dec. 28, 1775. There are rumors that Mercer created Washington’s plan to cross the Delaware River and surprise the Hessians at the Battle of Trenton on Dec. 26, 1776.
So, while you are celebrating your freedoms this Fourth of July, please take a moment to remember and honor those close to home who fought so bravely so our great nation can exist.