Thursday, October 22, 2020

Joseph Howard and his two years in the War of 1812

The tombstone --- in Newbern Cemetery --- belongs to Joseph Howard (9 March 1796-2 February 1875), revisited this week while I was stalking Lucas County's War of 1812 veterans. Joseph was a lad just short of his 17th birthday when he enlisted during February of 1813 in Capt. Samuel Whiteside's company of Illinois Mounted Militia and served two years. 

The following brief essay that summarizes his life has been published here before. Written during December of 1903 by Joseph's daughter, Mary Angeline (Mrs. Jesse) Moon, it was included in a notebook of English Township pioneer biographies collected by T.M. Dunshee, now in the Lucas County Historical Society collection. You'll find the original post here.


Joseph Howard was born in Tennessee March 9, 1796. His father, Abraham Howard, was a Virginian of English descent. His mother, whose maiden name was Stuart, was of Scotch-Irish descent.

At the age of thirteen years in 1809, Joseph's mother moved to Edwardsville, Madison County, Illinois, thirty-four miles east of St. Louis, where they lived until young Howard was seventeen years of age (Abraham Howard reportedly died before his son was born.), when he enlisted in the War of 1812 with what was called the Illinois Rangers. For two years he was kept busy with his regiment, guarding the settlers from the Indians, and on duty in some of the frontier posts. He came to Iowa for the first time in 1813 during an expedition sent up the Mississippi River against the Indians, which went as far north as Rock Island. He said then, if Iowa was ever purchased of the Indians by the Government and came to settlement he would go there. His regiment saw good service, had a number of engagements with the Indians.

After his two years were up he returned home and again engaged in farming and by industry and frugality saved money enough to buy a piece of land, which he proceeded to improve.

The eighteenth day of March 1819 he was married to Jennie McLilly of Edwardsville. Her parents formerly came from South Carolina where she was born the fourth of February 1801. In 1805 they emigrated to Springfield, Tennessee, where they lived until the year 1817 when they came to Edwardsville. Here they lived for perhaps a dozen years.

In 1828 he was converted and joined the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. He entered the Ministry at thirty-two years of age and from that time until 1860 engaged actively in the duties of a minister of the Gospel.

Uncle Jody Howard as he was familiarly known to many of the early settlers of Lee and Lucas Counties, moved to Lee County, Iowa, in the spring of 1835. Here he purchased 320 acres of land eight miles north of West Point. Here he lived for fifteen years. There were but few settlers and plenty of Indians. Keokuk was a little trading post with a few log cabins.

In 1850, Mr. Howard sold his farm and in October they emigrated to Warren County, Iowa, and settled in Whitebreast Township. Here he bought and entered at different times in Warren and Lucas Counties 1,200 acres of land. In February 1852, he purchased 120 acres of Government land in section six lying west of what afterwards became the town of Newbern. He improved and built for himself a home where he spent the remaining years of his life.

He died the second of February 1875. On account of failing health he did not preach regularly from 1860 until his death.

The town of Newbern was laid out by Ransom Davis in 1851, he building the first house. Mr. Howard kept the first post office just across the county line in Lucas County. There were no churches or school houses in the community and but four cabins between Knoxville and Newbern and one between Newbern and Chariton. He was one of the prominent figures in the little town just started.

Mr. and Mrs. Howard had twelve children born to them, seven boys and five girls, Abram, Samuel, Johnson, John T. Elizabeth O., Mary Angeline, William B. Joseph S. James B., Nancy J., Finis A. and Martha M.


The whims of geography can complicate life for those interested in researching people who lived in or near Newbern, including the Howards. The Marion-Lucas county line forms the southern boundary of the village. The Howard home, where the first post office was located, was just southwest of the village, on the Lucas County side of the line. And the Howards are buried in Newbern Cemetery, some distance west, sliced neatly in half by the Lucas-Warren county line but generally attributed to Warren. So the Howards had a Marion County address but lived in Lucas County and are buried in Warren.


Joseph's pension/land warrant application file, kept by the U.S. General Services Administration, provides a few more details about Joseph's service and these were what I was looking for when I called it up.

In 1850, while living in Lee County, he applied for and received a War of 1812 service-related warrant entitling him to 160 acres of land. Then in 1871, while living at Newbern, he applied for and received a modest War of 1812 survivor pension. That's the first page of his pension application form above.

These and other records show that he actually enlisted twice in Madison County, Illinois, the first time during early February of 1813. Upon his discharge a year later, he signed up for another year of duty during mid-March, 1814, and served until mid-March 1815 --- an estimated 737 days of service total.

Most of Lucas County's War of 1812 veterans served only a few months, so Joseph may have held the record for the longest term of service.

The application also contains a brief description of what he did while serving in the militia: "He acted a greater portion of the time as a spy or scout. Was in Howard's campaign. Helped build a fort at Warsaw, Illinois."

Howard's campaign is so-called after Benjamin Howard, Kentucky congressman who served as governor of Louisiana Territory (renamed Missouri) from April 1810, then resigned to accept the rank of brigadier general during the war of 1812 and lead operations up and down the Mississippi. He died of disease at St. Louis on Sept. 18, 1814.

Maj. Zachary Taylor supervised building of the Fort Johnson, the first at Warsaw, during 1814 on the east bank of the Mississippi opposite the mouth of the Des Moines River. It was burned after a few weeks, however, and Fort Edwards was built nearby during 1815.

So there you have a bit of the history buried behind that worn tombstone in Newbern Cemetery.

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