Learning about local Patriots of the American Revolution

posted by Dr. Peres, Jesse T., and Susan L.-S.

Something you should know about archaeologists is that they are always doing, writing, reading, and thinking about archaeology. Archaeology is a lifestyle, and not for those that prefer a punch-in/punch-out, 40-hour a week job. While the field school students are off enjoying some down time with family and friends, the Co-Directors, Jesse and myself, and Susan S. (Historic Preservation Graduate Intern), accompanied by members of our families, spent Sunday afternoon conducting research, meeting community members, learning more about the Euro-Americans that acquired the land we are working on via land grants, visiting the Wilson Cemetery on neighboring property, and honoring individuals that fought in the American Revolution.

Members of the Sons of the American Revolution presenting the colors.

Members of the Sons of the American Revolution presenting the colors at the Wilson Cemetery.


Excerpt from my notes of the event:

Sunday, May 25, 2014

I (and J. and G. Lemons) met up with J. Tune, M. Tune, S. L.-S. (and daughter). We went to the neighboring property where the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) were holding a ceremony to place a marker at the grave of Zaccheus Wilson, a patriot of the Revolutionary War. We listened to a recounting of Zaccheus’s (and his mother, Eleanor’s) interactions with General Charles Cornwallis, for which he is named an American Patriot.


After the program we went to the Harpeth Lick Cumberland Presbyterian Church (built on property donated by one of the Wilson clan members in the 1800s) to meet the Wilson family members/descendants. Everyone we met was kind, friendly, and passionate about their family’s history, and very willing to share their knowledge.

Gun salute in honor of Zaccheus Wilson.

Gun salute in honor of Zaccheus Wilson.

You might be wondering why we were interested in the Wilson Cemetery. We want to know how the original Wilson family members are related (or not) with the later William McDowell, his wife Janet, and her second husband William McMeekin. During Susan’s research into the historic period owners/occupants of the property we are working on, she found that Mrs. Janet McDowell re-married after W. McDowell’s death, and that it is possible she and her second husband are buried in the Wilson Cemetery. Unfortunately many of the tombstones are missing and those that are intact are highly eroded.

Wilson Cemetery in Rutherford County.

Wilson Cemetery in Rutherford County.

The recounting of some of the Wilson family history, researched, written, and presented by a descendent of Robert Wilson, suggests there were McDowells that lived in the area a full 100 years before our William McDowell. One of the earlier McDowells (Jane McDowell) married Robert Wilson and may be buried in another local cemetery.

How are they related? What happened to Janet McDowell after she married William McMeekin?

Where in Scotland did W. McDowell originate?

As you can see, the history of this property is intriguing and still has gaps to be filled. This is just one component to understanding ALL of the uses of the land and the lives of the people that lived here over several millennia. Something we all noted was how passionate the Wilson descendants about their family history and sharing that with their extended family and other interested community members.

Wilson descendants

Wilson family descendants present for the maker dedication to Zaccheus Wilson.


3 thoughts on “Learning about local Patriots of the American Revolution

  1. Laura — YES! It was great to learn about the history of immediate area during the late 1700s and meet some of the descendants of the original land grantees.

  2. In their famous old book entitled “Method and Theory in American Archaeology,” Gordon Willey and Philip Phillips (1958:2) famously remarked that “American archaeology is anthropology or it is nothing.”

    I have always thought that they should have stuck the word “fun” somewhere in that oft repeated quote. Archaeology doesn’t end when the 5:00 p.m. whistle blows, usually because there is something fun and interesting left to do. Great point!!!

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