Public invited to attend Revolutionary War veteran's grave ceremony in Hawkins

Jeff Bobo • Oct 22, 2019 at 1:32 PM

SURGOINSVILLE — A large turnout of descendants is expected to attend a “Patriot Grave Marking” on Sunday afternoon in Hawkins County's Stanley Valley community, where Revolutionary War soldier Pvt. Michael J. Looney will receive his “Patriot” headstone.

About twice per year, the State of Franklin Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) identifies a Revolutionary War veteran grave in need of a marker.

The organization, which is comprised of descendants of Revolutionary War veterans, then purchases an appropriate grave stone and holds a ceremony with uniformed color guard in period dress to dedicate the new marker.

The public is invited to attend the dedication ceremony for Pvt. Michael J. Looney on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Looney Family Cemetery, 2569 Stanley Valley Road north of Surgoinsville.

Looney’s military service

In 1774, Looney participated in Lord Dunmore's War, which was a pre-Revolutuionary War conflict between the Virginia Militia led by British Governor of Virginia John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, against a war party of Native Americans from the Shawnee and Mingo tribes.

The purpose of the war was to punish and drive out Indians who had attacked white settlers in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky who had violated the treaty by trespassing on land that was set aside as Shawnee and Mingo hunting grounds.

Looney was listed as having served in Capt. Henry Pauling's Volunteers of the Botetourt County, Va., Regiments at the Battle of Point Pleasant on Oct. 10, 1774.

The Battle of Point Pleasant was the decisive battle in that war and a victory for the Virginia Militia, despite the unit suffering heavier casualties than the Indians.

By the time the Virginia Militia returned home from Lord Dunmore's War, the Revolutionary War had started, and the majority of militia members sided with the Americans and against Lord Dunmore. Their Shawnee and Mingo opponents sided with British.

Looney settles in Stanley Valley

Looney is listed in the roster of Revolutionary War soldiers in the "Annals of Southwest Virginia, 1769-1800," and he was recognized by the Daughters of the American Revolution with a grave marker that was dedicated in 1954.

Don Hills, State of Franklin SAR chapter president, told the Times News on Monday that Looney came to Stanley Valley around 1780 and settled on the east fork of Big Creek about 13 miles east of Rogersville.

“The information I have is he mustered out in 1775-76, and even though that's before the Revolutionary War, they still consider him a veteran of the war because he participated in Lord Dunmore's War,” Hills said.

According to family legend, when Looney arrived in Hawkins County with his wife, Tempa, all they brought with them was a rifle and a spinning wheel. 

There’s also a historical marker on Highway 11-W in Surgoinsville that identifies Looney’s homestead as being 7.9 miles away and also points out that two of his descendants included Georgia’s Civil War Gov. Joseph Emerson Brown and Brown’s son, who was also a Georgia governor, Joseph Mackay Brown.

What’s happening at the cemetery Sunday?

The DAR put a marble stone there for Looney in 1954, but it’s weather beaten and discolored and hard to read. The new SAR marker will be placed beside the old DAR stone. 

Hills: “We're just doing our standard grave marking. We'll present the colors, pledge of allegiance, pledge of the SAR, and introduce the descendants, which should be quite a few from what I've been told. Then we'll have one of the descendants unveil the marker that we'll put on front of the (DAR) gravestone.”

How did Looney’s grave come to your attention?

Hills: “In this particular instance a lady by the name of Emma Arnott, who is a descendant of Michael Looney, is a cousin of one of our chapter members. They brought it to our attention last spring and asked if we would do a grave marking for him. We try to do a couple each year. There's plenty here in Hawkins County, so we try to do one each spring and one in the fall.”

This past April, the SAR did a marker dedication for James Simmons (1758-1851) at the Gillenwater Cemetery near Rogersville.

Hills: “It's mostly just someone bringing something to our attention or one of our members knows of a grave that needs attention. Sometimes we get requests by email. We know where there's a lot of them. We just haven't gotten to them yet.”

If you're interested in history, and you think you've got an ancestor who served in the Revolutionary War, the State of Franklin SAR wants to talk to you. The best way to contact Hills is by email at [email protected]

The State of Franklin Chapter of the SAR meets the fourth Thursday each month at 6:45 p.m. at the Hale Springs Inn in Rogersville.

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