The Old Mud Meeting House in Mercer County is one of only two log meeting houses to survive in Kentucky. The Harrodsburg Historical Society has restored it to its former glory. It is also the first Dutch Reformed Church west of the Alleghenies, built in 1800 from sturdy oak timbers with walls filled with mud mixed with straw and sticks. It is located on Dry Branch Road off US68 south of Harrodsburg.
In the adjoining cemetery, surrounded by a rock wall, lie the bodies of thirty-one Revolutionary War veterans. Most graves are graced with bronze markers, a few with regular gravestones, a few with both. Fifty families came to Mercer County from Pennsylvania in 1791, many originally from New Jersey.
Today I would like to share a portion of the pension papers for Cornelius O. Vanarsdall – there are over one hundred total! In his story Cornelius gives us a vivid picture of what life was like for the soldiers during the war. At the beginning he was a spy. Have you watched the series Turn? Must have been much like that. Later he had many duties including guarding prisoners, driving wagons and trying to keep the British from taking food and stock from the local citizens. For a gentleman of seventy-four years his memory seems very good! I checked dates, places and the men he served under – and everything checked out!
On this 17th day of April 1834, personally appeared before me, Isaac Pearson, a Justice of the Peace, and one of the judges of the Mercer County Court, Cornelius O. Vanarsdall, a resident citizen of Mercer County, Kentucky, aged seventy-four years, who being first duly sworn according to law, doth on his oath make the following declaration, in order to obtain the benefit of the Act of Congress passed June 7th, 1832.
That he entered the service of the United States under the following named officers and served as herein stated:
That is the year 1776 he volunteered in Captain VanCleave’s Company and he was employed by Colonel Vroom and Major Baird, who commanded the New Jersey Militia when stationed in Sumerset County near Flagg’s old tavern, to act as a spy and give them all the intelligence he could obtain in relation to the British lines, their movements in which capacity he acted faithfully until the taking of the Hessians at Trenton, which was fully three months, he was always in the fullest confidence with the Jersey officers, in the service at many times he was in great danger and peril of his life, he thinks it was the day after the battle at Princeton, he knows it was about the first of January he thinks, 1777, he was detailed out of his uncle’s company, to wit, Captain Vancleave, to guard the lines on the Millstone River, and to keep back the cattle and prevent the enemy from plundering and foraging on the people. Major Baird was our principal commander and a great one he was. The enemy’s main army then lay in Brunswick and our army on the Millstone River, in this service he was actually engaged five months and a half, when he was discharged, again in the fall of the same year. Captain Vancleave’s wagon was possessed by Major Maury, he thinks, of the 2nd Jersey Regiment, a driver was wanted, he immediately volunteered for the service and joined General Wagner’s army then station on the Raritan River, in this service he was actively engaged in conveying provision to the 2nd Regiment, hauling and procuring wood for the officers and soldiers
Until the spring of the year following, and God knows during this winter he had like to have freezed several times. The army moved from this encampment in April and he was discharged. This was a tour of ten months which he served faithfully. Again he entered Captain Vancleave’s Company as a volunteer and joined the army under the command of Baron Steuban and General Winans, or some such name, at Springfield for a tour of three months. This was after the battle at this place, he cannot recollect certainly the year, he thinks it was in 1780 during this tour, he was in frequent skirmishes when acting as piquit(?) guard. He honorably discharged after having served his full tour by Captain VanCleave, again he served another tour, as a drafted soldier in Captain Swems Company from Sumerset County and marched to join General Wayne’s army, then at the North River. We marched to a place called Pompton, when we received orders to halt. When we were stationed for some time, we then marched to Morristown when we were delegated to guard the prison then stationed in the Morristown Meeting House. We were stationed here for some time. He knows he served his full tour and was honorably discharged, again he served another tour at Millstone when the courthouse was burnt. This was a tour of one month guarding prisoners at this place. He again joined Captain Lott’s Company for a full tour of three months and marched from Somerset County to the landing on the Raritan River above Brunswick where we were stationed for some time and discharged. He served other tours several days at a time which he thinks unnecessary to mention. He knows he was in actual service upwards of two years. His general officers were Wayne, Steuband, Winans, Col. Vroom, Major Baird, Captain VanCleave, Swim, Lott and some others not recollected. He has long since lost his discharges. He hereby relinquished every claim whatever to a pension or annuity except this present and declared that his name is not on the pension roll of the agency of any state.
Cornelius O. Vanarsdall
The deposition of Cornelius A. Vanarsdall, who was a Lieutenant in the Army of the Revolution, aged eighty-five years, taken at the Clerk’s office in Mercer County, Kentucky, this 17th day of April 1834. This deponent being first duly sworn states upon oath that he is well acquainted with Cornelius O. Vanarsdall, who has subscribed and sworn to the foregoing declaration that he knows him to be the identical man he represents himself to be, that he knows that he served faithfully in the War of the Revolution, he lived in the same county and state with him and served in the same army, but not all the tours with him, but he is fully satisfied that he served upwards of two years faithfully and further sayeth not.
Cornelius A. Vanarsdall
Also the deposition of Peter Huff and Lawrence Vanarsdall, both Revolutionary pensioners, taken at the same time and place and for the same purpose, both being duly sworn according to law, do upon oath, state that they are well acquainted with the said Cornelius Vanarsdall, who has subscribed and sworn to the foregoing deposition that they lived at the time of the Revolution in the State of New Jersey and near the county of Somerset and served in the same army with the said Cornelius O. Vanarsdall and know that he served as he states in his declaration. They have long been intimately and well acquainted with the said Vanarsdall and know his to be a man of truth and further sayeth not.
Cornelius O. Vanarsdall further states that owing to his age and feebleness he is unable to attend the County Court for the purpose of swearing to his aforesaid declaration without difficulty and bodily pain and further sayeth not.
Cornelius O. Vanarsdall