Private Peter G. Benway gets his military stone 137 years after his death allowing this American patriot to rest in peace.
Private Peter G. Benway gets his military stone 137 years after his death allowing this American patriot to rest in peace.
As the year 1875 neared its close, Peter G. Benway died at the county poor farm in Canton Township. At nearly 87 years old, the War of 1812 veteran was a man without family, without a home, and without financial resources. It could be stated his last name was all that the old soldier died with.

No obituary was published in newspapers at the time, but the following summer the Preston Republican ran an update. The brief paragraph detailed the removal of his remains from the poor farm burial grounds to nearby Lenora Cemetery, referring to him only as "a man named Benway."

It might have been the end to Benway's life story but for efforts of his fellow brethren from the Preston Masonic Lodge. Archibald Gray, Avery Herrick and Demas Bryant saw fit to place a plain tiny white slab of stone above his gravesite, thereby setting the stage for local history drama that didn't reach its last act until recently.

As I researched War of 1812 veterans with Fillmore County connections in preparation for last June's bicentennial commemoration, I ordered Benway's military service records from the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C.

In turn, I shared copies with Fillmore County Veterans Services Officer (VSO) Jason Marquardt. Marquardt filed the paperwork submitting a claim for a government-issued memorial stone. When it arrived, Lewiston Monument Company volunteered to set it, generously waiving normal fees. I'd asked to be present during the placement so I could witness the event for posterity.

On a recent misty morning, I recorded history by photo-documenting the setting of Private Peter's light gray granite marker. I thank Mike Kennedy and the guys at Lewiston Monuments for allowing me to tag along. Thanks also to Greg Turner, head of Lenora Cemetery Association, for facilitating the process, and a special thanks to Jason Marquardt for submitting the paperwork in lieu of any next-of-kin.

Private Peter G. Benway of Captain McNath's Company of the New York Militia can now rest properly at peace.

© 2012 by Debra J. Richardson