The following address was given during the Elizabethtown Memorial Day service:
Memorial day is a time to remember. We remember those who are older than we are, those who served when we were too young to serve: a father, an uncle or an older brother. We remember the ones we grew up with, those who left home to serve their country and protect our nation. We remember the men who returned and the ones who did not. Some came back whole, and some came back scarred. Here in this park, by these stones, we remember those soldiers who spent their lives in the Boquet Valley.
It’s often easier to remember and honor those soldiers we knew personally. Each year we mark their graves with flags, hold a parade and give speeches. I am reminded of one of them, Sgt. Justin Wrisley Garvy of the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army, who died 10 years ago in Iraq. Every time I drive down the Stowersville Road in Lewis, and cross the Garvey Bridge over the Adirondack Northway, I see his name on the plaque and I am reminded of him.
Other men and women, who served their country, are laid to rest in our new Veteran’s Cemetery on the Wadhams road. The members of the American Legion Boquet Valley Post No. 551 honor all veterans in Elizabethtown each year and mark each veteran’s grave with an American Flag.
But older soldiers are harder to remember. They fought in the Civil War, the Mexican War, the War of 1812 and the American Revolution. Some returned to their homes in Elizabethtown, while others moved west and built a home in the new states. I recently had the good fortune to get to know one of those old soldiers. For over a century his whereabouts were unknown here in his hometown. Basil Bishop was one of the nine children who grew up in the hamlet of New Russia. He went to war in 1812 at the age of 23 when he was a private in the 37th NY Militia, part of the forces that fought the British in Plattsburgh. He returned to Elizabethtown, married and built the first Iron forge at Split Rock Falls. He raised his family in New Russia and served in the Elizabethtown government. His children attended local schools and he was a member of the Baptist Church.
At the age of 56 he moved his family west to Michigan and disappeared from the memory of those he left behind. 150 years later, with the magic of the Internet, I found him in Marquette, Michigan. His great-grand daughter recently persuaded the Veteran’s Administration to mark Private Basil Bishop’s grave with a Bronze Military plaque. On May 1 of this year one of his great grandsons made the trip from Chicago to New Russia to visit the home of his ancestor, and the grave of Basil Bishop’s father, Major Elijah Bishop, a Veteran of the American Revolution.
Two centuries have passed since Pvt. Basil Bishop marched with the 37th NY Militia, north on Route 9, down Court Street, past where we now stand, and into history. Two hundred years have passed, but Private Basil Bishop is not forgotten.