Levi Young and Some Memorial Day Reflections

Posted on June 17, 2018


Awhile back I spoke with the ladies of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Since another relative Levi Young (1758-1838) fought in the American Revolution, girls in my family can join the Daughters of the American Revolution. Maybe that’s not such a big deal these days, but I like the Daughters and speak to them once in a while when invited to share something from my professional life as an historian.

I think I would have liked Levi since we were both born in New Jersey, he in Morris County and me in Union County, just adjoining Morris. His service was pretty ordinary, serving as a foot soldier with Captain John Thompson and Colonel Thomas Brandon who served under the more famous partisan patriot of South Carolina, Thomas Sumter. My service was probably just as ordinary–as far as service experiences are measured–in the Navy as a young officer in the amphibious fleet based in Little Creek, Virginia between 1964-1966. We cruised the Caribbean and the Mediterranean on the USS Donner (LSD 20) where I was Gunnery (Weapons in today’s argot) Officer. Actually, as I recall my service, I was more in a sector of Mr. Robert’s Navy than in the spit and polish Navy of admirals and aircraft carriers. Like Levi I suspect, I got a lot out of it that in one form or another stayed with me a lifetime.

So, in a way, we are bookends in our family library. Born in 1758, Levi was probably a teenager, maybe 18 or 19, when he enlisted in New Jersey. I was 17 when I signed up for NROTC on the Duke campus in the fall of 1960.  As I began to look into Levi’s life, I sensed an old excitement stir, working through old records to trace somebody or something that piqued my curiosity.

I remember one night in the low mountains of the foothills of South Carolina, with my cousin Bob Herndon and a farmer of the area who owned a fine set of coon hounds. We went traipsing into the woods one night, probably 1966 or 1967 since I was already out of the Navy, and we listened as his hounds bayed and howled while running a coon through the dark woods and even darker night. The hunter was excited when the hounds treed a coon, and I was just as excited to stay up with the hunter as we trotted along a narrow path, through the darkness, along a narrow ravine, a river several feet or hundreds of feet below. I couldn’t tell, and I wasn’t about to lose sight of the hunter. I think we must have walked to North Carolina or Tennessee and back that night, but it was exciting.

As I started to charge into the online records with equal enthusiasm to hunt down Levi, my Revolutionary soldier ancestor, I discovered he found his way to South Carolina as the war tore through the South. He may have been in the Spartan Regiment of Spartanburg, South Carolina which fought among other battles, at Cowpens, and was commanded at one time by Col. Brandon.

When the war was over he obviously settled in South Carolina for he had a child, Joseph Young, born in 1785 in the Pickens district (Piedmont area) of South Carolina. One of Joseph’s children, Elizabeth was born in 1814 in the same area, and she married Lemuel Hendricks. One of their children was Martha Dyer Hendricks, born in 1833, who married F. Van Clayton (born 1834). Their son, Lawrence G. Clayton, my grandfather, was born 1854. And presto, there you have the genealogy of my D. A. R. connection.

Having reached this far with an excellent genealogy chart generated by the D.A.R., I started to plumb further. How exactly did Levi Young make it down to the Carolinas? Did he fight in one of the famous battles, like Cowpens or Kings Mountain? What did he do after the war? How did Levi get to New Jersey for example? Where in England or Great Britain did he come from?

Bitten by the genealogy gene, I suppressed it for later. As a professional historian, I have always been leery of genealogy which tends to mix family lore with facts, often extolling the lore and dismissing the facts. Family members who in lore were colonels and had mighty pedigrees are often quite a bit more humble in the real world they inhabited. So, we’ll search for Levi later when I’m feeling the need for a touch or two of humility.

Suffice it to mention, in time for Memorial Day, celebrated tomorrow, but actually on Wednesday, that I am proud to be a descendant of Levi Young, whatever he did or didn’t do for most of his life. At one point he stood up for liberty and his country, and I am free and proud to be an American for his service and thousands of others over hundreds of years. They are a model for us all, especially the young of course, and I would humbly suggest a few years in the service would be good for all.

Published as “Reflecting on those who fought for liberty,” Sunday May 27, 2018 in The Tuscaloosa News

Posted in: Genealogy, History