By Marlin Peterson, NCHS volunteer
The oldest known veterans buried in Nicollet County are most likely three men who served during the War of 1812, between the U.S. and Britain. Most people have very little knowledge of that war, other than the poem, “The Star-Spangled Banner” written in September 1814 by Francis Scott Key during the bombardment of Fort McHenry at Baltimore, Maryland. The poem was later set to music and eventually became our National Anthem.
Historic enemies for centuries, England and France were at war nearly continually from 1789-1815 and the U.S. British War of 1812 was merely an overspill of the ongoing British French conflict. Britain had never gotten over the American Revolution, 1776-1783, with British American strife lasting for decades after. Had Britain not been in a desperate fight against Napoleon Bonaparte during the years 1812-1815, our American history likely would have been much different.
During the war, Nicollet County was still part of the territory purchased from France in 1803 known as The Louisiana Purchase. The three veterans were all born in the late 1700s and most likely came to Nicollet County as very old men. They are:
Private Joel Torrey of Allen’s Company of New York Militia, born 1785, died 1874, buried at Hebron Cemetery, rural Nicollet.
Private Samuel Cone of Moore’s Company of Massachusetts Militia, born Jan. 1792, died July 1873, buried at Hebron Cemetery, rural Nicollet.
Private Ivory Witherell of Stanley’s Company of U.S. Volunteers, born 1798, died 1872, buried at St. Peter State Hospital Cemetery at Resurrection Cemetery, St. Peter. With birth month unknown, Witherell would have been 13 or 14 years old when the war began in 1812 and 16 years old when the Peace Treaty of Ghent was signed on Dec. 24, 1814.
All three men appear to have been part of local militia companies that frequently bore the name of the commanding officer who raised the unit.