I have been looking for a different way to celebrate the birthday of the United States of America this year. After 74 years, it’s a bit hard to come up with something innovative. I wanted something a little more profound than fireworks and flag-waving, although I enjoy and appreciate those activities as much as any American. What could I do, I asked myself, that would be truly meaningful and a little different?
Then I remembered a great nephew who has been separated from his father’s side of the family almost since birth. I recently made contact with him on Facebook and realized that he doesn’t know the stories, traditions, and legends that were a part of my growing up; I feel bad that he has not had the benefit of that. So, in honor of him and the Fourth of July, I have written a piece that provides a brief summary of some of the Patriots from which we both descend. I know many Americans have similar roots in the patriotism of their ancestors. As I share mine, perhaps others will recall or decide to seek out their own deep roots in this country, whether they are old or relatively new. Like most Americans, I have some of both. So…here are some of my patriots. The introductory line for each person indicates how I descend from each one.
Barbara Moelling McClanahan — Melvin Moelling
Melvin Kenneth Moelling was born Dec 18, 1918, in Billings, Oklahoma. He graduated from high school in Billings and attended one year at the University of Oklahoma. He left school to follow his father in the oil field in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois, fields that were just opening up in the 1930s. When the war broke out on December 7, 1941, he was married and expecting his first child (me). Within the first few months, he went to a military recruiting station and volunteered for service. He was told he wasn’t needed; they would call him when and if they needed him.
He decided to take a job at the new ship building facility that had been quickly established in Evansville, Indiana, to support the American war effort. He worked for about two years in the shipyard as a boilermaker, feeling strongly that he was still “doing his part.” In the meantime, a second child (Kenneth) was born. In 1944, the draft board sent word that now they needed him. He volunteered for the Navy, but he told the enrolling officer that he did not want to serve on a submarine, He went through basic training as the oldest man in his group; the others called him “Dad.” He eventually was assigned as a gunner on a convoy ship escorting fleets of supply ships mainly across the Atlantic. There were other assignments, however, because I heard him brag many times that he only lacked the Suez Canal going all the way around the world. He served until the end of the war, being discharged in late 1945 at San Diego.
Like many veterans, Dad never talked about the fighting he did, but he was very proud of his naval service. It was hard on him and on his family, but he never complained. Once when we visited the Battleship Texas, he pointed out the huge guns like the ones that he had manned, the kind you have to sit in to operate. One of the most severe dressing-downs I ever got from him was when Kenneth and I, as clueless early teenagers might, began singing the national anthem in a very silly and disrespectful way as we did the dishes one evening. He came rushing into the kitchen shouting that he fought for that flag and we should never disrespect it like that again. I never have.
Barbara Moelling — Bertha Bernice Holroyd — George Leroy Holroyd — Edwin Holroyd — William G. Holroyd
William G. Holroyd was born in Tinsley, Yorkshire, England, on October 11, 1829. Little is known about his early life, but he lived near Sheffield, which is well known as a steel town. It appears that he gained some knowledge and experience in the steel industry before coming to America with his wife and daughter in 1852. He appears to have settled initially in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a town also known for steel, and apparently worked there briefly before moving to eastern Nebraska, where he settled on a farm and began farming operations. His son Edward was born there in 1858.
The Civil War broke out in 1861. Anticipating such an eventuality, the steel mills in Pittsburgh began revving up production of military weapons, especially cannons. William, in Nebraska, received a communication from the steel mill he had worked at, asking him to return to help with the increased production. I think it is fair to assume that they would not have gone to such effort to call him back, had William not had a level of skill and expertise that they needed. He moved his family back to Pittsburgh for the duration of the war. By 1866, however, he was back in Nebraska, doing the farming he had apparently dreamed about doing year before in smoky Sheffield, an activity he could only realize by coming to America and then helping the Union secure a victory with materiel he helped make. He died in 1915, having spent the bulk of his life enjoying the freedom he could not in England.
Barbara Moelling — Bertha Bernice Holroyd — Mollie Ellen Kirk — Coleman Benton Kirk — William Grandon Kirk
William G. Kirk was born May 6, 1826, in Fleming County, Kentucky, the youngest of eleven children born to William Francis Kirk and Elizabeth Jordan. Four days after his twentieth birthday in 1846, William enlisted at Mt. Sterling, Kentucky for a term of one year, and was sent to serve in the Mexican War. One can only guess at his motivation for joining up to fight in this war, but he was indeed sent to Mexico, where he spent about three months hauling goods from Camargo to Buena Vista. He is also reported to have served as a wagon master during the Civil War. In 1887, he applied for a pension at the age of 61, claiming that because of his war service he was unable to “make a living.” As physical disabilities, he listed “Rheumatism, Deaf in Right Ear and hearing Bad in the Left, enlargement of the Liver, Kidney Disease and Piles and a general Physical Reck.” Despite all of these alleged disabilities, in 1848 he had eloped with the young
daughter of a prominent Estill County, Kentucky, pioneer and fathered 13 children with her. The family story of his penchant for alcohol may have contributed to some of his ailments, but his service should still be remembered with honor.
Barbara Moelling — Bertha Bernice Holroyd — Mollie Ellen Kirk — Coleman Benton Kirk — William Grandon Kirk — William Francis Kirk — Joseph Kirk
Joseph Kirk was born July 25,1747, near where the borders of Pennsylvania and Maryland join. He belonged to a Quaker sect in the area, a group known for their pacifism. He was married at the Nottingham Meeting House in Calvert, Maryland, on June 8, 1769, to Judith Knight. A farmer, he appears on the muster roll of the West Nottingham Company of a Pennsylvania militia under the command of Captain Ephraim Blackburn. Little is known of the particulars of his service. However, in 1787 when Joseph and Judith later moved further west to Crawford County, Pennsylvania, the minister of their home meeting wrote a letter of commendation for the family to the receiving meeting, noting that Joseph’s war service would require some remediation.
Barbara Moelling — Melvin Moelling — Lida Ethel Hawkins — Grace Hellen Cannon — Nancy Kelly — Bartley (Bartholomew) Carroll — Bartholomew L. Carroll — Bartholomew Carroll
Bartholomew Carroll, the eldest, was born in 1719 somewhere in Virginia. He married Catherine Zumwalt in Shenandoah County, Virginia, in 1772. It is not known if he was married before Catherine; we do know that many of Catherine’s Zumwalt kin went on to fight for the Texas Revolution. According to his pension records, Bartholomew signed up at New London, Virginia, on June 1, 1780, as a private. He would have been 61 years old. He was in the battles of Camden, Guildford Court House, and Eutaw Springs. He was discharged January 1, 1782, and given a pension in 1818 at the age of 96. At the time, he was living with some of his children in Johnson County, Indiana. His was the first will probated in Johnson County.
Barbara Moelling — Bertha Bernice Holroyd — Mollie Ellen Kirk — China Ann Gibson — William Wyatt Gibson — Mary Wyatt — Samuel Wyatt
Little is known about Samuel Wyatt, a likely descendant of the Rev. Haute Wyatt, chaplain to his brother Sir Francis Wyatt, an early governor of Virginia. He was born about 1755 in Virginia, but was living in the Morgan District of North Carolina during the Revolutionary War; by 1805, he had moved to Knox County, Kentucky. His service to the Revolutionary cause appears officially to have been the signing of an Oath of Allegiance to the United States, “as prescribed by the law of the state.” Although that seems to be a somewhat simple, less demanding evidence of patriotism, it must be considered that signing such an oath was considered treason by the Loyalists, of whom there were many in North Carolina.
These are not all of the patriots in my direct line and certainly not all in the larger family that includes uncles, cousins, and even a few aunts. We have family members who took part in virtually every conflict America has been faced with. For the most part, they did so because they believed in the country they helped found or maintain and what it stands for. Now it’s our turn to do what we can to make sure America continues to be the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Remembering the long forgotten members of our family and the sacrifices they made is a beginning point.