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South Dennis, New Jersey Revolutionary War Sites
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Revolutionary War New Jersey
John Grace Grave
South Dennis, NJ

Union Cemetery
834 N. Delsea Dr.
Map / Directions to Union Cemetery

Union Cemetery contains an obelisk monument to Revolutionary War soldier John Grace (circa 1756 - April 10, 1835) who is buried here. The monument was constructed in 1904 using funds that had been raised by local school children.

Fortunately, a 1904 report by the Cape May County Superintendent, Aaron W. Hand, exists that not only provides details of the fund-raising, but also gives an account of the unveiling ceremony. Based on Hand's account, the unveiling was quite an event, attracting between 2,500 and 3,000 people. His entire account is as follows: [1]

"We have also closed up a fund which we have been gathering for eight years for the purpose of erecting a memorial stone as a tribute from the children of the public schools of Cape May county to John Grace, a scout of the Revolutionary War on the staff of George Washington, of whom the latter wrote to General Gates, 'This is my trusted scout whom British gold cannot buy.' His history, gathered from all available sources, was a remarkable one, showing that he had performed eight years of service in the Revolutionary armies, held several noncommissioned grades and wound up his military career in the capacity of a scout. He died at the good old age of seventy-eight, on April 10th, [1835], and numerous of his descendants are now living in this county and in Eastern Pennsylvania.

"The shaft was erected over his remains at South Dennis, and excepting for $10.00 contributed by a Daughter of the American Revolution, its cost was met entirely by contributions during the period of eight years, from the school children of Cape May county. Collections for the purpose were taken annually at my request, by teachers in the various schools, usually on Washington's Birthday.

"The unveiling occurred on Decoration Day, a seventeen-month old descendant of the scout pulling the string which caused the flag with which it was draped to fall away from it. One of our teachers, Miss Pearla Scull, also a descendant, read from the platform his history. The Grand Army of the Republic, Junior Order of American Mechanics and a local lodge of Knights of Pythias assisted in the ceremonies and in the preparation for them, and a salute of thirteen guns was fired at the conclusion of the ceremonies, by means of a howitzer loaned us by Governor Murphy for the occasion.

"The orator of the day was Edmund Bennett Leaming, Esq., of the law firm of Beldon & Leaming, Camden, and a member of a Cape May county family, prominent in its public affairs for two centuries. Two brass bands contributed the inspiration of martial and patriotic music for the occasion, one from Cape May and one from Woodbine, the services of the first provided by the Grand Army Post of Cape May and the second by the Woodbine Board of Education. From 2,500 to 3,000 people were present. We succeeded in making it a distinctively Cape May county celebration, and the event called forth many historical facts with reference to the participation of the residents of the county in the Revolutionary War which were unknown excepting to students of local history or perhaps to some of the descendants of the older families. The object of the memorial is not only to perpetuate the memory of the scout but to stimulate the interest of the children of the county, and also that of adults, in the history of their county and country. The affair was thoroughly advertised and recognized as a strictly school event, and thus it unquestionably had the effect of creating some additional interest on the part of people at large in the county school system, which is always desirable."


Union Cemetery also contains the grave of Constantine Foster. His stone (pictured below) is marked as Revolutionary Patriot. Although there is also a smaller marker stating Revolutionary War Soldier, he was most likely not a soldier. However, he is considered a Revolutionary Patriot by the Daughters of the American Revolution because he signed an oath of allegiance to the Revolutionary War cause in 1778.

The text of this Oath of Allegiance, which was also signed by 86 other citizens of Cape May County, was:[2]

"I do sincerely profess and swear, I do not hold myself bound by allegiance to the King of Great Britain - so help me God. I do sincerely profess and swear, that I do and will bear true faith and allegiance to the government established in this state, under the authority of the people - so help me God. May 27th, 1778."

South Dennis, New Jersey
Union Cemetery

Revolutionary War New Jersey

Source Notes:

1. ^  Text is quoted from a 1904 report sent from Aaron W. Hand, Cape May County Superintendent to Hon. Chas. J. Baxter, State Superintendent. It was published in:
Annual Report of the State Board of Education and of the Superintendent of Public Instruction of New Jersey with Accompanying Documents for the School Year Ending June 30th, 1904 (Trenton; MacCrellish & Quigley, State Printers, 1905) p. 18-19  / Available to read at Google Books Here
Note that the "1835" in brackets replaces the incorrect year "1815" in the document as it appeared in the Annual Report.

Regarding the "trusted scout" quote attributed to Washington, I have not been able to locate a reprinting of the letter that Washington is said to have written this in.
However, information about this letter appeared the article John Grace - the Revolutionary War Scout (from 1777 to 1783) by Pearla Scull Sayre, which appeared in the June 1954 edition of the Cape May County Magazine of History and Genealogy (Vol. 3, No. 8)
The article relates that John Grace first applied for a government pension based on his Revolutionary War service in 1818. However, he did not receive his pension until 1833, when John Grace was assisted with his claim by Jeremiah Leaming of South Dennis, who was a member of the Legislative Council for Cape May County. Sayre goes on to state, "When Mr. Learning was making an effort to secure his pension, the old soldier produced a time worn paper, which he had cherished for more than fifty years. It was a letter from General Washington to General Gates, stating that the bearer, John Grace, might safely be entrusted with the most important despatches, and containing the words, ' He is my trusted scout, whom British gold cannot buy.' The words of this letter were the real inspiration of the movement which resulted in the ceremonies of Memorial Day, 1904 - the ceremonies attending the unveiling of a tribute to the memory of John Grace, from the pupils of the public schools of Cape May County. It was due to Richard S. Learning, of South Dennis, son of Jeremiah Leaming, that these words of Washington concerning John Grace had been kept in the memory of the people. Having seen this letter while in the care of his father, Richard S. Leaming never lost an opportunity of telling the story, and frequently visited, and pointed out to the children the unmarked grave of John Grace."

Note that both the obelisk monument and the Sayre article quote Washington as having written, "He is my trusted scout..."
  The 1904 Cape May County Superintendent report quotes it as "This is my trusted scout..."

I would like to thank Ken Grace, who is a descendent of John Grace. Ken took the time to speak with me about his own research into John Grace, and he provided me with a copy of the Pearla Scull Sayre article quoted above.

2. ^  John W. Barber and Henry Howe, Historical Collections of the State of New Jersey (New York: S. Tuttle, 1844) Page 125
Available to be read at the Internet Archive here