IRA — On a cold, windy morning, the Ann Story Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, with the help of a New Orleans couple, dedicated the markers on the gravestones of two veterans, a father and son, of the war of independence.
The headstones of Thomas Collins, who died on March 25, 1793, and his son, Benoni Collins, who died on Sept. 5, 1822, now bear the markers. Mike Collins, of New Orleans, placed the marker on the grave of his ancestor, Thomas, at Riverside Cemetery.
Despite the rain, about 30 people were at the dedication, including members of the Vermont Patriot Guards and a Color Guard from the American Legion Post 87 in West Rutland.
At the cemetery, Mike Collins, who said Thomas Collins was his grandfather going back six generations, said his ancestor bought a farm from the town that had been “confiscated from British sympathizers who decided it was best to leave town sometime during the war.”
Thomas Collins was a member of the Massachusetts Militia and fought in the Battle of Bennington. Benoni Collins was also a member of the militia in Massachusetts and was part of a regiment called up in 1775 by a letter known as the “Lexington Alarm,” letting colonists know the war with the British had begun.
Benoni and his brother, also named Thomas, donated the land to the town of Ira that was used for the town hall and the Baptist Church.
Mike Collins said as he thought of what he might say at Saturday’s ceremony, he thought about the current state of national politics. He said he thought about how those who fought in the Revolution “put aside political, religious and regional differences to work together to create a new country.”
Collins said he wondered what his ancestors would think of the current state of America.
“We have allowed politicians, political commentators and others to build up these walls between us. If you really want to honor these men, think about how we can tear down those walls. There is no need to make America great again because America always has been and always will be great, as long as we continue to treat each other with respect and dignity and are willing to work together toward a greater good,” he said.
At a reception after the ceremony at the Ira Town Hall, Barbara Giffin, regent of the local Daughters of the American Revolution, or DAR, said they had worked for about a year to put together Saturday’s ceremony. Giffin, who acted as a sort of master of ceremonies, said she appreciated the number of people who attended the ceremony.
“A lot of friends and family came. A lot of people who had grown up in Ira to experience their town’s history. It was exciting,” she said.
Giffin added with a laugh, “I’m glad it’s over. I’ve been dreading the weather since last Wednesday.”
Collins, who was a history major, said he knew he had ancestors who fought in the American Revolution, but said a visit to Rutland County in the fall of 2017 was the first time he had seen the graves.
He credited his wife, Debbie Collins, with suggesting he make a request to the local DAR to mark the headstones as belonging to Revolutionary War veterans.
Nancy Snow West, past regent and historical liaison for the Ann Story chapter of the DAR, said providing markers takes some time, and for Thomas and Benoni Collins, the process took more than a year. Permission has to be granted from the cemetery, which West said happened quickly in Ira, and the national DAR organization must confirm the information provided by the descendants of the veterans.
The DAR has a dedication to American history, but for Collins, Saturday’s ceremony meant something more.
“It’s family. When you think about what these men had to go through, living in the late 1700s, just carving out a life and then going to war. … Being a history major just makes it that much more meaningful. To actually come up here and see their resting place, it means a lot. It just kind of brings the family together,” he said.