Despite living a peaceful existence, Sharon Myers has been consumed by war.
The Silver Lake woman, 65, is the field marshal of a local campaign to document, photograph, mark and decorate the Summit County graves of 350 veterans from the War of 1812.
“This is the most forgotten war,” she said. “Nobody seems to know anything about it.”
Myers is president of the William Wetmore Chapter Daughters of the War of 1812, a 30-member group that she organized in 2009 to promote patriotism, preserve history and increase awareness of the three-year conflict between the United States and Great Britain. The chapter’s efforts will culminate June 18 with the 200th anniversary of the U.S. declaration of war.
“I’m not usually interested in wars — they’re kind of like football games to me,” Myers said with a laugh.
She has three ancestors who fought — Jacob Houser, who is buried in Lakewood Cemetery on Waterloo Road in Akron, and Richard Moreland and Daniel Carmichael, who are buried in Virginia — but it was the upcoming milestone that really inspired her research.
“A bicentennial only comes around once,” she said.
Myers is interested in Ohio’s role while the United States and England fought for control of the Great Lakes, and Britain persuaded Indians to attack settlers in an effort to stop U.S. expansion. Admitted to the union in 1803, Ohio was considered the “Wild West,” she said.
Myers, who lives with her husband, Alan, owns a stack of books about the War of 1812 and keeps buying more.
“Everybody says I’m reading too much because now I’m beginning to talk like I’m in the war,” she said. “Onward march, and all that good stuff.”
One of the most persistent local legends about the War of 1812 is that U.S. gunboats were built at an Old Portage shipyard on the Cuyahoga River in what is now northwest Akron. According to lore, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry used three of the boats to defeat the Royal Navy on Lake Erie.
“Boats were built in Summit County, but whether or not they were involved in the Battle of Lake Erie is the question,” Myers said. “I don’t think we’ll ever know because so many records were burned when the British burned the capital in 1814.”
However, she noted that some War of 1812 veterans were still alive in the 1870s, when Akron historians published accounts of the gunboats.
“I just think there has to be some truth to it,” she said.
Last summer, the Wetmore chapter embarked on its most ambitious project, crisscrossing Summit County to identify and photograph all known graves of War of 1812 veterans. Broken and eroded, many headstones were difficult to read; other graves weren’t even marked.
Using history books, military rosters and cemetery records, the group came up with a detailed list of 350 names, ranks and dates.
“The VA will give the cemetery a grave marker for no charge for a veteran,” Myers said. “I worked with the cemeteries, filling out the VA forms and doing the research on the men that did not have a grave marker.”
She documented the service of 75 soldiers on forms for Veterans Affairs. About 50 granite markers have been installed thus far across the county.
“Some cemeteries were very cooperative and appreciative of all this,” Myers said. “Not all of them were, though.”
In a few instances, the cemeteries didn’t mail the paperwork, so the stones have yet to be ordered, she said.
Others opted to create War of 1812 memory gardens with the markers because 19th century records were lost and precise locations of graves could not be determined.
The Wetmore chapter also proposed placing War of 1812 flag holders for each of the 350 men buried in the county. Myers credited state Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Copley Township, a U.S. Army veteran, with helping arrange the order through the Summit County Veterans Service Commission in Akron.
The shipment arrived a week before Memorial Day. The chapter spent days delivering flag holders and decorating graves so banners could fly during the holiday.
“Some cemeteries just have no one to help at all,” Myers said. “They said if we wanted them in, we’d have to put them in. That takes a lot of time to go out and find the graves again.”
Not that she’s complaining. Myers said the chapter’s work has been a labor of love.
“This has just been a passion,” she said. “I honestly feel that this is an honor to be able to do this.”
The chapter will observe the 1812 bicentennial with a flag-raising ceremony June 18 at the Summit County Veterans Service Commission in Akron. The group will present a 15-star flag — the banner that inspired the national anthem — to the county for the public event.
By commemorating the 200th anniversary, the county will honor the service and sacrifice of those who fought in the forgotten war, and celebrate the lasting peace between the United States and Great Britain, Myers said.
“We’ve made many people aware,” Myers said. “I’m so glad that people have been receptive.”
Beacon Journal copy editor Mark J. Price is the author of The Rest Is History: True Tales From Akron’s Vibrant Past, a book from the University of Akron Press. He can be reached at 330-996-3850 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.