HARRISONBURG - For about four years, Hugh Hutchens, 75, has explored the Internet and hunted through the cemeteries of Rockingham County searching for graves of Revolutionary War veterans.
Hutchens is trying to document the county’s rich revolutionary history by recording the now-fading names etched into the limestone headstones two centuries ago.
So far, he has discovered names of more than 700 soldiers with ties to Rockingham County and recorded 104 names of men who fought for the American cause buried in Rockingham County, including Pvt. David Rolston.
Last week, Hutchens and four other members of the Fort Harrison Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution gathered in section D6 of the Cooks Creek Presbyterian Church Cemetery to plant a new stone for Rolston, who served in the Revolutionary War for six months and 25 days beginning in 1776.
Hutchens is chairman of the graves committee for the local Sons chapter. He has worked with fellow grave committee member Gene Holsinger to track down soldiers’ graves.
"I’ve located all the graves I can in Rockingham County," said Hutchens, whose fifth great-grandfather, Strangeman Hutchins, was too old to fight in the Revolution , but was hailed for donating goods to the troops.
Hutchens grew up in Weyers Cave, but has lived in Harrisonburg with his wife, Barbara, since 1992.
"In doing this type of work, I’ve gone to places I would normally not travel," he said. "This county is such a beautiful county. There are so many places with a rich history."
What’s In A Name?
Researching David Rolston has been made more difficult for Hutchens because of different spellings of the Rolston surname. He has found at least five spellings for Rolston in historic documents, including Rolstone, Ralston and Ralstone.
According to Hutchens, many people were illiterate in the 18th century, so when names were written, they were spelled differently based on phonetics.
"There is a rich history of the Rolstons in this area," said Hutchens, who says there are few, if any, direct Rolston descendants living in the area.
At least two of Rolston’s grandsons served in the Civil War and are buried at Antioch United Church of Christ Cemetery in Harrisonburg. Capt. John H. Rolston and Lt. Michael H. Rolston both enlisted in the Confederate Army in Harrisonburg on April 18, 1861, and served in Company H of the 10th Virginia Infantry.
John Rolston was shot through both lungs and left for dead at High Bridge in Prince Edward County in 1865. One of his friends, a surgeon for the U.S. Army, found and cared for him.
Rolston recovered and returned home two days before the date of his funeral, which his family, thinking he had died of his wounds, had already scheduled.
Michael Rolston was killed in action at Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863.
The other Revolutionary War soldier buried at Cooks Creek Cemetery is George Chrisman. Chrisman and David Rolston’s father, David Rolstone, knew one another in the 1770s. A reminder of the two families can be seen not far from the cemetery in two street names - Chrisman and Rolston roads.
Uncovering decades-old facts about these local patriots has resonated with Hutchens.
"I can’t explain it, I just love these soldiers," he said. "We owe them so much for their service."
Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA) - Friday, October 14, 2011
Author: EMILY SHARRER, Daily News-Record