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'One tough patriot'

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July 02, 2014 - Four stints of active military duty is remarkable.

But when that service is in the American Revolution— where young recruits had no military training, their weapons were outdated and the enemy were regimented trained British troops—the accomplishment is remarkable.

Such is the story of Patriot Nathan Burpee.

On June 21, the Genesee Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution and the Carrington Chapter Daughters of the Union sponsored a grave dedication for Burpee—honoring his Revolutionary War service at the Perry McFarlen Cemetery, Perry Road, Grand Blanc, where he is buried along with his wife Lucinda.

The graveside service also included the Sons of the Revolution, Sons of the Union and Battery D 1st Light Artillery Cannoneers and the Patriot Guard.

Revolutionary War Soldier Burpee, a one-time resident of Atlas Township attracted several descendents—including 10 from Michigan.

Nathan Burpee was born Dec.12, 1758 in Sterling, Mass., the son of Samuel Burpee and Martha Brocklebank. He married Lucinda Pearson on April 8, 1787 in Sterling, Mass.

Lucinda was a twin born on Jan. 22, 1765 in Shrewsbury, Mass. and was the daughter of John Pearson and Anne Sleeper. Nathan and Lucinda had seven children: Otis, Pearson, Elizabeth, Samuel, Melitta, Nathan and Nehemiah.

On Feb. 1, 1833, at age 74, Nathan Burpee applied for a pension in New York. In his pension application he stated that in the summer of 1776 he, "entered the public service in the War of the Revolution under a draught (drafted) to serve for the term of two months."

The following is some of the information gleaned from Congressional records regarding Burpee.

They marched through Connecticut by Horse-Neck and Dobbs Ferry on the North River in New York, and after remaining there a few weeks, crossed into New Jersey when Burpee was discharged and returned home. In December 1776 he volunteered to serve in the militia for the term of three months, where he marched to the town of Dorchester near Boston, and remained until the term of his engagement had expired.

In 1777, shortly after the battle at Bennington, he volunteered to serve for three more months. They marched directly to Bennington where the horses which had been killed in the battle were in a state of offensive putridity when they marched over the battlefield in the advance of the British Army under Burgoyne. Burpee was at Bhemus Heights, and was equipped and paraded for action, witnessed the burying of the dead, and the surrender of Burgoyne. They marched several days by land and encamped on frozen ground without tents, and finally arrived at Horse-Neck where he had been in the year 1776. They remained there a few days and drew provisions, then marched to Trenton, at which place he was again discharged.

In July 1780 Burpee volunteered as a private soldier to serve for three months. They marched to Rhode Island and there rebuilt the fort which had been destroyed by the British. He continued there until his term expired when he was discharged for the fourth and final time.

"Burpee must have been one tough patriot," said Dawn Bastian, Daughters of the American Revolution, Genesee County. "He was 17-years-old in 1776 and lived in Massachusetts—a hot spot for the revolution. I would assume they pulled him into service. Then he went back three times after that over the next four years. He slept on the ground with no tents and participated in several key battles during those years. I would assume they were poorly fed and very harsh conditions— it must have been a tough life. It's just amazing he survived."

On Dec. 2, 1835, Nathan Burpee appeared before a justice in Lapeer County, Mich. and declared his reason for moving here:

"I removed from New York to Michigan with the intent of spending the remainder of my life with my children who moved from New York to Michigan at the same time I did."

Nathan Burpee died about a month later. Lucinda (Pearson) Burpee died in 1842 and is buried here with her husband, son and daughter-in-law and two grandsons.

"Burpee probably had an opportunity to purchase property in Atlas Township about the same time Michigan became a state," she said. "It's also interesting to note that Atlas was part of Lapeer County back then."

According to an 1873 Atlas plat map, 140 acres was owned by a Burpee near the Grand Blanc line near Thread Creek.

According to The Flint Journal, the Burpee grave was first dedicated by the DAR on Sept. 15, 1937 with a bronze marker. The newspaper report also indicates Burpee was in contact with George Washington; however, there is no confirmation or mention of a meeting in his statement to Congress.

"Sometime between 1937 and 2006 the brass marker was removed from the grave," said Bastian. "It's just an amazing story of one tough patriot."

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