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It was a chilly, windy January day when a 79-year-old farmer named Jacob Shearer was laid to rest on a hill that looked over much of the countryside of Osnaburg.
The year was 1823, and many neighbors came out to pay their last respects to a man who had lived in the area for the last 10 years. Jacob's 73-year-old wife Elizabeth was there to say farewell to the man she had been married to for nearly 50 years. Jacob and Elizabeth's children, Johann Jacob Shearer, age 48, was at the side of his mother who wore a long, black dress and a black veil that covered most of her aging face. Johann's other siblings at the funeral were Adam, Catherine, John, Henry, Anna and Susanna. A sister Maria and a brother Carl had died young and had been laid to rest years ago.
The late Jacob Shearer had quietly gone about farming in Osnaburg, so many of his neighbors did not realize they had a hero of the Revolutionary War living among them. That is-- they did not know until the day of the funeral-- when Jacob was honored. Their neighbor was a patriot who had fought for liberty for the colonies.
As a 33-year old man, living in York County, Pa., Jacob had volunteered to fight for freedom from paying taxes to a king that lived more than 3,500 miles away, across the Atlantic Ocean.
Jacob served as a private second class under Captain George Long, who led the 6th Company of the Third Battalion. Jacob had served from 1777-80. He fought along side his York neighbors, who made up the company. Jacob Shearer was one of a party of militia who apprehended British prisoners and deserters and brought them back to the prison camp near York.
After his service to this infant country, he returned home to his bride, and their family and began farming in York, Pa., on a vast piece of land owned by him. They later moved to Washington County, Pa., and finally to Stark County, Ohio, in 1813 or 1814.
Jacob Shearer lived, farmed and finally died in Osnaburg, and his grave was marked with a stone that showed he was the only veteran of the Revolutionary War to be buried in Osnaburg Township.
Nearly 190 years later, Jim Good, a member of the Osnaburg Historical Society, found himself standing on the same hill Jacob Shearer was buried. He was looking down at Jacob's small gravestone. Due to deterioration the engraving was barely readable. Good could not bear seeing the dilapidated condition of a gravestone of a veteran. He decided he had to do something about it.
Good began asking others in the community if they could help see that Jacob Shearer was given a grave marker befitting a veteran. However, he soon found his hands were tied. Although many Shearers live in the area, no one claimed to be a family member of Jacob. Without having a direct descendant applying for a new stone, the Veterans Administration could not replace the stone. It appeared nothing could be done.
However, Good soon found out that "miracles" can sometimes happen. One Sunday afternoon, the historical society was hosting an open house at the church (now a museum for the society), which is located next to the cemetery. Good noticed a couple looking at the grave of Jacob Shearer and he went over and struck up a conversation with them. He soon found out Jacob was an ancestor of the visitors. As unbelievable as it sounds-- Trudy and Bill told Good their last name is Miracle. Jacob is the great-great-great-great-grandfather of Bill Miracle, whose mother was a Shearer.
Good, with the help of the Miracles and others, applied to the VA for a new gravestone. They were told it would take several weeks, but the marker actually arrived in just a few days.
Good said he is thrilled with all the help he has received from so many, including members of the historical society, the Osnaburg Township trustees, and resident and funeral director Scott Sanders (who volunteered to have the stone delivered to his business). Good and others plan to hold a special ceremony when the new marker is placed on the grave. This will probably take place in the spring when the weather is better.
The beginning of this story-- the scene at the funeral-- is fictional, but based on facts received online and through local historians. The other parts of the story, which may seem like a "Hollywood" story are completely true. With the help of a modern-day patriot, a caring community and a "couple miracles," a veteran who was laid to rest almost 200 years ago will continue to be remembered as a Revolutionary War hero.