By David Fleet
Grand Blanc Twp. — Four stints of active military duty is remarkable.
But when that service is in the American Revolution, where often young recruits lacked military training, carried outdated weapons and battled a regimented trained British troops, the accomplishment is extraordinary.
Such is the story of Patriot Nathan Burpee.
The military journey and life of Patriot Nathan Burpee, which ended in 1836 in Atlas Township was remembered on Oct. 27 at the Perry-McFarlen Cemetery, Grand Blanc with a graveside ceremonial dedication of a historical bronze plaque with military honors. The event was hosted by state and local officials from Sons of the American Revolution, Daughters of the Revolution, and the Goodrich-Atlas Historical Society.
Chuck Burpee along with other members of the Burpee family attended the gathering on Friday.
“The following words were new when Nathan first enlisted in the Continental Army,” said Burpee. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
“Nathan Burpee fought for that idea,” said Burpee. “That people should govern themselves, by electing their own leaders. It was the service of a private, not glamorous, he still supported the cause of self government. It’s the story of so many of us, our lives, work and service may not be glamorous, but we carry on the important work of supporting and nurturing the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Today we recognize a revolutionary war veteran and we have among us a variety of sons of the American Revolution That includes everyone here and let’s consider each other brothers and sisters in this continuing work.”
Nathan was born in 1758 to Samuel and Martha Burpee who lived near Sterling, Mass and served as both a musician and soldier for four stints in the Revolutionary War. In September 1776, the Continental Congress formally declared the name of the new nations to be the United States of America, 17-years-old Pvt. Burpee first entered the Revolution for two months under the command of commanded Colonel Sawyer and engaged in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.
In December 1776, he returned to the militia near his hometown of Sterling, Mass., where he fought alongside his brother Elijah Burpee for three months.
Nathan’s third stint started in August 1777 which included marching to different points in the advance of the British Army and encamped on frozen ground without tents. His final service was for two months where he was at Butts Hill Portsmouth, RI rebuilding the fort which had been previously destroyed by the British.
For his efforts, in 1834 he was awarded $36 per year by the War office of the United States. Following his service Burpee and family moved to New York then to Michigan.
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.
Dawn Bastian, president of the Goodrich/Atlas area Historical Society and Daughter of the American Revolution member was able to obtain soil from Nathan’s parents graves at the Chocksett Burial Grounds, near Sudbury, Mass.
The soil from the graves of Samuel and Martha Burpee along with grandfather Samuel Sr. were scattered on Nathan’s grave.
“Burpee probably had an opportunity to purchase property in Atlas Township about the same time Michigan became a state,” said Bastian. “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.
By David Fleet