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Family Stories and Legends


THE STORY OF THE SIKES BURIAL PLACE

by John R. Henshaw  January 17, 18, & 19, 1944

    This burial place was started when Zenas Sikes was killed during the turning of the ferry boat which was used between Suffield and Thompsonville, know as Love Joy ferry from an early owner named Love Joy.

    At the time when Zenas Sikes was killed, his brother Elam Sikes, my grandfather, owed and operated the boat. Elam Sikes lived with his family in the large tavern or hotel, since taken down, which stood south of the road which now leads to the bridge and was also the road to the ferry boat. After he was crushed by the boat falling back Zenas Sikes was carried into his brother Elam's house and soon died. The boat was taken out of the river when ice formed and kept on land until spring. It was called a horse or swing ferry. The boat was being turned over to caulk the seams between the planks which dried out when the boat was out of water. The caulking was done with tow. The tow was driven between the cracks with a iron tool something like a chisel and a hammer. After the cracks were filled the tow was coated with melted pitch to complete the job.

    But to return to the death of Zenas Sikes, as I heard the story told when a boy by my Uncle Robert Sikes, there were a number of men invited as there were to a house or barn raising in the old days. For some reason after the men had raised the boat a distance, they were not able to complete the job, my Uncle hinted that there was too much liquor, or it might have been too few men. At any rate they lost control of the boat and it crashed on to the timbers crushing Zenas Sikes to death on February 25, 1827.

    Zenas Sikes lived in the house by the street south west of the burial lot which was later the house of his second son Lewis Zenas Sikes, a deacon in the Second Baptist Church for many years. Deacon Sikes lived in the house until his death. The house was taken down by George Hendee after he bought the place. Zenas Sikes left his wife Alma Adams and three sons Cyrus O., Lewis Z., and Julius F. Sikes. The reasons for burying Zenas Sikes on the hill side were that at the time medical students had been known to rob graves of bodies to use them to learn of the anatomy of the human body. As Zenas died with out disease, his relatives thought that he might be used for the purpose. Another reason was that some times when a person was buried in the old cemetery near the church in a rainy time or the spring of the year, the grave filled with water and it was necessary to sink the coffin. As the burial place was near his home, a watch was kept for some time by night to prevent stealing. The location was ideal, on the hill side with a great depth of yellow sand.

    Some time later Zenas Sikes widow, Alma Adams Sikes, married Mr. Edwin Bement and became the mother of four sons and two daughters. One son, David Bement is buried in this Sikes burial place, he died June 5, 1834 aged 2 years 3 months. One son, Edwin, enlisted in the Union army at the time of the Rebellion and was lost, his family never knew how he died. Two other sons were Hiram and Doremus who operated a farm together for many years. Doremus was a deacon in the Second Baptist for many years. He spent many nights with the sick even when they had contagious diseases, and so far as I know received very little if any recompense. The daughters married Jerome Merrit and Francis King.

    The markers were originally white marble slabs with inscriptions. One or two had weeping willow trees engraved on them. Zenas Sikes's stone had an epitaph which read as I remember it. "As you are now so once was I, As I'm now so you must be, Prepare for death and follow me." I recall that once when Howard and I were reading it, he said in his witty way "I don't know whether I want to follow him or not."

     David Sikes, the revolutionary soldier, was the father of the sons and daughter who with there wives and husbands are buried in the place. David Sikes married Lucy Sikes the daughter of Sam Sikes who built the two story rectangular house which stood on the corner north of Hickory Street, a short time before the Revolution War. David Sikes died December 28, 1833, age 78 years. His wife survived him nearly 23 years. She received a U.S. pension of $20 a year if she did not marry. She did not. There for, I judge, she did not find a man whom she deemed of as much value as her pension. She died June 19, 1856 aged 94 years. David and his wife lived on the east side of the highway nearly opposite the house which was occupied by my brother Howard until his death. Their house was a one story square structure with a ell and woodshed. Before Lucy, his widow died, Frederick and Robert Sikes, my Uncles, built the house which my brother occupied on the West side of the highway.

    David Sikes Jr, the oldest son who lived on Hickory Street, on the farm now occupied by his descendants the Lymans, married Cynthia Stiles by whom he had three sons and one daughter, they were David Lyman, Johnathan Emmett, Orson Stiles Sikes. The daughter was Angeline who married Albert Kent. David Sikes Jr. died August 2, 1864 aged 76.

    Cynthia, his first wife, died February 25, 1829 aged 28 years. Later David married Nancy Ferry who, I think was also buried on this plot but as she had no stone her name is not on the bronze tablet Zenas Sikes was the second son.  The third child as I figure was Lucy Sikes Jr. who married Roswell Adams. They had one child Norman Adams, so far as I know. As I remember my Uncle Robert said that John Adams when President of the United States called on the Adamses of Suffield and claimed relationship.

    The fourth child was Elam Sikes, my grandfather, an excellent carpenter, some of whose work I possess. Elam married Sarah Lord King of Wilbraham, Mass. Their children were Frederick, and Robert Sikes who never married, Laura Sikes who married her cousin Johnathan Emmett Sikes, Lucy Sikes, Mary Sikes, my mother, who married Andrew A. Henshaw.

    Elam Sikes died June 25, 1852 aged 57 years. Sarah L. Sikes died December 8, 1871. Her death and funeral was my first knowledge of the passing of one who had been very close to me. I can see now the little group gathered on the hillside, the open grave with the mound of golden sand, my weeping mother as she held my hand. The talk afterward about the after life.

    The youngest son Rufus Sikes never married. He died April 2, 1836 aged 37 years.  There is also buried on the lot, Hannah King, my grandmothers maiden sister died November 26, 1863 aged 62.  Cyrus O. Sikes is buried on the plot, the oldest son of Zenas Sikes. He died July 27, 1844 aged 27 years. As I remember he lived in the house now occupied by Fred Kent. He died of typhoid fever. I think they said that before he died the flies all left the room which was a sure sign that he would not live. A queer notion about the insects which were later said to be one of the spreaders of the disease. Many young people died of the typhoid in those days. His widow was left with one child Cyrene who later married James Crane and went to Kansas. Cyrene and her mother built the house north of Spauldings green house now occupied by Mr. Brougton.

    In speaking of the death of Zenas Sikes at the turning of the boat, my Uncle Robert Sikes said that someone was hurt at the raising of those early days almost always, due to the heavy timbers and too much liquor.

    Mr. George Hendee who bought the Lewis Sikes farm, very generously removed the marble Slabs which were becoming more or less dilapidated also the old picket fence and some brush which had grown up and placed a boulder with a bronze tablet bearing the names of those buried on the plot. He gave especial honor to David Sikes the Revolutionary Solder, and had a gathering of the  D.A.R. and S.A.R. at which time my brother Howard gave a brief historical sketch. There are 13 names on the tablet.

    My Uncle, Robert Sikes, once when working in the loft of the old barn which David Sikes built moving away hay, struck his head against one of the roof timbers and said "A short barn built by a short man, Grandad was only four feet tall."

John Robert Henshaw born October 2, 1865 and died September 9, 1953, at the age of 90. John was the son of Andrew Agustus and Mary (Sikes) Henshaw and great‑grandson of David Sikes the Revolutionary Soldier. The bronze plaque was unveiled and dedicated on May 30, 1916 the following is the account in the Springfield Newspaper on May 31, 1916.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Newspaper Account

STONE UNVEILED AND DEDICATED

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

Exercises in Suffield at Site of Old Sikes Burial Plot.

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

LARGELY ATTENDED

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

Members of various Patriotic Societies Deliver Addresses.

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

SUFFIELD, CONN. May 30 ‑‑ descendants of David Sikes, a soldier of the revolution, members of Mercy Warren Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution and of George Washington Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, of Springfield, and older residents of this place made Memorial Day significant this afternoon by unveiling and dedicating a boulder to mark the site of the old Sikes burial plot on the hillside of the George M. Hendee estate.

David Sikes was born in Suffield in 1766 and the house where he passed his life stood directly opposite and across the street from the farmland that now makes up the Hendee estate. Mr. Hendee has preserved the private family Sikes burial ground by grading and sodding  and he gave the boulder that was yesterday afternoon dedicated to David Sikes under the auspices of Mercy Warren Chapter. The boulder is of granite and faces west, half way up the hill. It bears a bronze plaque with the names of David  Sikes and 12 of his relatives.

Two hundred persons surrounded the boulder at 3 o'clock, when Claude Barden of Agawam opened the exercises by playing "The Star‑Spangled Banner" on a cornet. Mrs Almon Jones of Agawam, as master of ceremonies greeted the assemblage in the name of Mercy Warren Chapter.  Before the boulder was unveiled, addresses were made by Mrs. Mabel Warner Metcalf of Holyoke, regent of Mercy Warren Chapter, and Howard Henshaw of this place, a great grandson of David Sikes.

Unveiling Exercises

The American flag was lifted from the boulder by Wallace Henshaw, son of Howard Henshaw, and Allen Sikes, son of Judge Howard Sikes, both young men being great‑great‑grand‑sons of David Sikes. After the unveiling prayer was offered by Rev F. H von der Sump of Agawam, and addresses followed by Henry F. Punderson, president of George Washington Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, and Mrs. Joshua L. Brooks, retiring regent of Mercy Warren Chapter. The exercises closed with the singing of "America" and a benediction by Rev F. H. von der Sump of Agawam.

Suffield formerly know as Stony Brook, sent two companies of soldiers to Boston in 1775, when the Massachusetts Minutemen were called after the battle of Lexington. The records do not say which of those companies had the name of David Sikes enrolled, but he went either with the first and fought in the battle of Bunker Hill, or with the second and took part in the siege of Boston. He returned to Suffield in 1776, were he lived as a farmer until his death in 1833.

The bronze tablet on the boulder faces the east and has the following inscription:

 

IN MEMORIAM

‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

This boulder marks the site of the
Sikes Family burial place in which
were interred the following:

DAVID SIKES
A revolutionary veteran
died Dec. 28th, 1833
aged 78

ZENAS SIKES
died Feb. 25th, 1827
aged 36

CYNTHIA SIKES
wife of David Sikes, Jr.
died Feb. 25th, 1829  aged 28
DAVID BEMENT
died June 5th, 1834
aged 2 yrs, 3 mos.

RUFUS SIKES
died April 2nd, 1836
aged 37
CYRUS O. SIKES
died July 27th, 1844
aged 27

ELAM SIKES
died June 25th, 1852
aged 57
ROSWELL ADAMS
died Sept. 26th, 1853
aged 60

LUCY SIKES
wife of David Sikes
died June 19th, 1856  aged 94
LUCY S. ADAMS
wife of Roswell Adams
died Jan. 4th, 1860   aged 67

HANNAH  KING
died Nov. 26th, 1863
aged 62
DAVID SIKES, JR.
died Aug. 2nd, 1864
aged 76
SARAH L. SIKES
wife of Elam Sikes
died Dec. 8th, 1871   aged 71


Click to see larger image -
photo courtesy D. Scannell, 1992

 -------------------------------

Mrs. Metcalf's Address

     A small American flag stood in front of the boulder. Descendants of David Sikes exhibited as relics a pension paper for David Sikes' wife, a silhouet picture of David Sikes smoking a pipe, and Mr. Henshaw displayed a cane carved and used by David Sikes. The boulder stands next to a small sassafras tree, and under maples, oaks, beeches and white birch trees.

    Mrs. Metcalf was the first speaker and said in part; "It is a privilege to come here today as regent of Mercy Warren Chapter to assist in the unveiling of this tablet to the memory of David Sikes, Revolutionary soldier and patriot. The memory of the deeds and the heroism of those men who gave of themselves so freely that a great ideal might be realized will be as lasting as the granite of this boulder.

    "To us is bequeathed the duty to defend and uphold the ideals and rights for which our forefathers fought and died. Surely at this era of the world's history when ideals are fighting against ideas, the preservation of such memories and relics are peculiarly precious and vital.

    "I wish to express to George M. Hendee the thanks of the Mercy Warren Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, for his generosity in placing this suitably inscribed boulder and for his offer to care for it during the years to come."

 ------------------------------------

Separate Burying Grounds

    In giving the biography of David Sikes, Mr. Henshaw told of the difficulty of getting information concerning residents during the 140 years following the Revolution. The existent knowledge of the Sikes family was secured from scattered relics, records and traditions handed down by generations. Mr Henshaw told of the old custom of separate family burying grounds and explained that David Sikes and his relatives were buried on the site of the boulder.

    The first member of the Sikes family in this country, Richard Sikes, came from England in the 17th century and his three sons and descendants settled in Suffield in 1665 or 1666. Suffield was know as Stony Brook in those days and Jonathan, a son of Richard Sikes, build a home near the present Hendee estate. Jonathan had a son, Jonathan, who was the father of David Sikes. David Sikes was born Jan. 9, 1755 in a house directly opposite the burial ground. Except for his service in the Revolution as far as the records indicate David passed his life there as a farmer.

    April 19, 1775, when the news of the battle of Lexington was hurried across Massachusetts and the minute men were called to fight the British at Boston, Suffield sent 100 men under the command of Capt. Elihu Kent. That company fought in the battle of Bunker Hill and Mr. Henshaw thinks that David Sikes was one of the soldiers. If David Sikes did not go to Boston with those minute men, he went a few months later when a second company was sent, and took part in the siege of Boston. Mr. Henshaw said the records are hazy on that point.

    David Sikes returned to Suffield during the Revolution for one or two furloughs and finally returned in 1776 to resume his occupation as farmer. "As far as we know," said Mr. Henshaw, "David Sikes never went back to the army. David was a man of small stature, short, and his family used to speak of him as only three feet high. We have a pair of buckskin trousers he wore and they would not fit my son. But we know that David Sikes had all the determination, grit and vigor of the early New England men."

 --------------------------------

Few Graves Preserved

    "It is well to do honor and reverence to those men," continued Mr. Henshaw; "we little realize the hardships they endured to carve a living out of an unsettled country and bring their families up with firm principles." After Mr. Henshaw's Address, the flag was removed from the boulder by Wallace Henshaw, and son of Mr. Henshaw and Allen Sikes, son of Howard Sikes.

    The purpose of the sons of American Revolution was explained by Henry F. Punderson, president of George Washington Chapter. He said that the history of the 140 years following Independence is more obscure than the history of the 140 years preceding that event. He mentioned that few graves or other landmarks of the people who lived before and during the Revolution are preserved in this vicinity. "Thirty or more graves in this territory are about all we have," said M. Punderson. He told of the graves of Revolutionary soldiers in Springfield and said that in that section there are more than in any other place in the country. "That makes us feel that we are the trustees of their peace," said Mr. Punderson.

    Mrs. Joshua L. Brooks, retiring regent of Mercy Warren Chapter, spoke on "Why We are Marking These Graves." she said that the organization works for patriotic education and to restore historical landmarks. "We are leaving something for our children," said Mrs. Brooks, "and may the future generations bear in mind what we have started and carry on work, and remember the ideals that were our heritage."

    The singing of "America," with cornet music closed the exercises and a benediction was offered by Rev. Mr. von der Sump. The following great grandchildren of David Sikes witnessed the dedication: H. A. Henshaw and his brother, John R. Henshaw, Leroy Sikes, Howard D. Sikes, Mrs Judson Lyman of Agawam, Mrs Boyd Wilson, Mrs. Charles Fowler of Thompsonville and Mrs. John Wilson. Several of their children, or great, great, grandchildren of David Sikes were present.

 







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