Dr. Darius Stoddard, Revolutionary War Veteran

DStoddardSig2A short biography of Dr. Darius Stoddard is detailed below. Dr. Stoddard is my second cousin, 7x removed. I recently joined the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Connecticut as a collateral representative of Dr. Stoddard’s and his service of 5 years as a Surgeon’s Mate and Surgeon in the Continental Army is something I am very proud to honor and remember by telling his story. His resting place is located in the Town Hill Cemetery, Lakeville, CT, in the middle of the beautiful campus of the Hotchkiss School.

DStoddardGraveMkrDarius Stoddard was the fifth of nine children born to Josiah and Sarah (Robbarts) Stoddard, and the fourth of five boys. He was born on 17 May 1754, in Salisbury (LitchfieldCounty) CT. Four of the Stoddard boys served with distinction during the War; elder brothers Luther (2nd LT, Hinman’s 4th CT; Capt., Burrall’s CT Reg.) and Josiah (Capt., 2nd Continental Light Dragoons, died during the War), and younger brother Samuel (Sergt., Warner’s Regt. and 2nd CT Line). His father died in 1764, leaving the 10 year old Darius’ guardianship to the executor of his father’s will. However, upon reaching legal age Darius was able to select his own guardian and chose Nathaniel Buell (Buell would also serve as an officer in the Revolution). The first record of Dr. Stoddard’s service began 1 Jan 1777, as Surgeon’s Mate and Surgeon in the Hospital Department of the Continental Army, at the age of 22. He continued service to the Continental Army, Hospital Dept. for a period of 5 years, serving for some of that time as Surgeon, Col. Henry Jackson’s Regiment. Darius and his two older brothers were widely known and respected for their bravery and patriotic service throughout the war, but the trio was also well known for their quick tempers and unseemly behavior. Although often finding themselves in trouble, Darius generally put his abundant energy to good use throughout his war time service as a Surgeon’s Mate and Surgeon, serving in the Hospital Department throughout much of the war. However, frequent disagreements with fellow patriots were not uncommon and perhaps the most famous incident in his military service occurred in the fall of 1780, when he raised serious charges against his late-brother’s commander, Col. Elisha Sheldon, 2nd Light Dragoons. The conclusion of Sheldon’s general court-martial ended with the Colonel acquitted of all charges, “with honor and approbation” and Stoddard fined for the expenses of the trial for bringing charges deemed without merit. Stoddard married Mary Holley, daughter of John and Sarah (Lord) Holley. Marriage date unknown, and several years after Darius Stoddard’s death, Mary is believed to have wed Elias Hall, of Castleton VT, an officer of the Revolutionary War. After the war, Dr. Stoddard continued to practice medicine in his hometown of Salisbury and in eastern New York until the time of his death. Stoddard and his brother, Luther, joined the Montgomery Lodge of Masons in 1783, the year of the lodge’s founding. The lodge is still active to this day, known as Montgomery Lodge No. 13. As the war ended, he petitioned Congress and the Connecticut State Assembly, finally receiving his back pay earned during the War. However, he became consumed with land speculation deals in Virginia and found himself accumulating great debts, which landed him in jail from time to time. After a brief stay in jail in 1790, he became ill and soon thereafter died of consumption on 12 July 1790. He is buried next to his father in Town Hill Cemetery, Lakeville, CT. His headstone is inscribed with the following words: “In Memory of Doctor Darius Stoddard, who Died July 12th 1790 in the 37th year of his age. Nor shill, nor art the shafts of death can shun, But all alike his Icy arms must try; How short our time, how soon our race is run, Then let’s with care to Christ for shelter fly.”

Sources: CT Adjutants General, Records of Service of Connecticut Men in the War of the Revolution (Hartford CT, 1889) pp. 61, 93, 110, 257, 272, 327, 629; Secretary of the Commonwealth, Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War, Vol. 15 (Boston, MA, 1907), p. 62.; Francis Heitman, Historical Register, Officers of the Continental Army (Washington DC. Rare Book Co.  1914) p. 522; Dr. Darius Stoddard, Letter to the CT General Assembly, dated 15 October 1782 (Connecticut State Archives: Revolutionary War, 1763-1789), series 1, roll 23, p. 263; Malcolm Day Rudd, Men of Worth of Salisbury Birth, The Salisbury Quadrimillenium Edition, (The Salisbury Assoc., 1991), p. 157-161; Find-a-grave and gravestone photo, Town Hill Cemetery, Lakeville, CT; Montgomery Lodge No. 13, Lakeville, CT.

Captain Cooper Howell’s Prayer Book

Capt. Cooper Howell and his mother, Annie Fitler Howell.

Capt. Cooper Howell and his mother, Annie Fitler Howell.

I recently was privileged to be part of a wonderful story involving a man I am not related to, but a story that highlights one of the aspects of family genealogy that I love most…helping others to connect the dots in their family history. The bonus in this story is that the “connected dots” included a cherished family item – the Prayer Book of Captain Cooper Howell. So, here’s my story:

I recently became the Chaplain for the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Connecticut and thought it would be nice to obtain a Prayer Book to help me with these new duties. I currently owned a copy of Song and Service Book for Ship and Field: Army and Navy (1942), but thought an additional military prayer book might give me some additional prayers to consider. I searched online at Amazon and quickly found several options, of which I selected a World War I prayer book, A Prayer Book for Soldiers and Sailors (1917). A few weeks after ordering from a small book shop selling through Amazon, I received a nice note informing me that my order was canceled because they could not find the book in their inventory, in fact, no one could remember seeing it for the last 6 years! Not to be deterred, I picked a second book seller and happily received the book a few weeks later. Upon opening the book I discovered the “personal information” section partially filled in – the name of “next of kin” and “local minister,” but no name of the prayer book owner. The minister’s name was clearly written, The. Rev. Floyd Tomkins, and the relative’s name was Mrs. Charles ???. I was disappointed to discover great difficulty in reading the last name and the omission of the owner’s name. Ah well, I continued to explore the book…and my exploration provided one more happy surprise – a picture in the back cover pocket (the picture shown with this story)! The back of the photo noted: Capt. Cooper ??? and his mother, Mrs. Charles ??? OK, now I really needed to solve the mystery of the last name. I studied the name closely and determined I could make out the second or third letter to be “o” and the last three letters to be “ell.” Armed with this information I headed to the Ancestry website to do some research. After some searching, making use of “*” for wildcard unknown letters, I was able to determine that the mystery man was Captain Cooper Howell from Philadelphia. And the bonus to my research, I also found someone using Ancestry to research their Howell family’s roots…a connection in the making.

I contacted the gentleman on Ancestry and we exchanged a few email notes to confirm family connections and share information. Some additional interesting information is that The Rev. Tomkins (a priest at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Philadelphia) had previously served at Christ Church, Hartford, CT…interesting because I am an Episcopal priest serving at a church in CT, just a few miles from Christ Church! I learned quite a bit about Captain Cooper Howell, and his mother, Annie Fitler Howell, and their home in PA. I am very grateful to have learned about Captain Howell and his service to his country. I read through the prayer book a bit, made some copies of prayers that I particularly liked, and happily sent Captain Cooper Howell’s prayer book back to the Howell family. I know the book will be included among the many family treasures and enjoyed for future generations. A great end to an interesting story and I have had the honor of meeting a fellow family genealogist and contributing a tiny bit to their history.