Morrison's Pensions


Who Was the Last Surviving Soldier of the Revolution?

            On the evidence available, this honor goes to a durable son of the New York frontier named Daniel Frederick Bakeman, who died April 5, 1869 at the remarkable age of one hundred and nine years, five months, and twenty-six days. According to U.S. pension records, Bakeman was the last of the pensioned soldiers of the Revolution, making him the final surviving Revolutionary War soldier of whom there is official record. Appropriately, this veteran of the War for Independence spent his final years and is buried in a town named Freedom, in Cattaraugus County, New York. Bakeman was probably of Dutch ancestry. (His surname appears in records and local histories as Bakeman or Beckman, with at least five additional variant spellings recorded) According to family tradition, he was born near the Delaware River in New Jersey, but his parents emigrated to the Mohawk Valley when he was still a child.
            And it was in the Mohawk Valley that Bakeman apparently enlisted and saw military service from 1779 to 1783. Throughout the war, Tories and Indians continued to harass the thinly-populated, poorly-defended outreaches of settlement on the frontier. In 1781, Col. Marinus Willett, seasoned officer of the Continental Army, assumed command of the New York frontier militia and levies. Bakeman stated that he entered the Revolutionary Army in the militia in Captain [William] Van Arnum's company in Colonel Willert's regiment It is possible, as alleged, that Bakeman par­icipated in the skirmish at Fort Plain in which a company of this regiment is known to have been ambushed on September 7, 1781. He apparently also served as a teamster, possibly hauling farm produce from the Mohawk Valley to supply Washington's army on the lower Hudson.
            In 1782 Daniel Bakeman married Susan Brewer, who almost equaled her husband in longevity . She died in 1863, after eighty-one years of marriage, at the age of 105. The parents of eight children, Daniel and Susan Bakeman lived for over forty years in Herkimer County, moving about 1825 to Arcade in Wyoming County. About twenty years later they became residents of Freedom.
            Surviving the loss of three homes by fire, the vigorous couple became a local legend. Known for his wit, the elderly Bakeman is said to have confounded would-be pranksters who left him stranded sixteen feet down in, a partially-dug well when the dinner bell rang. Bakeman appeared shortly thereafter but refused to tell how he had climbed out of the well.
            Independence Day provided Bakeman with his real moment of glory. According to local accounts, he arose early, shouldered his "howling piece," fired it at arm's length, and roused his neighbors with a loud salute and a "Hurrah for Washington, Gates, Putnam, Lee and all the other men who fought for liberty." A newspaper account of the July 4, 1859 celebration at Arcade reported that Daniel and Susan Bakeman, then 100 and 102 years old respectively, were honored guests and that Susan displayed needlework that she had recently made without the aid of glasses. Devoted to the country for which he fought, Bakeman was said to have cast his first vote for Washington and his last for Ulysses S. Grant.
            On February 22, 1867 Congress passed special legislation granting a pension of $500 a year to Bakeman, to be retroactive to July 1, 1866. (A similar act of the same date granted an identical pension to John Gray, a Revolutionary War veteran who lived in Noble County, Ohio. Gray died March 29, 1868 at the age of 104.)
            His pension enabled Bakeman to purchase his own carriage and to ride in the Fourth of July parades in neighboring towns. When death finally claimed this last warrior in 1869, five generations of his descendants were present at his funeral. In 1915 the Olean Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution marked the graves of Daniel and Susan Bakeman with appropriate ceremonies. 
            Why was Daniel Bakeman not pensioned until 1867 when he had reached the age of 107? Congress had been granting pensions to veterans of the American Revolution for years. In the midst of fighting a war to preserve the union, northerners began to look back nostalgically to the origin of the republic, and the lawmakers in Washington decided to increase the pensions of all surviving veterans of the nation's first war. In February, 1864, at the request of the House of Representatives, the Pension Office submitted a list of Revolutionary War pensioners believed to be still alive. There were just twelve.
            The publication of this list inspired two men to compile accounts of the surviving soldiers of the Revolution. Realzing that time was running out, the Reverend Elias Brewstcr Hillard set out in the spring of 1864 to interview and photograph the surviving veterans. He published the story of seven of these soldiers in The Last Men of the Revolution (1864).
            Working independently in the same year, and unknown to Hillard, G. W. Tomlinson compiled and published a pamphlet, The Patriots of the Revolution of '76. In this he gave biographical sketches of some twenty surviving pensioners, including those who lived in southern states who had been omitted by Hillard and by Congress.
            Of the men listed in these publications, six lived in New York state during the early 1860's. They were: Samuel Downing, Edinburgh (Saratoga County); Rev. Daniel Waldo, Syracuse; Lemuel Cook, Clarendon (Orleans County); Alexander Milliner (or Maroney), Adams Basin (Monroe County); Benjamin Miller, Laurens (Otsego County); and John Pettingill, Henderson (Jefferson County).
            It is probable that as a result of the publication of the pensioners' list, Daniel Bakeman in Cattaraugus County was brought to the attention of his congressman. Though his Revolutionary War discharge and other papers had been lost by fire years before, there was no question as to his, eligibility for a pension had he applied.
            Daniel Bakeman’s death 101 years ago foreshortens history and brings the American Revolution a century closer to 1970. Undoubtedly there are residents of Cattaraugus County whose parents actually knew and talked with this last living link with the nation's birth. Scattered throughout New York state were other old Revolutionary War veterans who enlivened local patriotic gatherings with anecdotes about '76. Many of these old soldiers lived to become folk heroes whose exploits did not die but simply faded into the saga of local folklore. Perhaps your town had such an ancient soldier who could be remembered in a bicentennial celebration.
            Why was Daniel Bakeman not pensioned until 1867 when he had reached the age of 107? Congress had been granting pensions to veterans of the American Revolution for years. In the midst of fighting a war to preserve the union, northerners began to look back nostalgically to the origin of the republic, and the lawmakers in Washington decided to increase the pensions of all surviving veterans of the nation's first war. In February, 1864, at the request of the House of Representatives, the Pension Office submitted a list of Revolutionary War pensioners believed to be still alive. There were just twelve.
            The publication of this list inspired two men to compile accounts of the surviving soldiers of the Revolution. Realzing that time was running out, the Reverend Elias Brewstcr Hillard set out in the spring of 1864 to interview and photograph the surviving veterans. He published the story of seven of these soldiers in The Last Men of the Revolution (1864).
            Working independently in the same year, an unknown to Hillard, G. W. Tomiinson compiled and published a pamphlet, The Patriots of the Revolution of '76. In this he gave biographical sketches of some twenty surviving pensioners, including those who lived in southern states who had been omitted by Hillard and by Congress.
            Of the men listed in these publications, six lived in New York state during the early 1860's. They were: Samuel Downing, Edinburgh (Saratoga County); Rev. Daniel Waldo, Syracuse; Lemuel Cook, Clarendon (Orleans County); Alexander Milliner (or Maroney), Adams Basin (Monroe County); Benjamin Miller, Laurens (Otsego County); and John Pettingill, Henderson (Jefferson County).
It is probable that as a result of the publication of the pensioners' list, Daniel Bakeman in Cattaraugus County was brought to the attention of his congressman. Though his Revolutionary War discharge and other papers had been lost by fire years before, there was no question as to his, eligibility for a pension had he applied.
            Daniel Bakeman's death 101 years ago foreshortens history and brings the American Revolution a century closer to 1970. Undoubtedly there are residents of Cattaraugus County whose parents actually knew and talked with this last living link with the nation's birth. Scattered throughout New York state were other old Revolutionary War veterans who enlivened local patriotic gatherings with anecdotes about '76. Many of these old soldiers lived to become folk heroes whose exploits did not die but simply faded into the saga of local folklore. Perhaps your town had such an ancient soldier who could be remembered in a bicentennial celebration.

Obituary from the New York Times, Saturday April 10, 1869 To the Editors of the Lewiston Journal:
DANIEL FREDERICK BAKMAN, supposed to be the last of the soldiers of the Revolution, died at his residence in Freedom, Cattaraugus county, NY April 5, at the advanced age of 109 years, 6 months.  Mr. Bakman entered the army just previous to the skirmish of Fort Plains, and took some part in that battle.  His wife, with whom he had lived eighty-five years, died about six years ago, at the age of 105; and a few weeks since he followed to the grave one of his sons, who at the time of his death was aged 80 years.  His funeral was attended by children and children's children to the fifth generation.  The sermon on the occasion was preached by Rev. Abner Morrill, formerly of Mechanic Falls, Me., but now pastor of the Baptist Church in this village.  I have been informed that Mr. Bakman has voted at every Presidential election from Washington's to Grant's.  He voted at the last election for General Grant.

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