For St. Clair resident Debbie Hinz, preserving veterans’ history is as much about America’s future as it is its past.
A Pennsylvania native, Hinz, 64, has worked diligently for nearly a decade researching and cataloging history not only about her own family, but, more recently, about those in Franklin County who fought in the American Revolution and died in Franklin County.
She serves as the regent for the Meramec Valley chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and is involved in the Franklin County 200th anniversary committee.
Hinz also is a member of the National Genealogical Society and the New England Historical and Genealogical Society.
Daughters of the American Revolution is a nonprofit, nonpolitical volunteer women’s service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America’s future through better education for children.
Members work toward historical preservation through service such as restoring and maintaining historical sites; locating, restoring and marking Revolutionary War patriot gravesites and headstones; helping place monuments around the world to memorialize people and events throughout American history; and preserving genealogical records and artifacts.
The Meramec Valley chapter has approximately 42 members. The DAR motto is “God, Home and Country.”
Hinz first became interested in the group through her sister, Shari Knaust.
To join, members must research their ancestry back to a Revolutionary War patriot, whether it’s a soldier, patriot or anyone who gave aid and comfort to the Revolutionary cause.
“Even if they were on the town council, or they paid a tax that would go toward the cause,” she said. “Anything like that counts if you can find the records.”
Hinz was living in her hometown in Northwest Pennsylvania, near the courthouses and places of historical interest, when she began to search her paternal family name: Moon.
The first Revolutionary War soldier she discovered in her family was Matthias Flach, born in 1754 in the Baden area of Germany. His father died before he was born, which left him with little opportunity, Hinz explained.
He grew up poor and at 18 years old, in 1773, he immigrated to America as an indentured servant.
At the end of his indenture, in 1776, he joined the Continental Army, where he was in the German regiment.
He served in the Revolutionary War in its entirety.
“That got me hooked,” she said. “Once you start (researching), you just continue.”
It took several years of going through court records, land records and wills before she found Flach.
In the midst of her search in 2007, Hinz moved to Union to be near her sister, and a year later, she joined the Daughters of the American Revolution. Since then, she’s been able to trace her ancestry back to an additional four Revolutionary War soldiers and is still tracing her lineage.
Moon is a popular surname, so popular that it can be difficult to distinguish the German Moon family from the English, Irish, Norwegian or Korean Moon family trees.
A lot of the work requires hours of sifting through court records, marriage, baptism and death records, as well as visiting cemeteries. Hinz said she enjoys the research part of genealogy.
“I really enjoy it. I’ve learned a lot,” Hinz said, adding that she loves what the DAR stands for.
So far, Hinz said she hasn’t found too many shocking family skeletons, however, she did find that her great-grandfather was a bigamist.
Her great-grandfather was in the Civil War and apparently, according to records, married her grandfather’s mother. The marriage broke up and he found a new wife; however, there is no divorce record.
When he passed away, both of his wives applied to receive his pension.
“That was probably the biggest scandal,” she said.
On her mother’s side, she has traced her family roots back to New Amsterdam.
“It’s great when you find something,” Hinz said, leading into a story about an ancestor who eluded her for quite some time. She finally found the connection by accident, when she noticed that 16 years after the relative’s death, a son petitioned to have the estate settled. The children were named in that document.
“That’s the most exciting thing about it. Who would have thought to look 16 years after he died?” she asked.
From 2012 to 2016, Hinz served as the DAR regent, which has similar responsibilities to that of a club president.
Her term spanned the club’s 50th anniversary. To celebrate, Hinz worked with a committee to research and create a digital scrapbook of every regent in the local club’s history.
“I wanted to go through all of the regents throughout the 50 years and highlight some of their accomplishments,” Hinz said, adding that it was interesting to learn about what each of the ladies did.
The scrapbook will be sent to the state archive in Boonville.
She currently serves as the club historian.
The chapter does many things for area veterans. Each year, the group presents a bronze medal award to deserving JROTC cadets at St. Clair and Pacific high schools.
The group honors “Good Citizen” students from nine area high schools each year.
The Valley of the Meramec Chapter NSDAR meets at St. Paul’s Luthern Church in Union on the second Monday of the month at 11 a.m., except January and February. To contact the chapter, go to http://www.mssdar.org/vmeramec.
A commission is putting together several events through 2019 to celebrate the county’s bicentennial.
The celebration is being cochaired by Sue Blesi, Marc Houseman.
“Between now and the end of 2019 we plan to mark the remaining graves of Revolutionary War soldiers in honor of the county bicentennial,” she said.
“We don’t want these brave and honorable men to be forgotten, as they secured our freedom and helped create this great country, (just) as we don’t want our living veterans to be forgotten for their honorable service and sacrifice in maintaining that freedom,” she added.
Through her involvement with the Daughters of the American Revolution, Hinz was asked to serve on the Franklin County 200th anniversary committee.
Marc Houseman, Washington Historical Society museum director, reached out to her to research Hartley Sappington, a Revolutionary War soldier who served in the Pennsylvania Militia. He is buried on Westlink Drive, near the Rawlings factory.
Houseman, who also is on the Franklin County Cemetery Society, wanted Sappington’s grave to denote that he served in the war.
“That’s one of the original goals of the Daughters of the American Revolution,” Hinz explained. “What they wanted to do was to preserve and highlight all of the Revolutionary War soldiers, preserve everything they could and honor soldiers that fought in the Revolution.”
Hinz began research for the bicentennial she was regent of DAR and continues today.
“We don’t know where all of them are buried,” Hinz said, but she is researching, with the help of other DAR members, about 10 soldiers believed to be buried here.
Several already have been marked, including Jemima Boone Callaway. The daughter of Daniel Boone, Jemima Boone Callaway’s grave had never been marked. It is located by the Daniel Boone monument in Marthasville.
To mark a grave, DAR requires the year and place of birth, as well as the year and place of death and Revolutionary War service.
A muster roll, an official list of officers and men in a military unit or ship’s company, goes a long way in proving a soldier’s whereabouts, Hinz said.
Not all of the soldiers received a pension and not all of them were buried with tombstones or grave markers.
In the case of John Ridenour, who was in the same unit as Hinz’ ancestor in the German regiment, the soldier was killed by Native Americans in the early 1800s at Labadie Landing.
“We surmise that he was buried out there, but he doesn’t have a tombstone,” she said.
The grave marking research project has been underway for about a year.
Once information is compiled, is has to be sent to the National DAR, where the historian general at the national level gives final approval.
In 2010, Hinz retired from a nursing career she had begun in Pennsylvania as a teenager, when she worked as a nurses aid. When she married her husband, Charles, she stopped working for a few years before attending nursing school.
She worked on a cardiac floor for seven years before moving to the cardiac care unit, where she worked for the next decade.
Hinz also served as a supervisor and worked in the pacemaker clinic, cardiac rehab and other positions during her career.
In all, she spent 30 years as a nurse. She worked at the St. Clair nursing home from the time she moved to St. Clair until she retired.