2017-05-17 / Front Page

Sanilac pioneer gets military headstone

BY MARGARET WHITMER
Reporter


Bill Moskwa (on left) Dick Parr and Tom Regan (not shown), three local historians, tracked down the gravesite of Rev. Thomas Huckins and finally gave him the recognition a soldier deserves. Huckins, one of Sanilac County’s very first pioneers, fought in the War of 1812. 
Photo byMargaret Whitmer Bill Moskwa (on left) Dick Parr and Tom Regan (not shown), three local historians, tracked down the gravesite of Rev. Thomas Huckins and finally gave him the recognition a soldier deserves. Huckins, one of Sanilac County’s very first pioneers, fought in the War of 1812. Photo byMargaret Whitmer LEXINGTON TWP. — Local historian William Moskwa, who has made it his personal mission to give every local veteran his or her proper due, has placed a new military gravestone for a prominent local settler to whom Sanilac County owes much.

The Rev. Thomas Huckins, originally from Lee, New Hampshire, was the first minister of the gospel to enter the wilds of what was to become Sanilac County, according to the Atlas of Sanilac County by E. R. Cookingham, circa 1894.

It is believed that the Baptist minister preached the very first sermon in the county (July 1, 1839) and also solemnized the first marriage. He organized the first church society and built the very first church - Free-will Baptist in Lexington.

Huckins fought in the War of 1812 with the New Hampshire Militia.

Soldiers who fought in that war received grants of land in Michigan for their service, which was what brought Huckins to Sanilac County. He received a land grant for 160 acres near the southeast corner of Peck and Wildcat roads.

Huckins became a prominent farmer and in 1847, allowed a public schoolhouse to be erected on his property.

The school housed eight grades of students in its one busy room for 100 years. For many years the building doubled as a church on Sundays. It finally was closed in 1948, when the new Croswell- Lexington consolidated school system decided it couldn’t be repurposed.

The school was relocated to the Sanilac County Historical Museum in Port Sanilac in 1996. following a long and successful restoration drive. The Huckins Schoolhouse was rededicated in 2002 with several of the school’s final students on hand.

It remains the oldest standing school in Sanilac County.

The schoolhouse is furnished with typical school furnishings of the 1880s, including a pot-bellied stove. Sanilac County schoolchildren are now able to experience what it was like to learn one’s lessons in a one-room schoolhouse.

But while Huckins’ school has been well-preserved, the same could not be said for his grave, which is located on his property in the ancient cemetery that bears his name.

Since his death in 1853, both his grave and the cemetery have been left to quietly weather away, as is the case with so many similar pioneer cemeteries.

But now Huckins has a new headstone, and one that commemorates his military service to his young country.

Moskwa, a member of the Croswell American Legion, noted that three veterans’ flags were always placed in Huckins Cemetery on Memorial Day, but because the stones are so weathered, he had no idea who was there.

“I was sitting with Dick Parr and Tom Regan (both of Lexington) and was telling them about the cemetery and how I’d had no luck in finding out anything,” Moskwa said.

“Dick mentioned he remembered reading something and Tom just happened to have the book. Well I made a copy. Then I found where he received a land grant for his (military) service in the territory of Michigan.”

Moskwa next appealed to Clerk Katie Crequer at the Department of Veteran Affairs in Sandusky.

“I put the request in for the stone. Katie is always a big help, she organizes the paper work, fills out the one form and then faxes it in,” he said.

“I must thank Tom Regan and Dick Parr, two of the most knowledgeable and nicest historians I’ve met. They pointed me in the right direction,” said Moskwa. “Special thanks also goes to Lakeside Building Supplies of Lexington, who donated the concrete to set the stone.”

A mystery still remains, however.

Rev. Huckins had a brother - Dr. Miles Huckins - who also fought in the war of 1812 and received a 160-acre land grant. He claimed the land near the northeast corner of Peck and Wildcat roads, across from what is now M-90.

But the intrepid researchers know little about him and have been unable to find a stone showing where Dr. Huckins was laid to rest. It may have been stolen, damaged or simply is so weathered that it no longer is legible.

If anyone knows anything about Dr. Miles Huckins, they can contact Moskwa at cwbill52@yahoo.com.

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