It was a sunny, clear morning in early summer, but it was far from peaceful. The air was filled with the scent of excitement and revolution. Everyone in New England sensed the events that would take place on that 17th day of June 1775.
The famous words, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes,” would soon be uttered by General Israel Putnam. The first major battle of the American Revolution, between the courageous American colonists and the well-trained British soldiers, would be fought on Bunker Hill. Present on that day were many young men, some only boys, who had traveled far distances filled with a conviction that the colonies must have independence. So fierce were their desires for freedom that they were willing to give their lives for it.
We felt a surge of that same excitement when we discovered, through genealogical research, that two of those men, actually 19-year-old boys, Moses Quimby and Uriah Roundy, are among our ancestors. Moses Quimby was wounded in the shoulder by a bayonet in that famous battle, and our forefather Uriah Roundy fought in that and many other battles against the British before being wounded in the battle of Brandywine. He had served as a guard to General George Washington.
Since this is the 200th anniversary of those great events, the results of our genealogical searching are even more exciting to us than they would otherwise have been. Learning of our own forefathers’ participation in the Revolutionary War, we found ourselves renewing interest in our country. Those events were no longer words in history books, but were emotion-filled, heart-pounding moments that changed the world. Upon acquainting ourselves with the men, ordinary men—blacksmiths, farmers, teachers, weavers—who were willing to give their lives for what we now have, we reevaluated what we are blessed with. We found a new sense of pride in this land, America the beautiful.
The Lord said, “And he [Elijah] shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.” (D&C 2:2.)
We felt our hearts being turned to our fathers, knowing that their hearts, too, had been turned to us—the future generations of America who would be blessed for and asked to carry on their struggles. Those men and women who were once just names became faces and personalities very dear to us.
Recently while searching through some papers at our grandma’s house, we discovered, almost by accident, that a man whom we had often learned about in history classes, William Bradford, is another of our forefathers. Bradford came across the ocean to America in 1620 aboard the famed Mayflower. His role was an important one in the development of America. Possessing a deep conviction that men are entitled to freedom of religion, he had joined the Separatists at the early age of 12. He signed the Mayflower Compact just before landing in America and later became governor of Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. The colonizing of this country by men dedicated to religious freedom and the establishment of America as an independent nation were two major events that prepared the world for the restoration of the gospel.
Another ancestor whom we have known about since we were young, Shadrack Roundy, was also forced from his home and driven to find a new land for refuge and religious freedom. Shadrack was the son of Uriah Roundy who fought at Bunker Hill and was one of our first forefathers to hear and accept the restored gospel. He brought his family across the rugged frontier to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake in the first company of pioneers in 1847, driven by the convictions of his heart as was William Bradford.
Most of our forefathers and mothers weren’t famous, but we have come to realize that all of them, whether they played large or small roles, have in some way made a contribution to the world we now live in. They have affected our lives. Susannah North, our grandmother 13 generations back, was tried for being a witch in the Salem trials and was found guilty and hanged. We were shocked until we discovered that witches were often found guilty because they could stay afloat in water. We also have inherited a natural buoyancy.
Sometimes the hours become long and tiresome when spent in research at the genealogical library, but in the end it proves rewarding and the spirit of Elijah is easily felt. One small discovery makes every hour well worth it.
On our mother’s side, our roots have only been on American soil for two generations. Our grandmother grew up in Holland and our grandfather in Czechoslovakia. We have always felt honor in the heritage and traditions that they brought with them to America. They, too, sought freedom.
Our grandfather knew there were errors in his own church, so when he immigrated to the United States, he often expressed the desire to find the true gospel of Jesus Christ. When two Mormon elders knocked on his door, he was very eager to accept the truth.
During this special Bicentennial year, we hope to find more of our ancestors, those who in some way participated in these momentous events and those who did not. We are proud of our forefathers and mothers, our heritage, our country. We are also blessed with the knowledge that the gospel brings to us—someday we will have the opportunity to meet them.