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Nathan West - An Honored Man

MINERVA - On the southern edge of Minerva, along Route 28N, the Minerva Baptist Cemetery sits peacefully amidst towering maple trees. Situated on a plateau with Sleeping Giant Mountain in the distance, the unmarked site stands as a quiet testament to the many generations of residents that chose to make this corner of the Adirondacks their home. Among the weathered marble markers and head stones, many so old the names can barely be discerned; one monument stands out from the rest. More than a simple grave marker, this massive granite memorial, with brass plaque, indicates the final resting place of a little-known revolutionary war veteran. The plaque reads simply: "Nathan West - Honored for six years military service under Colonel Jeremiah Olney, R.I., with Washington's army in the winter at Valley Forge and against Cornwallis at Yorktown." The great-grandson of a Mayflower passenger, Nathan West was born in Newport, Rhode Island, on March 22, 1763. As one of five children in the West household, he was remembered for his keen eyesight and musical ability at a time when the colonies teetered on the brink of war with Britain. In January of 1777, the thirteen old Nathan voluntarily enlisted as a fifer in General George Washington's new army. He was immediately dispatched to join 12,000 other soldiers in the Colonial Army's winter camp in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The hastily assembled camp would prove to be another crippling blow to the already beleaguered army, and in June of 1777, they would abandon it after losing 2,000 soldiers to sickness and disease. Nathan would spend the next six years of his life enlisted in the Rhode Island Line of the Colonial Army. While Valley Forge marked the beginning of his military service, the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 would bring it toward conclusion. As the last major battle of the Revolutionary War, the defeat of Cornwallis's army would eventually lead to British surrender, bringing a temporary peace to the new nation. In 1783, following the end of the war, Nathan left the military and followed his parents and family to Vershire, Vermont, a new settlement on the eastern slopes of the Green Mountains. In Vershire, he met Martha Titus, and together they became the first couple to be married in the settlement. Discontent with the opportunities available in Vermont, the family would move once more before settling in what is present-day Minerva in 1804. Led by Nathan's father, Ebenezer West, the group purchased a large section of land in what was called Dominick Patent, an early part of the Town of Schroon. During the beginning stages of the 19th century, the lure of cheap land and settlement opportunities brought many families to this region. Land was cleared for farming, the basic structure of communities was established, and towns began to form. The West family was one of a small group living in the area. As devout Baptists, Nathan became one of four West's who founded (as it was then called), the Second Baptist Church of Schroon, in October, 1807. Early church meetings were held in the West home, under the leadership of Church Elder, Jehiel Fox, who travelled throughout the region ministering to the communities. Despite living in a remote region, Nathan was again summoned to military duty, and served as a rifleman in Plattsburgh during the war of 1812. He was well remembered for his skills with a rifle, which supported his reputation for possessing extraordinary eyesight. Over the next ten years, numerous public meetings would be held in the West home, including Minerva's historic first town meeting on April 1, 1817. In March of 1817, members of the community learned of the State's acceptance of their petition to seek independence from the Town of Schroon. During this meeting, town officials were appointed, and Nathan was formally voted to be one of the town's first assessors. For the next 18 years, and until his death on April 1, 1835 at the age of 72, Nathan West played a leading role in Minerva's future. Prior to his passing, he donated the triangle of land now occupied by the Minerva Baptist Church; in the hopes they would one day build a formal house of worship. Before her passing in 1851, Martha West gained her own notoriety by single-handedly killing a bear with a club, which had wandered onto the farm, and threatened their livestock. A wax statue of her, and depicting the scene, was on display in the New York State Education Building until a fire claimed it many years ago. Descendants of Nathan and Martha West still reside in Minerva, and evidence of their memory can be seen throughout the town. On October 18, 1986, the Daughter's of the American Revolution installed the current monument at Nathan's grave-site. To this day he is remembered as a man that helped create much more than a small Adirondack town, but as a human being who truly left his mark on the nation.

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