American Revolution veteran who settled Utica to receive full military honors

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published September 11, 2017

UTICA — At 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17, Nathaniel Squire, a Revolutionary War patriot who was one of the first people to settle the land that is now the city of Utica, will receive full military honors after 185 years at the Utica Cemetery.

Ten years of research have gone into proving that Squire is buried in the Utica Cemetery, since records do not reach that far back. The ceremony will include the unveiling of a memorial grave marker from the U.S. Department of Veterans, along with the pomp and circumstance associated with honoring military service.

Squire served from 1777 to 1779 in the Revolutionary War and made his home in the area that is now located east of Shelby Road, between 21 Mile and 22 Mile roads, according to John M. Raya, first vice president of the Michigan Society Sons of the American Revolution Oaks Chapter, and the leading force to recognize Squire’s service.

“The reality is if it wasn’t for men like him, we may be saluting a totally different flag today,” Raya said. “It’s an occasion that doesn’t happen that often.”

Squire hailed from Connecticut. He was part of his local militia at age 25, and later he enlisted in the formal army after a stint as a prisoner of war in New York, Raya said. After his service, Raya said, Squire decided he wanted to be a farmer and moved to Canada and later to Michigan after it became a territory.

“He followed the Clinton River to what’s now Utica and squatted on some land. Where he stayed — Shelby Road — was just an Indian trail,” Raya said. “He came by cart and oxen, and for the first five years, it was the only means of transportation the settlers had to take grain to Mount Clemens to have it ground.”

Squire and his wife also founded the first religious community, a Methodist congregation that still exists as the Utica United Methodist Church, located on Canal Road, east of Van Dyke Avenue. Members of the church helped to organize the Sept. 17 ceremony.

Raya said Squire also served on the local road commission, maintaining what became M-59 from the land he settled to what is now Lapeer, and was the third treasurer of Shelby Township.

Although the city does not have paperwork showing that Squire was buried in the cemetery, Raya said he does have the receipt for his coffin and funeral expenses when Squire died at age 80, as well as knowledge of the burial plot where other members of his family rest.

Raya said Squire had two wives and 10 children. Descendants of Squire — a second great-granddaughter related to Squire’s youngest son and a fourth great-grandson and granddaughter related to Squire’s first wife — will attend the ceremony and receive a folded American flag.

“The Sons of the American Revolution find and give full military honors to the parties,” Raya said. “It has nothing to do with raising money or funds or anything. It’s about honoring the patriot.”

Raya himself can trace his lineage back to his fifth grandfather, who fought in New Jersey during the Revolutionary War.

“For me, it’s just the gratification that I can give back to the community,” he said. “My children were raised here and graduated from Utica High.”

The ceremony will take place on Constitution Day and also tie in to Utica’s 200th anniversary celebration — the city was established in 1817.

Utica Mayor Thom Dionne will be among the dignitaries to attend the ceremony.

“I’m honored to be a part of the ceremony,” Dionne said. “I’m proud that Mr. Squire was one of our first Utica residents and that his legacy will be honored.”

The Utica Cemetery is located at 46325 Shelby Road, south of 21 Mile Road. For more information, call the city of Utica at (586) 739-1600.