With headstone, Rowan Countian pays tribute to her Revolutionary War ancestor

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 16, 2019

By Mark Wineka

Penny Gerock Sides credits the Daughters of the American Revolution and some old-fashioned legwork for leading her to an important ancestor.

“It really has changed my life,” Sides says.

Sides, who lives along High Rock Lake in Rowan County, joined her cousins James Gerock of Birmingham, Alabama, and Dr. Henry Gerock of New Bern for a ceremony this past Thursday at Cedar Grove Cemetery in New Bern.

They were there to dedicate a new headstone for Samuel L. Gerock, their ancestor who had been a Continental Army captain in the Revolutionary War.

During the family research necessary for her to join the DAR, Sides located Samuel Gerock’s grave site in Cedar Grove Cemetery but no headstone was present. The family decided to correct that.

Many other people joined the Gerock cousins at the cemetery, including members of two DAR chapters, three Sons of the American Revolution chapters, Masons and family.

The gathering dedicated the headstone and laid a wreath, and the SAR chapters installed a separate 6-by-8-inch grave marker. Dressed in period uniforms, an SAR color guard was on hand.

A thrilled Sides says it was “just unbelievable” that the family research led her to find Samuel L. Gerock’s unmarked grave in the New Bern cemetery and the big gathering of people almost 186 years after his death.

“I wish he knew this was going on,” she says. “I’m just so honored, so proud.”

Thursday’s guests included DAR Regents Sandy Czuba, who belongs to the Elizabeth Maxwell Steele Chapter in Rowan County, and Sims Wyatt. They gave the welcome, and Czuba continued with the advancing of the colors, the headstone dedication and responses by DAR and SAR members.

DAR Chaplain Linda Davis, who provided the family research for Sides, offered prayers, along with an SAR chaplain.

The family provided a biography of Samuel Gerock. The SAR members were led by President Jay DeLoach, assisted by Dr. Bob Ainsley.

The DAR and SAR have long legacies.

Founded in 1890, the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution promotes historic preservation, education and patriotism. Its members are descended from those who fought for independence during the Revolution.

The National Society Sons of the American Revolution also incorporated in 1890, with the North Carolina SAR chapter taking root in 1911.

Most everyone in New Bern knew Samuel L. Gerock.

A bank clerk and master Mason, Gerock was treasurer for St. John’s No. 3 Lodge. Owing to that position, he probably was part of the Masonic delegation that met and entertained President George Washington during his Southern Tour visit to New Bern in 1791.

Gerock later was New Bern’s postmaster from 1803 to 1811.

But Gerock also had served with distinction in the Revolutionary War, joining the Continental Army on July 12, 1776 — barely a week after the colonies’ Declaration of Independence.

Of German heritage, Gerock had been living in Baltimore and became part of companies from Maryland and Pennsylvania known as the German Battalion.

He served as a first lieutenant under Capt. George Keeport, then was promoted to captain of the artillery in 1777, reporting to Capt. Alexander Furnival and Maj. Nathaniel Smith.

Over his two-plus years in the Continental Army, Gerock fought at the battles of Trenton, Princeton and Brandywine, besides some minor engagements. He resigned his commission in November 1778 to become quartermaster at the state hospital in Baltimore.

When the war ended, Gerock moved to New Bern, purchased land, married twice and had four children.

“He is the common ancestor to all the Gerocks (six generations) in North Carolina, some of whom are still residents in the area,” Davis’ research said.

Samuel Gerock’s father, Johann Siegfried Gerock, had been a prominent Lutheran minister in Germany. The church sent him to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and New York, where he was named bishop.

Johann Gerock ended up in Baltimore, where he took charge of Zion Lutheran Church. He is buried in that Baltimore churchyard with his wife, Barbara, and one of their sons, Henry.

Samuel Gerock was born in 1754 in Lancaster. He died Sept. 8, 1833, at his son Charles’ home at age 80. Records note his burial in Cedar Grove. Much of what is known about Samuel Gerock’s service in the Continental Army was gleaned from his application for a pension for that service in 1833.

Sides will tell you she has a funny, if somewhat uncomfortable, story about digging around in the wrong spot for Samuel’s grave on the day she and husband Terry found it in New Bern.

During their other hunts into ancestral connections in eastern North Carolina, they also tracked down a significant Gerock family plot in Maysville.

“Terry and I have been down there twice to clean those stones,” Penny says.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.