Researcher seeks to clarify on museum exhibit

Published 1:06 am Sunday, May 1, 2022

As to the letter to the Editor from Miss Alyssa Ratliff, appearing in the April 20, 2022 edition of the Ironton Tribune, I wish to set the record straight regarding my research on Capt. Dean Gilfillan and Capt. Nathan Dean.

The Daughters of the American Revolution is a national, nonprofit organization for women who are direct descendants of a person who was involved in the efforts towards independence. The primary goal of this nonprofit organization is to support patriotic education and preservation of past local history.

In October 2018, as a member of the Capt. James Lawrence Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, I personally presented a program entitled “Legacy of a Minuteman.” This program was intended to honor the first official member of our local DAR Chapter, Emma Dean Gilfillan. She was chosen for this distinction by virtue of her great-grandfather’s service to this country during the American Revolution. (Massachusets Minuteman Nathan Dean) The date for this presentation was purposefully selected to coincide with the upcoming celebration of the 100-year centennial of the Nov. 11, 1918 Armistice that ended World War I. This report was shared with my DAR sisters, Mrs. Wanda Spears, Mrs. Jean Butler, Mrs, Janice Heaberlin, Mrs. Donna Murdock, Mrs. Ann Lemley and the late Mrs. Stella Willis.

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It was at this point after I discovered Mrs. Emma Dean Gilfillan to be the mother of Capt. Dean Gilfillan that I began primarily to research the life of Capt. Dean Gilfillan. 

The local Gilfillan family had “died out.” There were no direct descendents to remember their accomplishments, so, in addition to my research, I sought out the opinions and resources from members of our community ALWAYS sharing my findings with ANYONE who I could interest, including Joe Unger from the William C. Lambert Museum, Jack Welz, Veteran’s Service Officer for Lawrence County (now retired), the late Marta Ramey, genealogist of the Hamner Room at Briggs Lawrence County Public  Library, Ohio University educator Bob Leith, Lou Pyles of the Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade Committee, coordinator of Lawrence County Wreaths Across America Laura Brown. Vietnam Veteran and recipient of the Silver Star Butch Huff, retired Ironton High School American History educator (and my husband) Phil Rice and finally the person who inspired my passion for preserving local and family history, my aunt, Mary Kay Rader from the Lawrence County Museum and Historical Society.

It was on April 2 that Mrs. Rader informed me of the Gilfillan exhibit and invited me to come see my work on display. I did attend the Open House at the Museum on April 3. At this event, I was introduced to Nicole Cox as a fellow Gilf‹llan researcher and she and I had a very brief but pleasant conversation in reference to our common interest in Capt. Dean Gilfillan. 

I congratulated her on her discovery of the Gilfillan Purple Heart and I did offer her to contact me if she needed any of my Gilfillan research. In a photograph that appeared in the April 4 edition of the Ashland Daily Independent you can see a small white box in the bottom right hand corner of the Gilfillan research board that does show my name as a research contributor. 

So, I am at a loss as to the reason Miss Ratliff chose to personally and publically attack me through her April 20 Letter to the Editor of the lronton Tribune by referring to me with the phrases “no one by that name (Patti Rice) contributed to the memorial exhibit” and “credit should not go to someone (Patti  Rice) who had nothing to do with the work or the Museum.”

Although I am not a member of the museum on paper, for many years I have supported it through attendance of it’s major events, the Spring Tea, the Holiday Tea, the Historic Cemetery Walk and Historic Church Walk. If you have not been to the museum before, now is an excellent time to do so. 

Start a new family tradition with a visit to the inspiring Gilfillan exhibit, a story of a small town American family whose fierce sense of patriotism and tradition of military service was passed down through the generations beginning with the first conflict of the American Revolution and ending with the final battle of World War I.

The Museum is the “Keeper” of our local history and I encourage you to attend the Gilfillan exhibit and all other events sponsored by the museum. Invite your friends and your families to go along. It is especially important for our children to be involved as they are the future “Keepers” of our local history and will ensure that stories such as that of Capt. Dean Gilfillan are never forgotten.

Patti Rice