Wilton woman's family search leads her to Revolutionary War ancestor

WILTON — Debbie Garber drove past Comstock Cemetery many times before she learned one of her ancestors was buried there.

Samuel Middlebrook was a Norwalk businessman in the 18th century and supporter of the American Revolution. Born in 1743, he supported the war by serving on the Committee to Care for Soldiers’ Families and the Committee on Enlistments.

A member of the Drum Hill chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Garber discovered Middlebrook is her fifth-great-grandfather on her father’s mother’s side.

“Membership in the DAR is open to any woman 18 or older, who can prove lineal descent from an ancestor who aided in achieving American independence,” Garber said on Wednesday, standing by Middlebrook’s tombstone in the cemetery at the corner of Ridgefield Road and Signal Hill Road.

Garber started researching her family history 10 years ago, not knowing there were Revolutionary War patriots in her family tree. As she worked back through the generations, she found she indeed descended from several men who served during the war.

“It was a happy discovery,” she said, of the information she found in 2012. The next year, she joined a DAR chapter in Florida where she spent a good deal of the year.

“I thought, gosh, I had ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War,” she said.

Although Middlebrook did not serve as a soldier, his work is considered aiding the cause of independence.

Garber said she did some of her research by consulting the DAR database, which includes a list of individuals the organization recognizes as having served. An ancestor she was looking for showed up, although it was not Middlebrook.

That was Isaac Olmstead, of Redding, who served as a private in the militia.

Along with death records, family registers, church records and old civil records, Garber found information in Wilton Library’s History Room — that’s where she found information on Middlebrook.

While he was not in the DAR registry, he came from a family where there were five brothers who served, and that’s where she made the connection.

Along with the fact he was a leading provisions merchant of Norwalk, Garber knows Middlebrook and his wife Mary had 10 children, eight of whom are buried in Comstock Cemetery. Middlebrook lived on Ridgefield Road and died in 1811.

The inscription on his tombstone is very worn but reads, in part: Samuel Middlebrook, died Aug. 21, 1811, age 67 years. There may be additional writing on the stone, Garber said, but if so, it is too difficult to read.

She is also related to a man named Joseph Monroe, also from the area.

“I was surprised to have so many,” she said of the patriots in her family. “It was a pleasant surprise.”

The fact that one of her ancestors is buried in the town where she lives is even more meaningful, she said.

“Finding that out is a sense of connection,” she said. “It makes the cemetery very personal, the town very personal, the history very personal.”

When Garber moved back to Wilton full time last year, she joined the Drum Hill chapter of the DAR, attracted by its focus on historic preservation, education, and patriotism.

“The local chapters are very grassroots,” she said. “The projects they support are those developed by the chapter.” Here, she said, the focus is on preserving the cemetery, scholarships for students, and supporting veterans’ homes. The chapter joined with the Wilton Land Conservation Trust in organizing a cleanup of the Comstock Cemetery earlier this month, which is the final resting place of seven Revolutionary War patriots. There are about 200 people buried in the cemetery that was active from 1782 until 1850.