Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
The local chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution recently donated $200 to the Upper Cartoogechaye Development Club for repairs on historic Gillespie Chapel. Sherry Newton, treasurer of the Battle of Sugartown Chapter, so named for an 18th century battle that occurred in what is now Cullowhee, said DAR supports many causes other than those related to the American Revolution – for which the organization is named.
In fact, the local DAR chapter learned of the 1870s-built Gillespie Chapel’s needs after reading an article in the May 8th edition of The Macon County News.
“We’re a vibrant organization,” said Newton, “made up of many young people … all ages. And Gillespie Chapel was a perfect fit for us because DAR is about preserving history.”
Newton, who has lived in Franklin for five years with her husband, Scott, became involved in DAR for three main reasons: 1) she is a veteran of the U.S. Army; 2) her father was a member of Sons of the Revolution; and, 3) she has traced her father’s family – from North and South Carolina – back to their involvement in the American Revolution.
“My family, and being involved in this organization, really instilled in me a sense of history … who I am and where I came from,” she said. “We can learn so much from history. Plus, it’s important to preserve history and historic structures.”
DAR was founded in 1890 and became incorporated by an Act of Congress in 1896. There are 185,000 members and 3,000 chapters throughout the United States. Though the motto is “God, Home, and Country,” any woman 18 years or older, regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background, who can prove lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution, is eligible to become a member.
The Battle of Sugartown Chapter has around 65 members, with a core group of about 30 active. During the year, the chapter supports the three tenets of DAR, which are education, patriotism, and historical preservation, by:
– Recognizing outstanding JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps) students in local schools;
– Honoring veterans during the annual Smoky Mountains Veteran Stand Down event;
– Participating in schools by volunteering as mentors and readers;
– Participating in flag ceremonies;
– Presenting interpretive history in schools by wearing authentic period clothing during Constitution Week each September (this year September 17-23);
– Supporting other local need programs such as REACH, Care-Net, and Read-To-Me, through donations and special collections; and, much more.
One of their annual large events is Smoky Mountains Veteran Stand Down for Veterans in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain counties, which is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 10, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Macon County Community Facilities Building. Newton explained that DAR volunteers answer questions and help veterans maneuver through the “maze” of vendors and opportunities provided to them.
“The event’s host, Macon County Department of Veterans Services, provides a variety of information, services, and personal items to veterans in need,” said Newton. “The Smoky Mountains Stand Down will offer haircuts, military surplus gear, Division of Workforce Solutions N.C. Works Career Centers, Veterans Benefit Administration, local education services, legal services, housing support, medical and mental health services, Veterans Service Officers, support services for veteran families, food, and fellowship. We will be providing socks, toiletry items, gloves, and small personal items along with a thank you card for their service to our country.”
Another important annual focus is Constitution Week and Constitution Day, this year Tuesday, Sept. 17. “One member will dress as Martha Washington and present a skit to a class,” said Newton. “We also hand out pocket U.S. Constitutions to high school freshmen and bookmarks will be available at the library. We will have a display at the Macon County Library and the Macon County Historical Society Museum.”
One local chapter DAR member, Caroline Kimsey, has two generations of women involved, a sister and two granddaughters, as well as “a great granddaughter in the wings waiting to join,” said Newton. Kimsey’s ancestor who was a Revolutionary War Patriot was William Addington (1759 – 1845); he is buried in Franklin Methodist Church Cemetery. Six descendants of William Addington are members in the Battle of Sugartown Chapter, according to Newton.
“There is a sense of belonging with DAR,” said Newton. “It’s about being involved in something bigger … giving back. And there is just so much history here. I love it!”
The local chapter of DAR holds luncheon meetings on the second Monday of the month, March through December. For more information about DAR, contact Margie Keener at (828)524-2673 or visit www.ncdar.org.