By Linda Emley
On Saturday afternoon, Feb. 20, 1909, 17 women gathered at the Richmond Hotel and organized the Allen-Morton-Watkins chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. DAR is an organization of women that are descended from an ancestor who helped achieve independence for the United States of America in the Revolutionary War.
The local chapter received its charter on March 16, 1910. One of the founding women was a woman who many of us remember, Miss Sue Darneal. She was a member of DAR for 69 years and lived in Richmond until she died in 1978.
Miss Louise Darneal was Miss Sue’s sister. I have been told many stories about the “Darneal Sisters,” so we will have a story about them in a later chapter. Miss Louise was also a member of DAR and was working on the 1973 Ray County History Book only hours before she died in 1973.
Louise Darneal will always be near and dear to my heart because she was one of the founding members of the Ray County Historical Society. She never lived to see our museum grow to be the wonderful museum it is today, but I am sure she would be proud of all the hard work that has shaped it over the years.
The first national DAR chapter was founded in 1890 by four women who had fathers or grandfathers who were patriots of the American Revolution. Since its founding in 1890, DAR has admitted more than 800,000 members.
There are a variety of ways that patriots helped achieve freedom. Your ancestor could be a signer of the Declaration of Independence or a soldier that actually fought in a battle for freedom. But there are other ways of serving your country, such as donating goods or services as a doctor, nurse, minister or a store merchant.
One of my favorite acceptable categories for being a patriot is “Participant of the Boston Tea Party.” I would be happy to claim that one of my forefathers was there for the Boston Tea Party, but I will settle for my patriot Thomas Turner, who served in North Carolina. He was born on Aug. 27, 1734 in Virginia and died on July 1, 1822 in Kentucky. It’s 10 generations from my sons to Thomas Turner.
During the first year of organization, our DAR group voted to award a medal to an eighth grade student who made the highest grade in U.S. history. In 1916, this award was changed to a monetary award instead of a medal. It was originally chosen to be awarded to an eighth grade student when all schools had an eighth grade graduation. The chapter still presents this award annually and also gives an award to a Richmond student who is outstanding in vocal or instrumental music.
A member of the senior class at each of the five area high schools in our county is chosen for the “DAR Good Citizen” award. They are also given a monetary award.
If you would like to learn more about DAR, a copy of the DAR magazine American Spirit is given to the Ray County Public Library each year by our local DAR chapter. It can be checked out from the library.
Traditionally, as each DAR “daughter” passes, a marker is placed at her grave with the permission of the family. We also invite the family to one of our meetings to be present as we honor our departed member.
So who were Allen, Morton and Watkins that our local chapter is named after? They were three Revolutionary soldiers who were early Ray County pioneers: Colonel Charles Allen, Joseph Morton and Colonel William Watkins. Joseph Morton was a relative of the first DAR regent, Mrs. Ella Morton Child.
There is another local Watkins with DAR ties. Marie Watkins Oliver was born in Ray County on Jan. 11, 1854. She married Robert Oliver and moved to Cape Girardeau, where her husband had a law firm. Marie joined the Cape Girardeau DAR chapter in 1908. DAR appointed Marie as chairperson of the committee to research and design a flag for Missouri. Thanks to this DAR request, our Missouri Flag was designed by a Ray County girl, Marie Watkins Oliver.
Since this is women’s group, two other organizations were formed for men and children. The men’s group is called SAR, Sons of the American Revolution. William Osborn McDowell organized SAR in New York on April 30, 1889. This was the centennial for the inauguration of George Washington as the first U.S President in 1789.
SAR member No. 1 was McDowell, who helped organize DAR on July 29, 1890. CAR, the Children of the American Revolution was formed in 1895. It’s for boys and girls under the age of 22. At one time, there were local CAR and SAR chapters, but they are no longer active.
There is at least one Revolutionary War Soldier buried in Ray County. Abraham Hill is buried in the Hill Cemetery that is located north of Richmond on E.112th St. His tombstone says, “ABRAM HILL, CT. MIL, REV. WAR.” I think this is his original tombstone, but it does not have any dates on it. The local D.A.R. placed a stone next to his grave that gives the dates of 1760 and 1843. Abraham’s D.A.R. patriot record shows his birth as July, 24, 1759 in New Jersey. and his death record as May 26, 1843 in Richmond, Mo.
There is a list of Revolutionary Soldiers buried in Missouri, and it says that “James Wells resided with in son-in-law, James Clevenger in 1840 and died Aug. 17, 1855, aged 92 and was buried in New Garden Cemetery, Ray County.”
This info was obtained from the Probate Judge records of Ray County. I found a James Wells living with David Wells in Clay County on the 1840 Missouri Census of Pensioners. There are 12 James Wells listed in the D.A.R. ancestry database, but none of them are listed in Ray County, so we are still looking for more details about James Wells and a few other possible Revolutionary soldiers that may be buried in Ray County.
Besides all 50 states, there are DAR chapters in Australia, Austria, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Spain and the United Kingdom. Many famous women have been members. Some of the DAR members of the past were Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Grandma Moses, Ginger Rogers and Lillian Gish.
You might find a few surprises in the current list of DAR members. We have former first ladies, Laura Bush and Rosalynn Carter. Others are Elizabeth Dole, Janet Reno and actress Bo Derek. So the next time someone asks you what do Laura Bush and Bo Derek have in common, you can reply, “Both are members of DAR.”
Somehow I can’t see all these women sitting down to have tea with Bo Derek, but that is the nice part about DAR. All women are welcome and sometimes the only thing we all have in common is a patriotic person that helped make us “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Write Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org