The History of the D.A.R.
Updated: Mar 25, 2019
A look at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in Westerly, RI
Written by Donna Brandelli
What is DAR?
The Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) was founded in New York City in April 1889 and in April 1890 voted to officially exclude women from its membership. This led to editorials in the Washington Post; Mary Smith Lockwood posted in protest to the SAR’s decision to exclude women. She suggested that women’s contributions to the war effort were being ignored. William McDowell of the SAR replied to Mary Lockwood’s editorial with one of his own, suggesting that interested woman should create their own patriotic organization. He also later admonished those that voted against the women acknowledging those men had made a monumental mistake that they may later regret. Not to be deterred, the woman completed the task in a matter of months, when married women couldn’t legally own property in their own right and didn’t have the right to vote in elections. Never underestimate the tenacity and strength of a woman when she has her mind committed to make something happen.
The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) was founded on 11 October 1890 when eighteen woman and four men met in Washington, D.C. at the Strathmore Arms hotel, after the SAR rejected women in their membership. They included “suffragists, socialites, single women with office jobs, wives of prominent men, and widows who supported their families as teachers and businesswomen. They came from modest and privileged backgrounds….” (Emily McMackin, DAR, 2015). On the sixth anniversary of the founding of the NSDAR, 11 October 1896, the society was incorporated by an Act of Congress. The basic objectives of the organization are simple: Historic Preservation, Education, and Patriotism.
DAR is more than a lineage society
The same objectives set forth during the founding in 1890 remain the same: “…to perpetuate the memory and spirit of the men and women who achieved American Independence; to promote the importance and enlighten and increase knowledge of the public, and; to cherish, maintain, and extend institutions of American freedom, foster true patriotism and love of country and aid all mankind in securing liberty.” (NSDAR website, 2018). Since the founding of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), more than 950,000 members have been admitted. The motto of the DAR is also simple: God, Home, and Country. Currently there are approximately 185,000 members and 3000 chapters in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and internationally.
These members contribute millions of volunteer hours in projects helping the Salvation Army, the veterans in United States and overseas, creating pollinator gardens to strengthen and encourage the bee population, helping in graveyard cleanups, donating money, supplies, and time to schools, historical societies, homeless shelters, children’s organizations and so many more. The DAR has managed essay contests and citizenship programs throughout local schools, encouraging the research by middle and high school students into various historical and patriotic topics and rewarding them for their endeavors. Citizens are recognized for outstanding contributions to the community. Grants are given for restoration of historical sites and to teachers for various projects not funded in the traditional way.
As of August 2018, the women of the Phebe Greene Ward (PGW) chapter in Westerly, have donated more than 1900 hours of time. The NSDAR members have donated over 1.3 million hours. The DAR’s “Service to America” committee was specifically created to capture the amount of volunteer service provided by organization members. The committee encourages community service of all types by all members as a means of honoring our heritage. The goal of 12.5 million volunteer hours in honor of the 125th anniversary as an organization has already been accomplished. The new goal is to contribute 19 million hours in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frances Willard, and Alice S. Paul were not only dedicated DAR members, but also fought hard in the woman’s suffrage movement.
Phebe Greene Ward DAR Chapter in Westerly
In Westerly, the Phebe Greene Ward (PGW) chapter was founded on 12 November 1896 with fifteen charter members, just one short month after Congress officially incorporated the organization. The original members were: Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Thayer Allen, Mrs. Elizabeth R. Chester, Mrs. Sarah F. Lewis Barbour, Miss Mary Elizabeth Pendleton, Miss Caroline M. Crandall, Mrs. Susan Montgomery Higgins Johnson, Mrs. Bethena Arabella Spencer Pendleton, Miss Maybell Pendleton Hart, Miss Lillian M. Johnson, Mrs. Charlotte Randall, Mrs. Eliza B. Wilcox, Mrs. Abby J. B. Burdick, Mrs. Harriet H. Collins, Mrs. Abby C. H. Griffins, and Mrs. Mary A. Cory.
The first officers of PGW were Mrs. Mary E. Allen, Regent (wife of then Lt. Governor of R.I.); Mrs. Bethena Pendleton, Vice-Regent; Miss Mary E. Pendleton, Secretary; Miss Harriet H. Collins, Registrar; Mrs. Elizabeth R. Chester, Treasurer; and Mrs. Charlotte Randall, Historian (American Monthly Magazine, DAR, Feb. 1897, pp. 165-166). The chapter motto is: “Unbi libertas, ibi patria” which
translates to “Where liberty dwells, there is my country.” The chapter colors are red and white and were used quite often in decorating for meetings at individual homes and towns and business locations around the R.I. and CT area.
The first State Regent was Miss Mary Anne Greene. Mrs. Nathan F. Dixon, a charter member of the NSDAR whose husband was the Hon. Nathan F. Dixon, a former U.S Senator from Westerly, was made an honorary member of the PGW chapter. The chapter was names for Phebe Greene, the eldest daughter of Governor William Greene (1778-1786) and the granddaughter of Governor William Greene, Sr., who was governor three times between 1743-1758.
During the initial charter meeting at Miss Pendleton’s home, “[a] banquet was served using old colonial silver. Sugar was served with tongs more than 100 years old. An ‘ancient’ tea pot and china were used as was cut glass receptacles” and ribbons floated from the chandelier while scarves of red and white decorated the tables (DAR scrapbook, Westerly Public Library, 1896). It was during the charter meeting , that it was suggested by former Senator Nathan F. Dixon of Westerly to have the women of the DAR place a plaque with suitable inscriptions on the Pawcatuck Bridge to remind people of the town of the importance of the Indian ford used during colonial times.
The plaque was placed at the approximate location of the ford or Indian trail called
“Kitchamaug” or the wading place. It was used until the first bridge was built at the boundary between Rhode Island and Connecticut in 1712. The bronze marker was placed on the balustrade of the bridge by the woman of PGW.
The DAR of 1896 was much more formal than it is today. While certain traditions are still upheld, today’s DAR is growing with the times. One cannot help but reminisce about the formality of the old DAR and how the woman came together to form this chapter and the history that they had witnessed as this chapter, now 122 years old, grew from fifteen members to nearly one-hundred. Currently, the Westerly chapter comprises about 25% of the entire state’s DAR membership.
Phebe Greene Ward’s Westerly Connections
Phebe Greene Ward, the chapter’s namesake, married her cousin (this was not unusual through the 1800s) and Westerly native, Samuel “Sammy” Ward in 1778 while he was on leave from military duties at Valley Forge where
he served with General George Washington. He was the second son of R. I Governor Samuel Ward of Westerly. She was the daughter of R.I. Governor William Greene and Catherine Ray. “Sammy” was born 17 November 1756 in Westerly. He graduated from Brown University, then known as Rhode Island College, in 1771 at the age of fifteen. He began his military career at the age of eighteen in May 1775 as a Captain in the Army of Observation. He participated in the attack on Quebec, Canada with Benedict Arnold and under the command of his brother-in-law, Lt. Colonel Christopher Greene, who was married to Samuel's sister, Catherine Ward.
Sammy was taken prisoner by the British and released in August 1776. He was eventually promoted to Major then Lt. Colonel in the First Rhode Island Infantry. He and Lt. Col. Christopher Greene recruited African-American men for a new Rhode Island regiment during the summer of 1778. These men played an instrumental military role in the battle on Aquidneck in August 1778. (Ward Family Papers, RI Historical Society, 2018). Phebe and Samuel’s granddaughter was Julia Ward Howe, the writer of The Battle Hymn of the Republic (February 1862), an author of many articles, and a regent in another chapter of the DAR (Representative Woman of New England, 1904, pp 400-401).
Samuel Ward (the senior) was Governor of R.I. and was born in Newport in 1725. He was the son of R.I. Governor Richard Ward. When he married Ann Ray of Block Island, her father left her a dowry which consisted of 600 acres of farmland in Westerly. His farmhouse stood where Langworthy winery now
stands on Shore Road. He was one of the founders of Brown University, two time governor, Chief Justice of Rhode Island and twice elected to the Continental Congress and fought in the Revolutionary War. Samuel Ward was an influential man at the Continental Congress and had he not died of smallpox three months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, he would have signed that historic document. Westerly High School, originally called Ward High School, was named in honor of Samuel Ward. He died in Philadelphia and was later removed to Newport’s Common Burial Ground (WesterlyLife.com, 2018). It is from this family legacy of service to the State of Rhode
Island and the country that the Phebe Greene Ward chapter of DAR in Westerly, derived her name.
The PGW charter was received in February 1897. “The frame for the charter was made of oak from the old homestead of Phebe Greene Ward….” Mrs. Allen, on her exit as regent, presented the chapter with a gavel and block, bound in silver. The block was made of oak from her home, noted for revolutionary associations as well as from the homes of Phebe Greene Ward and Joshua Babcock, who was a major general of militia in the Revolution. Joshua Babcock entertained Lafayette and was a personal friend of Benjamin Franklin, who put the lightning rods on the house that stood
where Miss Julia Smith once resided. The gavel was made from wood from Sabin Tavern in Providence, where the plot was formed for the destruction of the British schooner Gaspee. The handle is composed of strips of wood from Valley Forge, alternated with bands of silver, engraved with the chapter motto in Latin, Sabin Tavern and Valley Forge. (DAR, p. 1213).
During the introductory years, the PGW charter donated to Pembroke Hall, the women’s annex of Brown University. They hosted a “Patriotic Tea” in which the proceeds were given to various organizations. They donated to the Sanitary Commission in making garments and sending supplies to hospitals and camps, during the Spanish-American War, the chapter became a charter member to the George Washington Memorial Association and donated money to the Lafayette Memorial in Paris. They assisted the SAR in marking the graves of Revolutionary War soldiers and donated the DAR magazine publication to the Westerly Library (DAR, American Monthly Magazine, June 19--, p. 1211-1213).
Many Westerly citizens signed the Test Act of 1776, who pledged themselves to the cause of the colonies: “We, the subscribers, do solemnly and sincerely declare that we believe the war, resistance and opposition in which the United States colonies are now engaged against the fleets and armies of Great Britain…we will heartily assist in the defense of the United Colonies.”
The following Westerly citizens signed the Test Act in support of the United Colonies:
Samuel Pendleton James Sheffield Jesse Babcock Stephen Rathbun
Joseph Noyes Thomas Ross Simeon Burdick Peter State
Wm. Braleton William Hiscox Wm. Vincent Ezekiel Gavit
Joseph Clarke, Jr. Joseph Hiscox Gideon Frazier Jonathan Foster
Edward Saunders David Saunders John Lewis Joseph Gavit
David Maxon Champlin Lamphere Stephen Saunders John Allen
Silas Greenman Samuel Bliven Oliver Gavit, Jr. Isaac Peckham, Jr.
James Babcock, Jr. Wm. Sweet Peckham Ichabod Babcock Nathan Hiscox
Daniel Bliven George Stillman, Jr. Samuel Allen Joshua Vose
John Stillman John Gavit Ebenezer Rathbun Thomas Hull
John Sisson Charles Greene Elias Lewis Charles Saunders
Isaac Ross Joseph Pendleton Samuel Champlin Elkanah Babcock
John Greene Joseph Peckham Samuel Sheffield Thomas Clarke
William Grandall [sic] Joseph Stillman Phineas Clarke Paul Wilcox Rathbun
James Saunders Stephen Lewis Samuel Brown Cornelius Stetson
Matthew Hern Benjamin Hull Thomas Noyes Benjamin Crandall
Isaac Peckham William Bliven Stephen Saunders, Jr. Samuel Pendleton
Stephen Pecham Joseph Stillman, Jr. Richard Berry Sanford Noyes
Tony [sic] Maxon [sic] Henry Crandall John Salter Samuel Thompson
Joseph Maxon Phineas Crandall John Bliven, Jr. Samuel Brand
Clarke Stillman George Potter Daniel Maxon Sanford Noyes, Jr.
Jonathan Sisson Lodowick Kenyon Peleg Pendleton Samuel Brand, Jr.
Asa Maxon Thomas Brand, Jr. Amos Pendleton George Forster
Valentine Wilcox Abel Larkin Nathan Pendleton Ethan Clarke
James Crandall Edward Bliven Hezekiah Saunders Jonathan Foster, Jr.
Abram Perkins Samuel West Benjamin Pendleton Philip Driskill
Arnold Clarke William Greene Moses Larkin John Tefft
John Pendleton Samuel Berry Nathan Saunders Maxon Burdick
John Stillman, Jr. Joseph Saunders Joseph Babcock, Jr. Oliver Lewis
Peleg Saunders Amos Maxon James Chesebrough Nathan Babcock
Joshua Thompson Joseph Noyes, Jr. William Chapman Sylvester Crumb
Job Bennet Joseph Lewis Thomas Edwards William Clarke
Samuel Babcock, Jr. John Peckham Nathan Bliven William West
Christr Babcock, Jr. Elisha Sisson Theodaty Hall Joseph Davis
Joseph Crandall Sumner Chapman Plumb Chapman Edward Saunders, Jr.
Ezekiel Gavit, Jr.
(American Monthly Magazine, DAR, Feb. 1906, pp. 124-126). Not everyone may have ultimately fought in the war, but may have shown their support by giving food, clothing, shelter or money to the cause.
If you see your ancestor’s name among these citizens or the charter members of the PGW charter, you may be eligible to join the DAR if you are woman who is at least 18 years old. Membership requires that you have a direct line ancestor that either fought in the Revolutionary War or provided direct support for the war effort. If you are interested in joining, the DAR would love to have you join their group of strong women dedicated to serving their community and honoring the service of the patriots that fought for American Independence. Please check out the NSDAR’s website at https://www.dar.org/national-society/become-member .