Homage to history

By Carol Rolf

The Daughters of the American Revolution, or DAR as it is often called, is an ever-changing, growing, nonprofit and nonpolitical organization comprised of women volunteers dedicated to service.

The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) was founded in 1890 in Washington, D.C., by women who wished to express their patriotic feelings. Since then, membership has grown to more than 1 million women across the U.S. and in several foreign countries. Members in Arkansas now number approximately 2,100 in 39 chapters, with 13 of those chapters in Central Arkansas.

“NSDAR is one of the world’s largest women’s service organizations,” said State Regent Gale Markley of Jonesboro. “DAR members come from a variety of backgrounds and interests, but all share a common bond of having an ancestor who helped contribute to securing the independence of the United States of America. 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 join.

“For more than a century, NSDAR members have dedicated themselves to historical preservation, promotion of education and encouragement of patriotic endeavor,” Markley said. “These goals are as relevant in today’s society as they were when the organization was founded.”

TOP LEFT: Conway Polly Chapter member Sharon Whitledge gives information about the America 250! program to celebrate the upcoming 250th birthday of the United States to Ty Gowen at Beebe Elementary School’s Math and Literacy Fair. TOP RIGHT: Little Red River Chapter Regent Christina McGaughey (from left) delivers Christmas gifts for veterans of Cleburne, White, Faulkner and Van Buren counties to Destiny Erisman, Cleburne County veterans service officer in Heber Springs. BOTTOM: Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Provincia De La Sal Chapter in Benton are Judy Robins (from left), Susan Read, Diane Daniel and Jackie Patton, all members of the Akansa Chapter in Hot Springs Village.

Markley said the Arkansas State Society DAR (ASDAR) was organized in 1893, with the Little Rock Chapter being the first. “Our members volunteered over 112,000 hours in their communities last year,” she said. “They worked to clean headstones in historic cemeteries and scanned and transcribed hundreds of old documents to preserve history. Arkansas Daughters support our schools by going into classrooms to read to children, present programs, tutor and donate thousands of dollars in scholarships annually.”

Members statewide participate in the veteran’s Christmas shoebox gift program, which originated in Central Arkansas. The biggest concentration of gifts is distributed at Veterans Administration (VA) clinics and to the VA hospital and home in North Little Rock.

The Little Rock-Centennial Chapter is the largest in the area, with 115 members. This chapter combines the original Little Rock Chapter, chartered in 1894 with 12 members, with the Centennial Chapter, founded as a group “for younger women” in 1919, with 13 charter members. The two chapters had begun to see a decline in membership by the 1990s, so they merged, and the Little Rock-Centennial Chapter was chartered in 1999. “The new chapter would not have survived without strong leadership,” said Nicci Tiner, chapter regent. “We have embraced technology and continued to grow. We celebrated our 130th anniversary in October 2023. Today’s DAR woman is a wife, mother, career woman and a multi-tasker.”

Natalie Moix (from left), Charlotte Moix (in blue) and Ellen Cook, associate member of the Cadron Post Chapter DAR, present a program on the Boston Tea Party.

‘Chapter members and guests gathered to celebrate … the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. With teacups in hand and hearts full of patriotism, attendees honored the iconic act of rebellion that helped shape the course of our nation’s history.’ — Lynn Tanguay, Cadron Post Chapter Regent

The General William Lewis Chapter in Morrilton is the smallest DAR chapter in this area, with 22 members. The chapter was chartered in 1969. “As we continue to make strides in education and veterans projects, we recognize the need to expand our impact,” said Leeann Mobley, chapter regent. “We are actively seeking like-minded, passionate women who share our vision and are eager to contribute to the betterment of our community.”

The chapter is named for Gen. William Lewis, who moved to the Arkansas Territory in 1819 with his wife and settled at the little settlement of Pecannerie. “Old Lewisburg on the Arkansas River was named for either Gen. Lewis or his daughter, Harriett, who married Dr. Nimrod Menifee, the great dueling surgeon of early days,” Mobley said. “Gen. Lewis died Jan. 17, 1825, and was buried in Little Rock. His great-granddaughter, Mary House, became a charter member of our chapter.”

The Polly Conway Chapter in Beebe is the newest chapter, chartered in 2021 with 14 members. It has grown to 24 members. “We are a small but active chapter in the 501 area,” said Jayne Spears, chapter regent. “Activities include service through Wreaths Across America and the shoebox program. We also focus on education by participating in a math and literacy fair at Beebe Elementary School and sponsoring a Good Citizen Award at the high school. The chapter has also sponsored a booth at the local Fallen Blackbird Festival.

“Polly Conway Chapter, centered in Beebe and Cabot, is a fun group,” Spears said. “We take field trips, enjoy lunch together after each meeting and share insights through our book club, all while following the DAR motto of God, Home and Country.”

North Little Rock Mayor Terry Hartwick signs a Constitution Week Proclamation for Prudence Hall DAR chapter members Claire Haun (from left), Lauretta Marr and Jacque Armstrong.

NSDAR also encourages chapters to observe commemorative events during the year as milestone events for members to remember through programs and/or events.

The Cadron Post Chapter in Conway, organized in 1979, recently observed such an event with a program. “Chapter members and guests gathered to celebrate … the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party,” said Lynn Tanguay, chapter regent. “With teacups in hand and hearts full of patriotism, attendees honored the iconic act of rebellion that helped shape the course of our nation’s history.

“But why an event to commemorate the Boston Tea Party? The Boston Tea Party, which took place Dec. 16, 1773, was a pivotal moment in the lead-up to the American Revolutionary War,” Tanguay said. “Frustrated by unjust taxation and lack of representation in the British Parliament, American colonists took matters into their own hands by dumping 342 chests of British tea into Boston Harbor. This act of defiance not only symbolized resistance against tyranny but also ignited the flames of revolution that ultimately led to the birth of a new nation.

“Fast-forward 250 years, and the Cadron Post chapter saw fit to pay homage to this historic event in a manner befitting its significance … through the timeless tradition of a tea party,” Tanguay said. “Associate member Ellen Cook presented a program and attendees were able to sample five colonial teas. By gathering over tea and delicious treats, attendees were able to connect with the spirit of the past while honoring the sacrifices and bravery of those who came before us.” 

Arkansas DAR chapters in the 501 area include Akansa in Hot Springs Village; Cadron Post, Conway; Frederick Van Patten, Searcy; General William Lewis, Morrilton; Gilbert Marshall, Little Rock; Hot Springs of Arkansas, Hot Springs; John Percifull, Hot Springs; Little Red River, Heber Springs; Little Rock-Centennial, Little Rock; Major Jacob Gray, Jacksonville; Polly Conway, Beebe; Provincia De La Sal, Benton; and Prudence Hall, North Little Rock. For more information, visit arkansas-dar.org.