Pioneer Struggles: Preserving history through local DAR and SAR chapters

Pioneer Struggles #19

Kewanee chapter tour guides for DAR house over labor day. (L-R) Tom and Linda Ashby, Registrar Gail Ripka and Dick and Jani Wells.

I heard stories of my great, great grandmother coming to Annawan in the 1840′s by covered wagon at age seven. She married an Englishman in 1864, raised a family and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1914. I have the newspaper clipping.

What was life like? Well, everything was a struggle and the Bureau County Republican and Kewanee Star Courier allowed me to share my answers with their readers. This is #19 in a 20 part series called “Pioneer Struggles”.

Topics have been Climate #1, Housing #4, Religion #8, Food, Fiber & Fuel #10, Education #16 and personal stories sprinkled in from research and diaries. I have given programs to area Kiwanis, Rotaries and libraries in Bureau and Henry Counties.

This is my tiny way to preserve history for my generation. During this research I have confirmed my wife’s sixth great grandfather served with the 1st New Hampshire Militia at Bunker Hill and my fifth great grandfather served with the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment at Valley Forge.

Now, we are the newest members of the DAR-SAR. (Daughters of the American Revolution and Sons of the American Revolution). The Princeton and Kewanee DAR’s were established in the 1890s with a stated objective of historical preservation, education promotion and patriotic endeavors. Our history is in good hands.

The Princeton DAR was established on April 13, 1896, and the chapter is going strong 127 years later. We had an opportunity to share a Bunker Hill presentation after their September meeting.

The ladies covered topics from a float in the Homestead Parade, conservation, confirming Freedom House support to identifying key women to head up the ‘America 250′ celebration in two years. Their goal is 10 new members in the next two years.

Two have been approved and four more are in the picky state and national approval process. Elizabeth Hauger, Vice Regent, was excited to report a 1770s family diary had been located.

Many of the DAR members are tour guides for the local Lovejoy House and some of their meetings are held there. Agnes Ross, former 2002 Kewanee Regent, even suggested “inter-club” activities with the Kewanee folks. They are in beginning discussions. She has been an active DAR member for 25 years.

The Bunker Hill program was next and then refreshments. It was rewarding how they have clear vision of how to celebrate our country’s history and see the obvious fellowship and bonding that keeps the group energized and focused.

Princeton Dar Leadership: (Front Row L-R) Evalynn Blanco, Agnes Ross, (Back Row L-R) Jan Whitlock, Louis Peterson, Juanita Tarrence and Regent Nancy Gartner.

The Kewanee DAR is just a youngster, being a mere 125 years old. They were established on Jan. 3, 1898. The Kewanee DAR has always been a visible and respected service organization and six years later, the 1854 Potter house was given to the ladies for their meetings and activities.

It may not have been much of a gift as, although historic, it needed to be moved from downtown Kewanee (where Good’s Furniture is now), restored and remodeled to fit the DAR needs. They raised money and accomplished it all.

During WWI, the home served as a Red Cross headquarters center for donations and a collection point for overseas packages. Today the home continues to serve as a meeting place and for other activities.

Last year, the home celebrated 125 years with a luncheon with DAR state representatives in attendance. They have funded children’s history books for the library, supported wheelchair ramps for the needy and focused on local history such as a recent program as Ryan’s Round Barn.

Our history is safe with these 2 groups.

Both Princeton and Kewanee DAR chapters have new leadership, post Covid. Nancy Gartner, Princeton had her first chapter meeting, as Regent in September.

She is a 30-year, retired Registered Nurse from Perry Memorial Hospital and has been a DAR member since 2018.

Betsy Tocha, Kewanee also had her first meeting and is a 32-year retired local school teacher. She has been a member since 2017.

Many couples, like my wife and I, are both members of DAR and SAR Chapters. Such is the case with Tom and Linda Ashby, Bradford. Tom is a 20-year member of the a Peoria SAR chapter and is the registrar. The organizations use the same database for patriot confirmation.

He received a National Award for registering over 100 new members. One must document at least eight generations of direct family relationship, down to the 5th great-grandparents. A registrar will provide guidance, but it is up to the applicant to do the work.

For more information on DAR, contact Kewanee Registrar Gail Ripka at 309-312-1716 or the Princeton Regent Nancy Gartner at 815-878-0124.

For the men, contact Tom Ashby at 309-897-8483.

I have been working on my genealogy for 15 years, even spending time with my fourth cousins in England a few years ago. With Tom’s help, I recently confirmed my fifth great grandfather was Captain Nathan V. Ellis who served with the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment during the Revolution.

I visited his Ohio grave in June, thanked him for his service and rendered a crisp hand salute. Each one of us has 256, sixth great-grandparents. Hidden in your family history might be a Revolutionary War patriot.

• Lt. Col. Dick Wells lives on the Great Sauk Trail, Neponset. He has an Economics Degree, an MBA and a Master’s Degree in Military History and has been recently accepted in the SAR. His fifth great-grandfather served as a Captain in the Revolutionary War. This is the 19th story in a series called Pioneer Struggles.

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