- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Laughter filled the room at Lenny’s restaurant in California on a recent Saturday morning.
A group of women sat around a table, catching up, joking and enjoying each other’s conversation. Some wore sashes covered in a number of gold pins on their blouses, which represent ancestors who played roles in the American Revolution.
What brings these women together is their membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution a nonprofit organization comprised of women whose ancestors played a role in the war that allowed the 13 colonies to break free from British rule more than 230 years ago.
The women are part of the Major William Thomas Chapter of St. Mary’s City, founded in 1915. The chapter was named Major William Thomas in honor of Mrs. John Gray Lilburn, the organizing chapter regent, who was Thomas’ great-great granddaughter, according to the chapter’s website. Thomas was born in Charles County in 1714 and moved to St. Mary's around 1745. He represented St. Mary's County in the House of Delegates in 1761, was a delegate to the Revolutionary Convention, served as a member of the Committee on Safety for the County in 1774, was adjutant of the 25th Battalion Maryland Militia in 1776 and a representative from the county in the first House of Delegates of Maryland. He and his sons achieved distinction during the Revolutionary period. He died in 1795 and was buried in the family plot at Deep Falls.
The Major William Thomas Chapter of the DAR has its own history to celebrate. It will be marking its 100th anniversary in two years.
The women in the group strive to preserve and promote America’s history. They also raise money to support education, give scholarships to students and support veteran patients.
“It’s a way of furthering the history of the Revolutionary War, “ said Carolyn Billups of Mechanicsville, a 27-year member of the chapter.
“Well, I think it was a matter of pride really when I joined,” said Barbara Seeman of Avenue, who joined DAR in 1978. Seeman originally joined in New York, where she grew up, and then joined the Major William Thomas chapter in 1990.
The first ancestor Seeman found was Joab Holland, a farmer who lived in Massachusetts. He was part of the local militia. Eventually she was able to find six other relatives who played a part in American history.
“Normally when people find one if their family was here at that time there are going to be others that you find,” Seeman said.
Getting into the group can be a lengthy process. Members must trace their genealogical history back to an ancestor who was involved in the American Revolution. The organization has its own genealogy database to assist those who would like to join in researching their family histories.
Some of these women have discovered interesting roots by tracing their family histories.
Caroline Bradburn Bradford, who joined in 2008, found she was related to Samuel Chase, who lived in Baltimore. He was an associate Supreme Court judge, appointed by Thomas Jefferson, and also signed the Declaration of Independence.
Another one of Bradford’s ancestors, Joshua Barney, also from Baltimore, was a commodore in the Navy and fought in the American Revolution and the War of 1812.
For some of the women, being a member of the organization is a family tradition that’s been passed down from their mothers, aunts or cousins.
Kathie Hatfield is a newer member of the chapter who has belonged for about a year. She said her grandmother was a dedicated member for a long time, and when she died, Hatfield decided to join the organization that meant so much to her grandmother.
During the meeting, members had the opportunity to talk about projects they’re working on.
Bradford served in the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps in World War II. Although the nurse corps served the country during the war, she said, members weren’t recognized as war veterans because they weren’t commissioned soldiers.
“I would like for the DAR to recognize the service of the women in the nurse corps,” Bradford said.
She plans to submit a request to the state organization in March asking that the members of the Cadet Nurse Corps are recognized for their service to the country during World War II.
To attend a meeting or to learn more about joining the chapter, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.dunade.com/majwthomas/majwthomas.htm.