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Throwback Thursday: March 24, 2022

We are bookending our posts for March, which is Women’s History Month, with another from our blog archives! This week we re-publish an article on the Blooming Grove chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution that originally appeared on our original local history blog on March 30, 2017!

The late 19th century saw a renewed interest in uncovering the early origins of the United States. The Centennial of the American Revolution in 1876, followed by the 100th anniversary of George Washington’s presidency in 1889 reminded many Americans that they were not too far removed from the founding fathers and the American War of Independence. Groups such as as the Sons, and later Daughters of the American Revolution were formed as a way for Americans to connect with their ancestors who served in George Washington’s Army as well as promote scholarship and patriotism among their members and communities [1]. The Blooming Grove Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is one such group that did these things and more in our area.

Louise Howell’s copy of the 1917 By-Laws of the Blooming Grove Chapter, D.A.R. Moffat Library of Washingtonville

The story of the Daughters of the American Revolution is a uniquely New York one. Following the formation of the Sons of the American Revolution in April 1889, many women with ancestors who served on the “Patriot” side of the American Revolutionary War were eager to participate in this club. A motion during the April 30th, 1890 S.A.R. meeting excluded women from joining, which prompted Chatauqua County native Mary Smith Lockwood to publish an article to the Washington Post asking “Where will the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution place Hannah Arnett?”; a reference to woman who prevented a group of men in her home of Elizabethtown, New Jersey from proclaiming their loyalty to the British [2] [3]. Following the publication of her article, Miss Lockwood was approached by the Great Grandson of Hannah Arnett, William O. McDowell to help form a society for “Daughters of the American Revolution”. By October of 1890, the Daughters had held their first meeting.

The Blooming Grove Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution was formed on January 20th, 1903 by a group of 15 local women whose goal was to “co-operate with and further to the utmost, all the ends and aims of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution…to encourage a true spirit of Americanism by the observance of historical anniversaries, by the preservation and marking of historic places and the graves of the soldiers of the Revolution, by the aid of essays and lectures on historical subjects, by the use at the Chapter meetings of patriotic songs, and the discussion by topics pertaining to early American History by promoting patriotic education and finally to work for the best interest of Blooming Grove Chapter” . Founding members included Agnes B. Helme, Joanna B. Howell, Fanny W. Marvin, Ruth E. Parsons, Belle Strong, Mary Strong, Jennie Strong, Alice J. Steadman, Belle H. Steadman, Clara S. Stuart, Augusta H. Woodhull, Jennie V. Woodhull, Kate C. Woodhull, Mary C. Woodhull, and Mrs. Nathaniel D. Woodhull [4].

One of the more outstanding members of the chapter was Louise Howell, whose scrapbook contains the 1917 By-Laws of the Blooming Grove D.A.R. as well as National D.A.R. memorabilia. Born in Washingtonville in 1866 to Mary Jane, and William S. Howell, Louise Howell was an active member in the community . In addition to her membership in the D.A.R., she served as organist at the Blooming Grove Congregational Church for 35 years, was a charter member of the Athenia Club, president of Washingtonville Kings Daughters, and organizer and president of the Washingtonville Women’s Civics Club. She also served as librarian of Moffat Library from 1923 to 1933 [5]. As a D.A.R. member, Louise Howell was recording secretary of the Blooming Grove chapter, and nationally served as a New York delegate to the 31st Continental Congress of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution in 1922, where she was responsible for voting on new policies and by-laws. 

Daughter’s of the American Revolution New York Delegate’s ribbon worn by Louise Howell, Moffat Library of Washingtonville

The Blooming Grove chapter not only played an active role in shaping national policies of their parent organization, but was also an active in recognizing the local history of the community. In the twelfth annual report for the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (October 1908-October 1909), the chapter placed bronze Sons of the American Revolution stars on the graves of eight local  Revolutionary soldiers around Orange County, including William Hudson, and Major Samuel Strong at the Washingtonville All Faiths Cemetery. They also placed government markers at the graves of Captain Phineas Heard in Farmingdale, Major Nathaniel Strong in Washingtonville, and Sergeant Stephen Howell in Blooming Grove [6]. They also raised $25 for the Continental Hall Fund for the association’s national headquarters. During the First World War (1914-1918), the members of the Blooming Grove D.A.R. helped organize a local chapter of the American Red Cross. Member Mrs. Thomas J. Fulton was in charge of surgical dressings, and the oldest member of the group was reported to have knitted 16 sweaters, 8 pairs of socks, 2 caps, and 1 pair of wristlets for the Red Cross. The members also organized a literature drive to donate books to soldiers stationed at Camp Mills, Long Island, and bought $5,000.00 of Liberty Bonds, which went towards funding the war effort [7].

Following the war, the chapter continued to host a series of charitable events and  fund raising programs, including dinners for the few surviving Union veterans of the American Civil War, Card making parties, and high school essay contests. Despite declining membership, the Blooming Grove D.A.R. remained active until the late 1940s. Today, the National Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution has 180,000 members, and 3,000 chapters located in all 50 states, including the Quassaick Chapter in Newburgh, which absorbed the Blooming Grove chapter, and Minisink in Goshen [1]. Although the Blooming Grove Chapter no longer exists, the memory of Louise Howell lives on in her scrapbook kept by Moffat Library, as well as the memorial markers its members placed at Washingtonville Cemetery.

 

A four-leaf clover is pressed into the spine of the 1922 yearbook of the Blooming Grove Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Moffat Library of Washingtonville

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

[1] – DAR History by Daughters of the American Revolution

[2] – Daughters of The Empire State by Denise Doring VanBuren & Patrice Powley Briner

Publication Date: 2016

[3] – Memorial honoring the patriotic dead, especially Hannah White Arnett by New Jersey Women’s History

[4] – Blooming Grove Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution By-Laws

Publication Date: 1917

[5] – Louise Howell Obituary by [Middletown Times-Press]

Publication Date: 1933
[6] – Report of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution by Daughters of the American Revolution
Publication Date: 1910
[7] – Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine, Volume 52 by Daughters of the American Revolution

Publication Date: 1918