Look around the next time you’re wandering through Independence – the Queen City of the Trails – and you’ll find historic treasures and markers bearing the name of Independence Pioneers, Daughters of the American Revolution.
Since its inception on Feb. 26, 1914, at the Independence home of Emma Robertson Gentry, the patriotic organization has lived up to and, in some instances, exceeded the tenants of the National Society of the DAR: supporting education, promoting patriotism and preserving history.
On June 3 – which has been proclaimed DAR Centennial Day for the Independence Pioneers – the 193-member chapter will reflect on its past, present and future at its 100th Anniversary celebration at Midwest Genealogy Center, 3440 S. Lee’s Summit Road, beginning at 2:30 p.m.
Chapter member Susan Bowman will present a brief history of the chapter, which received its charter on Nov. 16, 1914. Following her presentation, dignitaries will receive a copy of her book, “Independence Pioneer Chapter Celebrating 100 Years of Service.”
Adding to the enjoyment is a DVD chapter member Christy Waller produced, highlighting chapter achievements set to music.
“It will encompass pictures from our chapter, as far back as we can go, says newly elected Regent Linda Dimon.
Other anniversary highlights:
• Recognition of 55-year member Frances Feldhausen, who now lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and plans to be in attendance.
• The presentation of an American flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol.
• Five full display cases telling the history of the chapter’s 100 years of service and the future of the National Society.
• Recognition of past chapter regents and several proclamations.
“We have been visible throughout Independence this entire 100 years,” Linda Sehrt, a past chapter regent, said in an interview, noting the second largest chapter in Missouri has accomplished some wonderful things in the areas of education, patriotism and historic preservation.
Since most of the 23 charter members were from pioneer families, the fledgling chapter selected Independence Pioneers as its name, and its members quickly manifested a deep and sincere interest in the activities of the DAR by compiling early tombstone records and Jackson County marriage records to 1860.
And the chapter has been going strong ever since.
“We’ve placed many markers around the city,” says Sehrt, including such sites as the Truman Memorial Building Fountain, the Santa Fe Trail, Wayne City Landing, Adair Park, Independence Courthouse and many other area landmarks. “So we are still visible after 100 years of service.”
Guiding the chapter in fulfilling its mission of service to the community are its three basic tenets, which are the backbone of the society.
“Our activities have changed, but the three objectives of our society are so inclusive and classic that they don ‘t change,” says Dimon. “(The objectives) don’t need to change, but the activities we do within those three areas are updated as time goes by.”
Often some of these three objectives overlap, says longtime DAR member Chris Jones.
“We do a lot with conservation,” she says. “We have planted thousands of trees in Independence over 100 years. ... Right now, we have earmarked two trees for McCoy Park ... and our members generously opened their wallets and took in enough money to purchase two trees.”
Noting conservation is education, Jones says, ”We are taking time to educate our members how to conserve energy; so that is education.”
As for patriotism, “It overlaps everything we do,” Jones says, noting the chapter has sponsored several World War II veterans on Honor Flights to Washington, D.C., to visit the WWII Memorial. Last year, the chapter provided underclothing to severely injured women veterans undergoing rehabilitation at the VA Hospital in Kansas City.
In World War I, the chapter rendered assistance to the doughboys, providing personal supplies to take to war. The chapter also purchased a $500 truck for one of the embarking batteries.
Another patriotic act of the chapter many years ago was to help black and Mexican children who weren’t allowed to attend Courtney School because of their color. Instead, these ethnic children attended an inferior school in nearby Cement City.
“So the DAR took it upon themselves to support the Cement City school with books,” Jones says. “They went in and taught the children the Pledge of Allegiance and words to the national anthem, trying to help them as immigrants to become part of the American dream.”
When it comes to preserving history, the chapter has been instrumental in financially supporting restoration projects at the Vaile Mansion and Bingham-Waggoner Estate, Jones says, recalling the chapter helped raise the initial bonds for the construction of the Memorial Building after WWI.
And let’s not forget the chapter’s connection with the Midwest Genealogy Center of the Mid-Continent Public Library.
“Our chapter was pretty instrumental in (its) very founding,” Linda Sehrt says, recalling the chapter donated a genealogy book to the Independence Library, which had no genealogy books at that time. “And over the years our library grew, and we kinda started the genealogy part of the library.”
Chris Jones believes the “depth and breadth” of chapter projects have grown over the years.
“It certainly was important to mark the Santa Fe Trail ... but now we are partnering with the Truman Library,” she says. “Some 30 years ago we started the Bess Truman Tea, which started out with local people reminiscing about Bess Truman. Now the library supplies speakers of national importance.”
As for the DAR today, Sehert says, “We are not your grandmother’s DAR. “We are a new DAR.”
Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.
Charter members of Independence Pioneers Daughters of the American Revolution, established in 1914 –
Myrtie Spurlock Allis, Mary Overton Gentry, Susan Shelton Ott, Fannie B. Berry, Mary Haynie, Mary P. Robertson Peebies, Sophia Pinkston Berry, Margaret B. Hearne, Mary H. Prewitt, Minnie Russell Brown, Mary Loveland, Alwilda Reece Rider, Jennie Clements, Emma L. Locke Madison, Emma A. Rummell, Mary G. Crump, Anna L. B. McDevitt, Etta N. Ruppert, Emma Robertson, Auralee Shultz Millard, Nannie Dunn Scholi Gentry, Maud Brown Ott, Maybelle B. Webb.