Patriotism and Philanthropy - Not Dead
By Brianna Cain
Edited by Ruby Nemec
Through our veins runs blood rich in history; some scandalous and some legendary. As we look in the mirror, we wonder where our brown wavy hair and green eyes came from. We wonder how our family inherited an old dairy farm, and also how difficult our ancestors had it when they made their voyage to a new country. Whatever the reason, we have unique motivations that serve as a catalyst to discover our lineage that are exceptional to each individual. The local Braddock Trail Chapter of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) serves to help preserve this history and make it accessible for research.
The sun shines down on the old painted brick and cobblestone of the Samuel Warden mansion on the southwest corner of South Church and Walnut Street in Mt. Pleasant. The washed out, wrought iron fence encompasses the property thwarting trespassers. Over one hundred and twenty years ago, the Victorian mansion was erected as the home place for Samuel and Margaret Warden, two influential nineteenth century innovators that laid the groundwork for the inclusion of the coal industry to a formerly agricultural-specific town (Gombach). The house now shows its age, as the wallpaper is faded and the twelve high vaulted rooms are dimly lit. The furnishings are reminiscent of the late 1880’s, with antique pieces and decor. The sheer essence of the home has been restored and maintained by a local group of women who embraced the old mansion as a chapter house, dedicated to the preservation of history and patriotism. Ironically, a home that holds such historical significance could not have fallen into better hands.
The Braddock Trail Chapter house is always crowded on Saturday mornings. Women from all ethnic backgrounds crowd into the front chapter room and hurriedly take their seats. The meeting commences as the group stands and Carol Pack-Urban leads the pledge of allegiance, with support from the entire assembly. After the pledge and recitation of the DAR motto, the women take their seats and begin their meeting.
The Braddock Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) houses members from the western Pennsylvania area. Their ancestral roots in the community run deep, rich with historical significance and patriotism, a value they cherish. They are just a small portion of the larger, nationwide organization of the Daughters of the American Revolution; an organization that strives to help preserve the historical significance of our descendents through various community activities and projects. More specifically, the DAR is a genealogical-based organization consisting of one hundred and sixty five thousand national female members that strive to promote literacy and education, patriotism through volunteer military loyalist programs, and the preservation of national historical artifacts and genealogical libraries.
The DAR, along with the local chapters, strives to promote literacy and education. According to the Braddock Trail Chapter, they integrated the principles of George Washington from his farewell address. His mantra was “to promote, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge” (Washington). The journey to attain a better understanding of history and education will provide the people of our county with the opportunity to have a stronger public opinion and self awareness.
Opportunities to learn will be “affording to young and old such advantages as shall develop in them the largest capacity for performing the duties of American Citizens” (Pack-Urban). In order to achieve this goal, the DAR offers scholarship opportunities to the public. “Each year, one hundred and fifty thousand dollars is awarded in scholarships and financial aid to high school and college students” (Ashmun). The philanthropic actions of the DAR are rewarding in itself. However, the organization does much more to service the community.
Patriotism is another quality the DAR possesses. They participate in many volunteer programs nationwide to help support the men and women who actively fight in our Armed Forces. “We have public outreach programs to help our veterans. Our chapter collects donations to sponsor the local VA hospitals for better care and treatment” (Proud). Yet they don’t stop at just monetary contributions and fundraisers. The DAR also participates in local nationalistic services. They march in the local patriotic parades and participate in the flag placement program. They uphold these values according to their mission: “To cherish, maintain and extend the institutions of American freedom, to foster true patriotism and love of country, and to aid in securing for mankind all the blessings of liberty” (DAR Motto).
The DAR also participates in a patriotic award program that recognizes and honors local patriotic acts. The community service program honors locals who show an extraordinary effort in volunteerism, civil acts, or heroic behavior for the betterment of the community. “The DAR also hands out good citizens and citizenship awards to high school students who strive to enhance their community” (Ashmun). Even though patriotism is an integral part of their organization, the DAR spends a significant amount of time, resources and effort to protect and promote the integrity of historical records and artifacts.
Historical preservation is very important. As stated in the DAR’s Mission: The DAR serves “to perpetuate the memory and spirit of the men and women who achieved American independence; by the acquisition and protection of historical spots and the erection of monuments; by the encouragement of historical research in relation to the American Revolution and the publication of its results; by the preservation of documents and relics, and the records of the individual service of Revolutionary soldiers and patriots; and by the promotion of celebrations of all patriotic anniversaries” (DAR Mission).
The DAR has a national museum that houses more than thirty thousand historical artifacts including quilts, ceramics and paintings that date back to pre-industrial American history (DAR.org). The local chapters have extensive research libraries that are open to the public for personal research. These records include vast genealogical resources like wills, deeds, birth and death certificates, and microfilm from local newspapers. “We open our resources to the public in an effort to promote the interest in genealogical research. It’s this interest that keeps our organization alive” (Ashmun).
“Some of the most common reasons for researching a family tree include: to satisfy a curiosity about yourself and your roots; to create a legacy for future generations; to compile a family medical history; to preserve family cultural and ethnic traditions; to write and publish a family history book; to confirm a family legend or verify descent from a famous individual; or to qualify for lineage or heritage society like the Daughters of the American Revolution” (Powell).
The terms for membership in the DAR are simple: “You must be a female that is at least 18 years of age. You must be able to identify your patriotic ancestor and provide proof for their involvement in the American Revolution through military records or widower’s pensions. Then you must find a local chapter to join, such as the local Braddock Trail Chapter in Mt. Pleasant. Then you must compile all of your research and fill out an application and send it in to the national committee for the verification process” (Pack-Urban).
Though it sounds like a daunting process, the ladies of the DAR are there to help you research your ancestors. Members like Rosalind Ashmun and Gertrude Proud, dedicate their free time to help recruit new members to keep the organization alive and growing. They volunteer time in the upstairs of the Warden Mansion, which serves as their library. They help procure documents necessary for membership as well as locate the cemeteries of the actual ancestral burial spot. If a burial place is found, the members even order a patriotic flag with the regiment of the veteran for their grave site.
This amazing organization is within reach for many young women that have an interest in their community or their historical descent. Membership is an honor that can help promote pride and loyalty. They look for young women that are willing to make a commitment through service and volunteer efforts. They encourage active membership and hope that their association grows with interest. Ironically, the women of the Braddock Trail Chapter have a meeting place that helps foster and encourage this venture. The Warden mansion is a great surviving example of how our historical past lead to the present day and its indications of historical awareness for the future. The DAR has open arms for all interested individuals and hopes to achieve their goals on a national and local level.
Ashmun, Rosalind. “Braddock Trail History.” Personal Interview. 5 Mar 2010.
Gombach, Julia. “Samuel Warden House.” Living Places. N.d. Web 16 Mar. 2010.
Pack-Urban, Carol. “Braddock Trail History.” Personal Interview. 6 Mar 2010.
Pack-Urban, Carol. “Chapter Beginnings.” NSDAR Braddock Trail Chapter. N.d.Web. 7 Mar. 2010.
Powell, Kimberly. The Everything Family Tree Book. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2006. Print.
Proud, Gertrude. “Braddock Trail History.”Personal Interview. 6 Mar 2010.