DAR’s Cabarrus Black Boys Chapter: Perpetuating the Memory
DAR stands for Daughters of the American Revolution. A now-international, non-political, non-profit organization, it was founded in 1890 by four women in Washington, DC: Mary Smith Lockwood, Eugenia Washington, Ellen Hardin Walworth and Mary Desha.There are history buffs in every community, but those with direct ties to the Revolutionary War want to ensure that the memories of those who fought for freedom against the British are not forgotten. Their passion has held fast, as DAR membership is currently about 180,000 strong, with chapters in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia as well as 12 other countries.
DAR’s National Headquarters remains in Washington, at 1776 D Street. Comprised of Memorial Continental Hall, the Administration Building and Constitution Hall – a complex that occupies a city block – the headquarters houses impressive genealogical libraries, collections of early-American manuscripts, imprints and pre-industrial decorative arts, and an expansive concert hall.
DAR’s artifacts are so numerous and historically valuable that U.S. presidents borrow the bronze podium embellished with eagles from the organization’s collection for speeches at The White House.
With the national motto of “God, Home and Country,” members of DAR dedicate their time and money to supporting both active duty and veteran military personnel. Each of its 3,000 chapters focuses on specific community needs. In addition to the military, these include schools, community citizenship, and historical education and preservation. DAR founders put the goals of the organization in writing in the form of a sort-of mission statement.
“Historical: To perpetuate the memory and spirit of the men and women who achieved American independence; Educational: To carry out the injunction of Washington in his farewell address to the American people, ‘to promote, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge, thus developing an enlightened public opinion…’; and Patriotic: 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.” (www.dar.org)
Mrs. Hattie Nisbet Latta, of Charlotte, played a pivotal role in securing the five DAR chapters in North Carolina after being named State Regent (head of the governing body) in February 1898. The Mecklenburg chapter was formed later that year, now called North Carolina’s Mother Chapter.
Truth is stranger than fiction with regard to Cabarrus County’s DAR chapter. Formed in June 1914 by 16 women who held their meetings at Mrs. W.W. Flowe’s house, the chapter was named – and still remains – The Cabarrus Black Boys Chapter.
In 1771, just prior to the start of the Revolutionary War, both Scotch-Irish farmers in south Mecklenburg and colonists in the northeast section of the county – Rocky River – grew increasingly unhappy with British rule and taxation. It’s important to note that Cabarrus County hadn’t been formed yet; it was part of Mecklenburg until 1792.
Then-Governor Tryon sought to squash the violent uprisings by ordering General Hugh Waddell to utilize additional militiamen from western North Carolina as well as weapons and supplies coming to Charlotte from Charleston, SC. However, once the supplies arrived in Charlotte, there were no wagons to transport the weapons to the Rocky River settlement; they’d mysteriously vanished (purposely).
British forces found and confiscated three wagons, which made their way to the unrest, but The Gunpowder Plot had already been initiated. Nine young men from the area blackened their faces with soot and set out to blow up the British weapons.
En route on foot, two of the boys met up with their father headed home from a mill with a pair of horses bearing meal. Not recognizing his sons since their faces were “covered,” the meal was unloaded and set on top of a rock – to keep wild hogs from eating it – at the site of Jackson Training School, on Old Charlotte Road in Concord.
Story has it that the boys tied up their father and left him with the meal while they took the horses in anticipation of meeting up with their seven comrades. The nine found the British wagons camped at Phifer’s Hill, about three miles north of Concord, surprised the unsuspecting guards and worked on destroying the ammunition. Making a fuse that reached away from the camp, one of the boys, instead, fired his pistol into the pile of blankets and weapons, and blew up the whole thing.
The young men escaped to Georgia where they stayed hidden for four years before the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was signed in 1775; then they joined the war as soldiers.
The bravery of these young men was immortalized in a fountain constructed in 1916 in front of the Cabarrus County Courthouse by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Ten years later, a marker was put in place at the rock at the Jackson Training School.
Last year, The Cabarrus Black Boys Chapter held a white cotillion to raise funds for the restoration of the Historic Courthouse fountain. Anyone that donated at least $2,500 will see his or her name engraved on a commemorative 12-inch by 12-inch bronze plaque that will be placed at the site of the fountain.
“There’s a fountain rededication on September 20 and there’s still work to be done,” Lois Harwood Marlow says. She heads the DAR committee to restore the fountain. Her main patriot (ancestor) is Solomon Burris-Burroughs, her fifth great-grandfather. He fought in two different sessions of the Revolutionary War. “There will be cobblestone around the fountain, a bench and a walkway connecting to the Historic Cabarrus County Courthouse walkway. And there will be a flower garden.”
There are currently 45 members in The Cabarrus Black Boys Chapter; the average age is early 30s to 50s. Deloris Clodfelter is this year’s Regent. Her main patriot is Frances Queen, her great-great-great grandfather. He fought at the Battle of Kings Mountain. “We meet monthly and start with the pledges: Pledge of Allegiance, American Creed, the Star-Spangled Banner and the DAR salute,” she says.
Projects are discussed at the meetings by the committee members overseeing them. One such project is providing American flags to new Habitat for Humanity homeowners. “We also give knitting yarn to Hospice so they can knit blankets for the terminally ill. We do that at the end of the year. We try to give back to those in need,” she explains.
Other endeavors include Community Service awards, Good Citizen awards, DAR Project Patriot, which “organizes and coordinates DAR support for members of the military currently serving our country;” and DAR Service for Veterans.
“As a member of the national Veterans Administration Voluntary Service Advisory Committee, DAR has representatives in Veterans Administration (VA) medical centers. DAR members volunteer in VA facilities and in state/community-based programs, donating gifts, cash, personal care items and thousands of hours of time in service to America’s veterans,” www.dar.org says.
In recognition of their efforts, DAR members earn insignia pins based on a variety of achievements within their chapter. Once a pin is earned, it’s worn on a ribbon. Insignia pins may signify offices that the member has held, clubs that she’s a member of within the organization, Regent, commemorative, etc. Officers and Regents wear sashes, each with an individual look that indicates what her office is. If a woman is wearing her insignia pins outside, but not to an official DAR function, she must either take them off or cover them with a scarf. White gloves are worn during official events, but are removed for the Pledge of Allegiance.
There are DAR schools – schools supported by DAR with monetary donations and supplies. Chapter members also go to the schools and teach history. DAR-sponsored schools include Kate Duncan Smith School Inc. in Alabama and Tamassee DAR School Inc. in South Carolina. DAR-approved schools include Berry College Inc. in Georgia; Crossnore School Inc. in North Carolina near Linville/Banner Elk; Hillside School Inc. in Massachusetts; and Hindman Settlement School Inc. in Kentucky.
All DAR chapters operate uniformly, with rules and traditions deeply embedded in everything they do. “We make our own by-laws, but they have to be in agreement with the state and national DAR. Everything we do falls under patriotic, educational and historic preservation,” Marlow adds.
Membership is just as strict and ancestry is a prerequisite to this organization. “They have to be invited to a DAR meeting by a member,” Marlow explains. “They have to prove they have ancestors that fought in or aided in the Revolutionary War, then they have to fill out an application, which has to go to state and national, and be approved by both. When that comes back, the local chapter votes on whether they can be a member of that particular chapter.”
“Any woman is eligible for member-ship who is no less than 18 years of age and can prove lineal bloodline descent from an ancestor who aided in achieving American independence,” the website says. “She must provide documentation for each statement of birth, marriage and death.”
Lineal bloodline descent means the individual is part of a direct line to the ancestor that took part in the revolution, such as a child, grandchild and great-grandchild…not a cousin, niece, nephew, etc.
Those with the proper lineage, but are too young to join DAR, may participate in CAR: Children of the American Revolution. Founded in 1895 by DAR, “CAR teaches the children the traditions of the DAR,” Clodfelter says.
However, when the child turns 18, she does not automatically cross over into DAR. She has to go through the application process like all other candidates.
Pride and the appreciation of American history speak to the longevity of DAR. The Cabarrus Black Boys Chapter celebrated its 100th birthday in 2014. Its oldest member recently passed away at age 97. Says Clodfelter, “They’re so proud of their heritage, it’s like pomp and circumstance.”
If you’d like to join The Cabarrus Black Boys Chapter, or for more information about the organization in general, visit www.dar.org.