A Lineage of Service

The Daughters of American Revolution in Utah

By Loren Webb

Susan Dransfield of the DAR instructs students about the importance of the Constitution and service for others to eighth graders of Matt Evans at Enterprise High School. Image from Daughters of the American Revolution, Color Country Chapter.
Susan Dransfield of the DAR instructs students about the importance of the Constitution and service for others to eighth graders of Matt Evans at Enterprise High School. Image from Daughters of the American Revolution, Color Country Chapter.

Teaching others about the importance of the U.S. Constitution is one of the most important service projects the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), a national women’s service organization, is a very significant way they can serve others says Valerie King, current regent, and Susan Dransfield, regent elect.


“We are trying to teach the community and schools about promoting the nation’s founding fathers that created our country, because if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have this country,” Dransfield said. “Our goals are building patriotism, securing the future of America through education and preserving history.”

There are 11 chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Utah. It is a service organization and counts teaching about the the US Constitution as one of its main objectives. Find a chapter near you at utahdar.org/chapters

Known as the “Centennial” Chapter, the Color Country Chapter got its start in 1997, 100 years after the first DAR chapter in Utah was founded in 1897, not long after Utah gained statehood. On that date Revolutionary patriots Paul Revere and William Dawes made their famous ride alerting American colonists the “British are coming!”


There are approximately 40 committees that DAR members at the state and chapter level can serve on to promote the primary mission fields of the National Society. “It is our goal to serve in meaningful ways that supports these missions at the local community level,” King said.


In a proclamation signed by St. George City Mayor Michele Randall on April 7, 2022, the “Daughters of this chapter, direct descendants of American Revolution patriots, have been and remain steadfast in their mission to preserve American history, support education, and promote patriotism to honor the memory of those who sacrificed their lives and fortunes to secure our nation’s freedoms.”


Connecting the dots


According to King every woman who becomes a member of the DAR must first prove their direct lineal descent to a Revolutionary War patriot who took up arms, provided provisions such as cash or goods to the war effort, or offered a civil service such as nursing war soldiers during the American Revolution. Any woman, 18 years or older, regardless of race, religion or ethnic background, is eligible to join the DAR.


King became interested in DAR in 2013 through Ancestry.com. Within a month’s time, King traced her family roots back to the 1770s and the founding of America. Stunned, she called relatives who also had no idea they had a Revolutionary War ancestor. Attending a DAR Christmas luncheon, King discovered a cousin she didn’t know, Sue Hoffman McElhaney. The two discovered they shared the same ancestral grandfather, Peter Hoffman, whose sons, Christian Hoffman (McElhaney’s patriot) and John Nicholas Hoffman (King’s patriot), owned adjoining farms in Pennsylvania. That wetted King’s appetite to become a member of the DAR, eventually gaining the chapter’s top leadership position.


A genealogical conference led to Dransfield’s interest in DAR. She learned that one of her ancestors was on the “town’s green” when the British attacked patriots at Lexington, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1775. Dransfield and her husband served two missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New York City and London, where she was able to use her service hours to contribute to her chapter’s volunteer service objectives.


“We do a lot of genealogy in our organization,” Dransfield said. “People join because they love genealogy and want to preserve history.” Our national motto is “God, Home, and Country,” adds King. “What distinguishes us is the huge focus on patriotism and preserving our country’s heritage.”


Serving a patriotic community


“Washington County is very patriotic and any time we want to put on a patriotic program, we always have great support,” said King.


King said the national society gives a list of things they want each chapter to focus on, one of which includes commemorative events. The Color Country Chapter was heavily involved in the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage, particularly Utah, because it was given the right to vote as a U.S. territory, Dransfield said. DAR also celebrated the 75th anniversary of World War II and the 100-year anniversary of World War I.


Another commemorative event the chapter supports is Wreaths Across America, held annually in December to REMEMBER the fallen, HONOR those who served, and to TEACH the children the value of freedom. Wreaths Across America is a community wide event that provides a unique and heartwarming way to pay tribute to those who have served our nation. In 2021, the National Defense committee recognized the chapter for the best chapter event for Wreaths Across America, King said.


Dransfield said the chapter also supported the Navajo Indian Reservation during the pandemic by providing wheelchairs, food, provisions and firewood. The local chapter has also been involved in a number of other service-related projects.


“This is a worthy organization because it is so service oriented,” King said. “We literally make a difference.”


Mentoring another generation


The National Society DAR (NSDAR) offers a variety of educational scholarship and grant opportunities for students and teachers. One such opportunity is the Helen Pouch Memorial Grant that provides financial assistance to a teacher who has a classroom project worthy of support.


DAR members delivering wheelchairs to the Navajo Reservation in southern Utah.
DAR members delivering wheelchairs to the Navajo Reservation in southern Utah.

King said Washington County’s Jemina Johnson Society Children of the American Revolution went dormant for a few years until McKenzie Thomasson re-started the children’s organization in 2021. Thomasson, an Arizona DAR member who transferred her membership to Color Country Chapter when she moved to St George, took on the senior leadership role to help promote patriotism and love of country with our local youth. “There is a lot of interest with children who want to join this patriotic society,” King said.


The National Society DAR petitioned Congress in 1955 to annually observe Constitution Week from Sept. 17-23 to remember, preserve and promote the Constitution, which became public law when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it on Aug. 2, 1956.


During 2022, the Color Country Chapter will stress the need to uphold the Constitution by involving all of the cities and towns in Washington County. On Sept. 17, 2022, the group will host a patriotic musical program on the Constitution, “Bells Across America,” to be held in the historic LDS Tabernacle in downtown St. George.


“We hope to do more, because they (students) are our future. They need to uphold the Constitution,” Dransfield said. “If they love it, they will preserve it.”

 

A native of St. George, Loren R. Webb is president of the Washington County Historical Society. He is a retired Clark County (NV) School District junior high school U.S. History/World Geography teacher. He has been a reporter in community journalism in Southern Nevada, Southern and Southcentral Utah for 20 years and has volunteered at Great Salt Lake, Camp Floyd and Sand Hollow state parks. He loves to hike, play tennis, and with his wife, spend time with their grandchildren.

 

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