The James Ross chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is celebrating its 110th anniversary this year.
Founded in 1909 by a descendant of James Ross, a private who served under Gen. George Washington in 1777 in the Revolutionary War in Wooster County, New York, the local chapter is based in Johnson County and maintains an active membership of volunteering, preservation of historical artifacts and, of course, genealogical record keeping.
All of the chapter’s members — in fact, everyone involved at the Daughters of the American Revolution — have traced their lineage back to a patriot of the American Revolution. With about 185,000 members in 3,000 chapters, the organization is based in Washington, D.C.
Bonnie Hitchcock, a member of the James Ross chapter, said lineage is key to their membership and a point of pride for them. For instance, she can trace her lineage to Moses Teague, a patriot who served in North Carolina. And her daughter can trace her ancestry back to Daniel Boone, a famous patriot and pioneer.
“We have some members that can trace their lineage back to the Mayflower,” Hitchcock added. “It’s fun. I enjoy reading about my ancestors.”
Hitchcock said volunteering is core to their mission, adding that their work, especially fundraising efforts, was “instrumental” in restoration of the Shawnee Indian Mission in Fairway in 1927. But they are especially proud of their participation in naturalization ceremonies at local courthouses — those moments when individuals become naturalized citizens of the United States.
“It’s just so heartwarming to go and see all these people that have not had the privileges as we in the United States… they’re just so grateful to be able to become a citizen of the United States,” Hitchcock said. “There’s lots of excitement. It can be very emotional, too.”
Local chapters volunteer regularly in a day of service as well. For instance, one chapter restored parts of Linwood Pioneer Cemetery in Leawood. For its day of service, the James Ross chapter went to the Wyandotte County Museum and helped with archiving historical data.
“I love history, and I like the fact that we are preserving our history,” Hitchcock said. “This gives me an opportunity to volunteer.”
As a whole, the local chapter spends time volunteering with veterans at the Dwight D. Eisenhower VA Medical Center in Leavenworth. It’s as simple as playing bingo or making a picnic for them.
“The veterans are always so appreciative of us coming up and spending time with them, giving them individual attention,” Hitchcock said. “So many veterans feel like they were kind of left behind. So as long as we can keep going and encouraging them and helping them, letting them know how much we appreciate their service, it really makes me feel good about being a member of the DAR. Because if I wasn’t a member of the DAR, I would never have gotten involved in volunteering with veterans or trying to keep our history alive.”
Hitchcock said that overall, their chapter seeks to further the mission of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Founded in 1890, the nonprofit works to preserve historic and genealogical artifacts, provide education and foster patriotism. Chapters further these goals by finding historical sites that need to be restored or maintained. They also find Revolutionary patriot graves and restore headstones as well.
“We’ve placed monuments around the world to memorialize individuals that have been significant in different events throughout American history,” Hitchcock said.
Hitchcock said James Ross members also give out awards to local students in Shawnee who participate in their American history essay contest.
Not all members of the James Ross chapter are from Johnson County. The chapter was originally organized with 21 members in Wyandotte County, but because several of its members were from Shawnee at the time, it moved its base to Johnson County.
Some members are still from Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, but others live in Leawood, Overland Park, Olathe and other parts of Johnson County. Some live as far away as Tucson, Arizona, and New York City. The chapter has had as many as 60 members but now has about 48. The chapter has also been attracting younger members lately.
The chapter meets regularly at the Lake Quivira Country Club.