- SH Society
- About Us
- Community Curating
For a tiny frontier town in a remote corner of the map, the event of hosting the first DAR chapter in Alaska in 1903 gives some insight into what this town was like at the turn of the 20th Century.
A significant part of the non-native population of Sitka in 1903 consisted of appointed government officials and their families, military officers and their families, and professionals including teachers, businessmen, and mining engineers. For these people, creating and maintaining a society reflecting the social values and norms of the lower 48 states was critical.
As a result, many social organizations and clubs were founded. The DAR was unusual in the small number of members and the overlap it had with other women's organizations in town.
“Although Sitka is a small place, containing not over 100 inhabitants of American ancestry, 14 ladies were found who were desirous of becoming [DAR] members ... The remarkable fact regarding the organization of the Chapter should be noted: about one-half of the women of Sitka of American parentage are descended from Revolutionary soldiers. Their ancestry represents all of the original 13 states except two”
The definition of American ancestry is significant: there were a number of naturalized American citizens in Sitka at the time, and a generation of children of born in Alaska to naturalized American parents, whom the Regent excluded.
The list of Founding Members includes only 13 members, however a new member, Gertrude Hughes Spiers, was admitted 1 October 1903, one month prior to the Charter Meeting, held November 7, 1903. Gertrude Spiers (b. Austin, Indiana, m. Frederick E. Rader in 1904, member #44156) was a teacher at Public School no. 1 (the white school) in 1902/03. Though not officially listed as a "Founding Member" this would put the number of members at the Charter Meeting at the required 14.
For the first meeting, a charter frame and gavel were sent to Sitka by the sponsoring chapter in Merion, Pennsylvania. The frame was made of mahogany and inlaid with wood from the floor of the Lemar Marion Friends Meeting House, built in 1695 (the oldest church edifice in Pennsylvania). The same wood was inlaid in the chapter gavel. Neither of these artifacts could be located through the National Headquarters of the DAR or the Merion Chapter; they may not have been returned when the chapter folded, but rather traveled with one of the early members to her new location.