Local Chapter Of DAR Is Living History
A small but vibrant group in Luzerne County not only fosters interest in history and historic preservation, but it also is history itself.
The Shawnee Fort Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is a growing and maturing organization, an arm of the DAR that dates to 1890, a time when history-oriented groups blossomed around the country.
Founded nine years ago, Shawnee Fort Chapter held a luncheon recently at Genetti’s Hotel and Convention Center to note the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Tony Brooks, member of Wilkes-Barre City Council and chairman of the board of the Wilkes-Barre Preservation Society, was main speaker.
Coincidentally, one of the Shawnee Fort Chapter’s projects is a collaboration with the Wilkes-Barre Preservation Society to save and restore the Zebulon Butler House, the oldest house in Wilkes-Barre.
“This will be an ongoing project in which we are extremely proud to be involved,’’ said Kathleen Smith, chapter regent.
DAR’s objectives are “Patriotism, Historic Preservation and Education,’’ Smith explained. “We work toward these objectives by remaining active in the local community, assisting with various cemetery projects, (including grave markings, cleanups and historic tours; collecting personal care items for veterans at the VA Medical Center and assisting at that hospital.”
The chapter participated in the annual Veterans’ Day Parade. Other events and projects are planned in keeping with the chapter’s focus on area history.
The Daughters of the American Revolution is a lineage-based membership service organization for women. Members must prove they are direct descendants of a person involved in the United States’ efforts to achieve independence from Great Britain.
Kathleen Smith, the Shawnee Fort chapter’s regent, is a descendant of Daniel St. Clair, who served as a drum major at age 16. His unit fought at the Battle of Paoli, near present day Malvern, north of Philadelphia, on Sept. 20, 1777. British forces were said to have been brutal in the treatment of some prisoners, causing the fight to become known as the Paoli Massacre.
Ironically, it was the Battle of Wyoming, or the Wyoming Massacre, of July 3, 1778, that brought St. Clair, a native of Fisher’s Ferry near Sunbury, to Wilkes-Barre. Iroquois Indians fighting with the British were blamed for the ritual massacre of about 40 colonial soldiers following the battle in which 300-plus Americans, mainly militiamen, died.
Smith said her ancestor was in the Pennsylvania 11th Regiment that served under Gen. John Sullivan when he led a force in the summer of 1778 to eliminate Indian villages and destroy crops. Sullivan’s March through the Wyoming Valley and into upstate New York effectively ended Iroquois involvement in the war.
DAR member Ellen Maccarone, Sweet Valley, has multiple lineages including Joseph Ruggles, a colonial soldier. Her sisters, Sue Lazur, Dallas, and Elizabeth Phillips, Monroe Twp., use different patriots to prove lineage. Elizabeth uses Archibald Ruggles, of Litchfield County, Conn., a colonial Navy ensign, as her ancestor.
Qualifying participation in achieving membership is rather broad. It includes signer of the Declaration of Independence, military veterans, including state navies and militias; local militias, privateers; civil servants of provisional or state governments, the Continental Congress, state conventions, signers of an oath of allegiance, prisoners of war, doctors and nurses, ministers and others who aided the Revolutionary cause.
The DAR has the final word on whether a woman can qualify. Applicants must be 18 years of age or older. There are about 185,000 members in the DAR.
The first DAR chapter was organized on Oct. 11, 1890, at the home of Mary Smith Lockwood. Kathleen Smith led formation of the Shawnee Fort Chapter in 2009. The group, now at 50 members, meets at the Plymouth Municipal Building but membership is open to qualifying women from the Wyoming Valley area and beyond, Smith said.
The DAR Museum was founded in 1890 as a repository for family treasures. It holds more than 30,000 historical relics. The DAR Library was founded in 1896 as a collection of genealogical and historical publications. It is open to the public.
DAR projects over the decades have included a loan of land during World War I for a temporary war office building that provided space for 600 people; funding the reconstruction of the water system in the village of Tilloloy, France, and a donation of $130,000 for the support of 3,600 French war orphans; assisting in the re-forestation project of the U.S. Forest Service during the 1940s, and, during World War II, DAR provided 197,000 soldiers with care packages and sponsored all 89 crews of Landing Craft Infantry ships.
Prominent members of the DAR include Laura Bush and Rosalyn Carter, former First Ladies of the United States; Elizabeth Dole, former U.S. senator from North Carolina and one-time presidential candidate, and Tammy Duckworth, Army veteran and since 2017, U.S. Senator from Illinois.
For more information on the Shawnee Fort Chapter, DAR, call Kathleen Smith, regent, at 570-704-9809 or email email@example.com.
A soldier’s story
Emily Asher Dean Dasch sat politely as a tall man stood next to a portrait of a soldier and told his life story.
Only when the tall man was finished did she run to her daddy and sit on his lap.
The soldier was Col. Asher Miner, Emily’s great-great-great grandfather, and the man who told of his life as a citizen and war-time commander was Tony Brooks, Wilkes-Barre City councilman and chairman of the board of the Wilkes-Barre Preservation Society.
Asher descendants were guests of the Shawnee Fort Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, at their recent annual luncheon, at which the chapter observed the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I in which Asher Miner served valiantly.
The anniversary was on Nov. 11. Brooks cited the famous refrain that tells of the war’s end “at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month’’ in 1918.
Frederick W. Dasch, Jr., 73, great-grandson of Asher Miner, was on hand with his son, Brian Dasch, great-great grandson, and Brian’s daughter, Emily. Also on hand were Frederick’s wife, Deborah, and Emily’s mom, Samantha Jo Marx. The Dasches reside in Schuylkill County.
Brooks outlined Asher Miner’s pivotal role as a Wilkes-Barre businessman. Born in 1860, the son of Charles Abbott Miner and Eliza Ross Atherton, Asher Miner served as president of the Miner-Hillard Milling Company located in Miners Mills. The company was founded in 1795 and operated until 1960. It was the oldest company in Wilkes-Barre at the time, Brooks said.
Miner had an extensive military career, including colonel of the 7th Infantry Regiment of the National Guard of Pennsylvania during the Spanish-American War; commanding officer of the 9th Infantry; commanding officer of the 3rd Field Artillery during the Mexican Border service and commanding officer of the 109th Field Artillery in France during World War I.
The colonel lost his left leg in battle on Oct. 4, 1918, as he directed relocation of artillery pieces in the Argonne Forest. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, among other citations, and he was lauded in what was the largest parade ever held in Wyoming Valley after his return to the U.S.
Asher Miner served one term in the Pennsylvania Legislature and was chairman of the Luzerne County Republican Party. He repeatedly refused draft efforts for mayor, governor and the U.S. Senate, Brooks noted. Miner’s business involvement include leadership of the Chamber of Commerce and Penn Millers Insurance Company.
Miner retired in 1923 and died on Sept. 2, 1924.
Brooks noted that Miner’s daughter, Margaret Miner Morton, wrote a biography in 1929, “Asher Miner: Citizen and Solider.”
Appropriately, Miner’s descendants served in the military. Frederick Dasch served in the Coast Guard in the New England area, 1964-68. Brian Dasch served 23 years total in the National Guard, Army and Marines, doing multiple tours in Afghanistan. Also appropriately, his National Guard service included time in the 109th Field Artillery, the unit his great-great grandfather commanded.
Brian Dasch said he took some good-natured ribbing from fellow soldiers when they learned that Asher Miner Road at Fort Indiantown Gap was named after his ancestor.