Max Denning

An interested passerby stops at the Daughters of the American Revolution booth at the Union County Fair and asks Joan Smith, “What does one have to do to join the Daughters of the American Revolution?”

Smith responds that to join the DAR, you have to prove your lineage back to a patriot in the American Revolution. The passerby responds by stating her ancestors were in the Colonies in 1703, but she lives in Douglas County. Smith excitedly gives her information on the DAR and takes her number to pass on to a chapter member in Douglas County.

Smith is a past regent and current member of the Lone Pine Tree Chapter of the DAR, which includes members from Union, Baker, Wallowa and Umatilla counties. The chapter consists of 48 women, about half of whom are from La Grande.

The DAR was founded in 1890 and incorporated by an Act of Congress in 1896. It is a nonprofit and therefore politically neutral organization. From preservation of historic sites to college scholarships to awards for community members, the DAR does substantial community work on the national level. The local chapter is no exception.

Smith said the chapter’s members like having a reprieve from the political.

“They just want to do good for an organization, and they like historical preservation, education and patriotism,” Smith said.

The group’s love of its country and its history is visible. In the past the chapter has co-sponsored a fly-over of Grandview Cemetery on Memorial Day in La Grande by the 173rd Fighter Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard and dedicated a historic marker at the Wingville Cemetery in Baker County.

The Lone Pine Tree DAR chapter is hoping to recruit more members to help with promoting American history education in the local area. One way in which the chapter promotes history is by sponsoring an essay contest. The topic comes from the National DAR, and the Lone Pine Tree Chapter invites all schools in their counties to participate. A fifth-grader from Keating Elementary School in Baker City won the most recent essay contest.

At the group’s monthly meetings, a member often gives a presentation on her American Revolution ancestor. Some of them have found out they are distant cousins through tracing back their lineal descent.

For Smith, who has been a DAR member since 2002, she knows only that her ancestor was a private in the Revolutionary War. Wilma Johnson, who has been a member of DAR for seven years, has traced back her lineage to Captain Samuel Ransom, who at one point fought alongside George Washington. Ransom died in the Battle of Wyoming, also known as the Wyoming Massacre, in Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania.

Read the full story in Friday's Observer