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DAR celebrates 110 years of community service

Posted: July 10, 2017 11:53 a.m.
Updated: July 11, 2017 1:00 a.m.
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Monument honoring the Battle of Hobkirk Hill. Dedicated in 1957 to mark the 176th anniversary of the battle.

The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR), founded in 1890, was a group of women that organized the DAR after being refused membership into the men’s groups -- even though there were proven female patriots that served during the Revolutionary War. These determined ladies took up the banner of female equality and led the charge to honor all patriots regardless of gender or color.  

For more than a century, the Hobkirk Hill Chapter of NSDAR has been active in preserving history, promoting patriotism and educating citizens, both young and old, about our deep historical roots. It is among the oldest South Carolina chapters registered in the DAR. In July 1907 -- a period in history when women could not even vote -- a group of pioneering women led by Mrs. Robert M. Bratton and Mrs. Mary A. Shannon, the first chapter regent, met, chose the chapter name, Hobkirk Hill, to honor the important battle of the American Revolution and gained membership in the DAR National Society. The first charter women totaled 21 and included Mrs. Henrietta Brailsford Burns, Mrs. Eleanor Norvelle Cantey, Mrs. Cora Nesbit Carrison, Mrs. Margaret Jordan Carrison, Miss Agnes Dunavom Corbett, Miss Minnie Craig Clyburn, Miss Mary Bruton Huger, Mrs. Ann Isabel Huger de Jersey, Miss Sarah Belton Kennedy, Mrs. Fredrika Adrche Kirkland, Mrs. Louise Salmound Lang, Miss Margaret Whitaker McDowell, Mrs. Ethel Witherspoon dePass, Mrs. Emily Jordan Nesbit Shannon, Miss Leila Martha Shannon, Mrs. Mary  Ancrum Shannon, Ms. Loran Clyburn Taylor, Mrs. Emma Cantey Villipigue, Mrs. Kate Clifton Wallace, Mrs. Martha Boykin Workman, Mrs. Nona Brailsford Cantey and Miss Marie DeLoach Zemp.

Since the Hobkirk Hill chapter’s initial charter, strong and determined women from the Camden area have continuously served the community for 11 decades and have given selflessly to ensure the mission of the DAR is preserved and implemented. 

Chapter historical records and photographs are currently stored in the Camden Archives and Museum. Among those treasures is the original notebook that holds the minutes of the first years. Those minutes give a timeline of the purchase of the Robert Mills Courthouse by the Hobkirk Hill Chapter NSDAR in 1908 to save it from further decay. The original purchase was made with a loan of $250 and required a $5 down payment. In today’s standard, factoring in inflation that would be $6,223.38 the founding members were obligating the chapter to repay.  It is also worth noting that, according to Kennedy and Kirkland in their history of Camden: “Many will remember how, in the years following the war, when dilapidation had overtaken old Camden, the cows, after ruminating all day upon the pastures of ‘Magazine Hill’ would take lodging in the basement of the courthouse.” 

The Kershaw Gazette notes in April 1876: “It is said the cows have more business in the courthouse than anybody else.”  

Those observations leave a bleak picture of the condition the DAR found the building they were preserving. Undaunted by the work ahead, the ladies set out to ensure that such a historical building would be preserved and remain standing for generations to come. Repairs and maintenance completed, the Hobkirk Hill Chapter NSDAR along with the ladies of the United Daughters of the Confederacy held regular meetings in the building and opened it up two days a week for visitors to enjoy the Relic Rooms. 

In 1933, the Robert Mills Courthouse was sold to the city of Camden; in 1935 the city sold it to the Kershaw Lodge of the Ancient Free Masons. The property remained in their care until 1999, when the chamber of commerce purchased the building and opened it up for events and as a meeting facility. 

One of the DAR’s many missions is promoting historic preservation and the Hobkirk Hill Chapter NSDAR has been continuously committed to that mission. Funds were raised routinely to erect historic markers and monuments to commemorate outstanding service, patriotism and significant military events. The chapter organized a play in the beginning years called “Cranford.” Authentic clothing and furnishings from Camden residents added to the dramatic production at the opera house and closed as a complete success. Revenues from the play allowed markers to be placed honoring the likes of Gen. Baron DeKalb on the battle site (1909) marking the exact spot where he fell, mortally wounded in battle, as well as the Historic Camden Battlefield.  Many more fund raisers would occur over the decades allowing for the placement of other significant markers honoring historic events and people, such as the Samuel Wyly memorial boulder noting Mr. Wyly’s gift of 4 acres given for a meeting house and a Quaker Cemetery. The original Battle of Camden site was also acquired by the chapter through the generous land donation of William Edwards and, in 2005, the 6-acre site was bestowed upon the Palmetto Conservation Foundation. The chapter was also guardian and caretaker of the Joseph Kershaw Burying Ground until 1942, when stewardship was passed on to the Deloach Family.

Many hours are spent working with local students and administrators to promote patriotism and the love of history in area schools. Each year, the Hobkirk Hill Chapter NSDAR proudly sponsors an American History Essay contest as well as a Christopher Columbus Essay competition. Recognizing outstanding seniors and students that exhibit good citizenship is yet another way our chapter works to ensure our future citizens strive to be the very best they can be. In 2012, the chapter began hosting a scholarship luncheon as a way to raise funds for scholarships to be given to local seniors who excel academically and are committed to community service. To date, it has gifted thousands of dollars in scholarships to deserving Kershaw County students.

The Tamassee DAR School, founded in 1919, is a non-profit children’s home and family service organization that has been a place of hope, healing and learning for children in need for nearly a century. This unique school is supported financially by the chapter as part of the NSDAR since the school’s beginning.  

National holidays are not forgotten by the DAR and the gift of 100 American Flags by the family of Mrs. Gladys Carnahan was proudly displayed downtown during patriotic holidays in years past. Recognizing, supporting and honoring American military members and veterans of past wars are also at the forefront of the DAR’s mission. By working closely with the State DAR defense chair, the chapter is quickly mobilized to help our military in various capacities. The Hobkirk Hill Chapter NSDAR proudly participates in the Wreaths Across America project at Ft. Jackson by purchasing wreaths to place during special events.

The chapter also participates in wreath laying ceremonies at significant battle sites and memorials throughout the year. In honor of those men and women who served in the Vietnam War, “Quilts of Valor” were presented to two chapter members, Joann Upchurch and Inis Gibbes, who served during that conflict. The chapter, as part of the NSDAR, is a commemorative partner with the United States of America Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Commemoration and, per our national website, was established by Congress, to “thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were held as prisoners of war or listed as missing in action, for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States and to thank and honor the families of these veterans.” A flag was presented to the chapter for our participation in that event. The American flag was in turn given to American Legion Post No. 17 to be flown on special occasions.

The chapter and individual members also purchase recreational reading materials to be sent for men and women deployed at overseas installations.  

Through the last 110 years, the Hobkirk Hill chapter has seen many changes in the world, members and the times, but has always held steadfast to the mission. 

For more information please visit the website at www.scdar.org/hobkirkhill.htm.

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