Old Chester Court House, Chester PA
History of Delaware County Chapter DAR
The Delaware County Chapter was organized by Mrs. James Watts Mercur of Wallingford. Mrs. Mercur felt there was a need for a chapter in Delaware County so she called a number of ladies together. Some of these ladies had already been admitted to membership in Philadelphia and other nearby chapters. Attending this meter were Miss Natalie Stacey, Miss Helene Denis, Miss Ellen Denis, Miss Mary Lewis (Mrs. Charles S. Jack), Mrs. Charles Wilson (Mrs. Percy Wilcox), Mrs. George Lewis, Mrs. W. H. H. Robinson (Mrs. Herman Hilprecht). The first officers were Regent, Mrs. Mercur; Secretary, Mrs. Price Wetherill; Treasurer, Miss Eliza Leiper (Mrs. Thomas Kane); and Registrar, Mrs. Louis Lodge. These officers, along with three other members constituted a “Committee of Safety.” These were the Charter Members of the Chapter. The Charter was issued October 22, 1894, making the Chapter Number 15 in the State and Number 97 in the National Society. Bylaws were adopted and the First and Second Vice Regent, Chaplain, Corresponding Secretary, and Historian were added to the list of officers.
Pilgrimages were made to historic places and markers were placed. Papers were written on these trips and are still in the possession of the Chapter. Markers were placed at the Washington House and the Steamboat Hotel. Both were located in Chester, Pennsylvania, and were of the colonial period. Unfortunately, both have since been torn down. George Washington was believed to have stayed at the Washington House on his trips from Mount Vernon to Philadelphia. The 1724 Old Colonial Court House in Chester, PA, said to be the oldest public building in continuous use in the United States, was also marked. For a time the Court House served as the meeting place for the Chapter.
Shortly after the start of the Chapter, the Spanish-American War broke out. The Chapter contributed to the Club Room in Manila and sent needed articles for the sick and wounded in Santiago. During WW I, the Chapter worked with the Red Cross, Emergency Aid and other organizations to aid the war effort. A benefit was held at The Springhaven Club to support the Blood Plasma Project sponsored by NSDAR during WW II. Again the Chapter worked with other organizations to help. Buddy Bags were sent. A motion picture projector was purchased for the crew of the State Sponsored LCI. Members assisted in entertaining convalescent service personnel at the Swarthmore Naval Annex, Philadelphia Naval Base Hospital and the Valley Forge Hospital. The Chapter has always given great support to our service men and women.
Delaware County Chapter has been active in the community working with the Girl and Boy Scouts, Salvation Army, the Neighborhood House in Chester, Camp Sunshine and the Boys Club of Chester. Today, Good Citizens are recognized. The Chapter sponsors the History Essay Contest and the winners of Fifth through Eighth Grades read their essays to the Chapter each year. Four other History Awards are given yearly—one at the Delaware County Community College. ROTC Medals are given. The grave of John Morton, signer of the Declaration of Independence, at Old St. Paul’s churchyard in Chester is marked each Memorial Day in conjunction with veterans’ organizations.
The Chapter participates in the Naturalization Courts held in Media. These courts are unique. A formal court is called quarterly by direct order of the President Judge and is presided over by a County Judge to officially welcome the new citizens. The Regent leads the Pledge to the Flag immediately after the certificates have been presented. The DAR Manual for Good Citizenship is given to the Prothonotar’s Office as they are needed. Mrs. Richard B. Griffith served as Chairman of the committee for 23 years. A citation was presented to her in April 1963 commending her for her work. A citation was presented to Mr. Horace Draft for his work who, along with Mr. Mervyn Turk, was instrumental in starting the Naturalization Court. The NSDAR Excellence in Community Service Award was presented to Aloysius T. O’Donnell for continuing the work of Mr. Draft and his own many years of service.
A pew was given at the Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge in honor of John Morton. Chapter members in local cemeteries have marked ancestors’ graves. The grave of Major William Anderson in Old St. Paul’s Cemetery and that of Brigadier General Persifor Frazer in Old Middletown Presbyterian churchyard have been marked.
A ship’s clock was given to the cruiser “Chester” and was later transferred to the newly commissioned “Chester” during WW II. Four memorial chairs were given to Memorial Continental Hall—one in honor of John Morton. The Chapter helped with the restoration of the Caleb Pusey House.
The 1724 Court House fell into disrepair. In 1917, Senator (later Governor) William Sproul proposed to restore the Court House to its original lines. He then would give it to the City of Chester. Agreements gave the Grand Jury Room to the Delaware County Historical Society and the Chapter was to receive the Petit Jury Room with the understanding the room was to be restored as closely as possible to its early usage. The Chapter purchased six ladder-back chairs, andirons, shovel and tongs. The official address of the Chapter was changed to the Old Colonial Court House and Chapter papers and memorabilia were placed there. When the National Project, “A Gift to the Nation,” to furnish the second floor of Independence Hall was announced, the fire back marked George III, the andirons, shovel and tongs were given for use in the Governor’s Room. The Delaware County ladder-back chairs can be found at the Colonial Court House. A pine stretch table was loaned to the Minshall House in Media. In 2001, the Chapter donated a silver spoon that had been presented to a DAR Page dated 1914 to the National Society Museum. Also that year, the Chapter donated a map showing the Leiper land, a tea pot and two iron candle sticks to the Leiper House; a Spode plate and Chapter plates were sent to Constitution Hall; and a donation in the amount of $1,050 was sent to the Kate Duncan Smith DAR School in memory of Miss Marguerite Flounders and Mrs. Sara Brunton.
Trees have been planted in the DAR Memorial grove in Fairmont Park in Philadelphia; also in Crozer Park in Chester and the Morton Homestead. Contributions were made to Penny Pines. Two magnolia trees were given to NSDAR when the Administration Building was expanded. These were in memory of deceased members and were planted on either side of the D Street entrance. The Chapter helped in the evergreen planting around John Morton’s grave. A flowering apple tree was planted in Gradyville to mark the Great Edgmont Road. A tree was planted at Rose Tree Park.
The Chapter copied Bible and marriage records and made maps and charts of graveyards and historic sites in Delaware County. This was done in conjunction with the W.P.A. and the Delaware County Historical Society. Copies were sent to the National and State libraries. The Chapter presented the National Library with a two-volume set on the History of Concord Township, Pennsylvania.
In 1983, the Chapter started another big project—alphabetizing the Naturalization Records of Delaware County. Permission to do so was given by President Judge, The Honorable Francis J. Catania. The records from 1795—the first granted—to 1926 were abstracted. These included Declarations of Intent and Petitions for Citizenship; also Common Pleas Miscellaneous Books A, B, C, D, E. This phase alone took more than three months and 4127 names were found, some had no other record of citizenship. From 1926 on, the Prothonotary’s Office had a card file. In 2004, over 20 years after the start of the project, the three-volume record, Delaware County Pennsylvania Naturalization Index, Vol. 1795-1860, Vol. 1860-1906, Vol. 1906-1926 was sent to the DAR National Library, presented in memory of Miss Marguerite Flounders.
The Junior Membership Committee started in 1951 with 15 members. Mrs. Clarence Bell was the Organizing Chairman. One year later there were 27 Junior members. The Juniors had two projects—Lachford Hall at Tyler Arboretum, and senior leadership of John Morton C.A.R. Mrs. Ellwood Turner enrolled her 18 grandchildren so the membership grew rapidly. Today the Chapter and Robert Morris-Quaker City Chapter sponsor the Society jointly. The young people are active on both the State and National level.
The Anniversary celebrations have been held in many places, but usually those places convenient to the membership. The 50th was held at the Acorn Club in Philadelphia with the President General, Mrs. Julius Talmadge, and the State Regent, Mrs. Benjamin Williams, present. The 65th was at Rolling Green Golf Club at which time the daughters of Mrs. Mercur gave the Chapter her pin (wheel). This was placed in a shadow box and put in the Petit Jury Room. The 75th was a gala affair at the Aronimink Golf Club with many dignitaries present. The dinner committee had a diamond placed in Mrs. Mercur’s pin and presented it to the Regent. Florence Wetherill Wilson had given her Regent’s pin to the Chapter. This, together with Mrs. Mercur’s wheel, was placed on a ribbon and this is to be worn by each Chapter Regent. It is the property of the Chapter. The Chapter gives each outgoing Regent her Ex-Regent’s pin.
Since 1980, all Anniversary Luncheons have been held at The Springhaven Club. In 110 years, 611 members have been admitted. Thirty-seven women have served as Regent, with only four repeating. Each Regent has contributed her time and talent for the betterment of the Chapter, but without the cooperation of the members, she can do nothing. That cooperation has been given enthusiastically over the years. We continue to support the National and State Societies in all their endeavors. That support is what makes Delaware County one of the best chapters anywhere.
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