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The Origins of the SAR



In 1876 there were many celebrations to commemorate the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. As part of this patriotic fervor, a group of men in the San Francisco, California, area who were descendants of patriots involved in the American Revolution, formed an organization called the Sons of Revolutionary Sires. Their objective was to have a fraternal and civic society to salute those men and women who pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to the battle for independence from Great Britain. They desired to keep alive their ancestors' story of patriotism and courage in the belief that it is a universal one of man's struggle against tyranny -- a story which would inspire and sustain succeeding generations when they would have to defend and extend our freedoms.

Out of the Sons of Revolutionary Sires grew the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, which was organized on April 30, 1889 -- the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of George Washington as our nation's first President. We have used the acronym SAR to identify ourselves for over 100 years. The SAR was conceived as a fraternal and civic society composed of lineal descendants of the men who wintered at Valley Forge, signed the Declaration of Independence, fought in the battles of the American Revolution, served in the Continental Congress, or otherwise supported the cause of American Independence. The National Society was chartered by an Act of the United States Congress on June 9, 1906. The charter was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, who was a member of the SAR. The charter authorizes the granting of charters to societies of the various states and territories and authorizes the state societies to charter chapters within their borders.

 

The Origins of the VTSSAR

On April 2, 1889, a Society of descendants of the American Revolution was organized in Vermont, simultaneously with a Society in Connecticut, with every expectation of becoming a sister of the first association of descendants organized in New York City.  The Vermont Society was created, in response to a call of the second association formed, the New Jersey Society.  A company of gentlemen of Revolutionary descent assembled at the State capital in Montpelier, Vermont on that date.  The founders of the Vermont Society adopted the title of Sons of the Revolution, and fashioned their Constitution after that of New Jersey, which made eligible to membership any “person” of the age of 21, otherwise properly qualified.  They appointed the annual meeting for August 16th, the anniversary of the Battle of Bennington, and fixed the fees as follows: Initiation, $3.00; annual dues, $2.00; and life membership, $50.00.  Officers were elected to be held over until the August 16th, 1889 meeting when the officers were elected for the subsequent year.

Although the Vermont Society appointed delegates to the convention, held at Fraunces’s Tavern in New York City on April 30th, 1889, the failure of New York to take part in that convention and of Pennsylvania to support the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution organized that day, after having participated in its organization, created doubt in Vermont as to the proper course to pursue.  A period of hesitation followed.  In November, 1889, the election of Dr. William Seward Webb, a member of the Vermont Society and its first Vice-President, as President-General of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), operated together with other influences, to decide the Green Mountain State men in favor of the SAR.

A special meeting was held by the Vermont Society, December 23rd, 1889, at the Van Ness House in Burlington, Vermont, to act upon this question.  The Honorable George G. Benedict, President of the Society, occupied the chair and laid before the members a statement of the principles involved in union with the National Society SAR.  After a full discussion, General Theodore S. Peck moved that Vermont become a member of the National Society, and the motion carried unanimously.  The Secretary was directed to report this decision to the Secretary-General, SAR, and send greetings to sister Societies.  Colonel Edward A. Chittenden, the Vermont Society’s first President, proposed that a telegraphic message be dispatched at once to President-General Webb, and it was voted to transmit the following:

Burlington, Vt., December 23rd, 1889.
To Col. W. Seward Webb, President National Society, Sons of American Revolution, New York City:  The Vermont Society of Sons of the Revolution, having unanimously voted to become a member of the National Society of Sons of the American Revolution, extends to you its hearty congratulations on your recent election as president of the national organization.  This Society feels that in thus conferring on you, our first vice-president, the highest office in its gift, the National Society not only honors itself, but the “Green Mountain boys.”

By order of the Society,
CHARLES S. FORBES, Secretary.    G. G. Benedict, President.

Having thus arrived at a decision, the Vermont Society began to prosper, and a membership of about 30 was soon obtained.

August 16th, 1890, the Vermont Society held its annual meeting in Bennington, Vermont, in the vicinity of the ancient Battlefield.  The members gathered at Bennington on the 15th, and visited historic places in the locality, under the guidance of Major A. B. Valentine, General John G. McCullough and other citizens of the place.  In the evening they were entertained at a banquet at the Putnam House by General McCullough.  Addresses were made by the Honorable George C. Benedict, President of the Society; the Reverend L. M. Handy of Burlington; E. W. Thompson of Boston; the Honorable Arthur J. Dewey, President of the Village; Major A. B. Valentine; Judge G. W. Harmon, Olin Scott and Judge John V. Carney.

Upon the 16th, the Society gathered for the annual meeting.  Seventeen new members were admitted.  The Honorable George G. Benedict, C. S. Forbes, and the Reverend L. M. Hardy were appointed a Committee on Revision of the Constitution and By-laws.  A resolution was adopted in favor of reducing the initiation fee to $2.00 and the annual dues to $1.00.  Officers were elected for the ensuing year.  The next annual meeting was appointed to be held in Bennington.

A special meeting, duly called, was held at Montpelier, October 14th, 1890, with the Honorable Redfield Proctor, US Secretary of War, in the chair.  The committee to revise the Constitution and By-Laws, reported by its chairman, Mr. Benedict.  The report was accepted and the revised Constitution and By-Laws were unanimously adopted.  Among the changes so reported and adopted was a change of the title of the Society from Sons of the Revolution to Sons of the American Revolution, to correspond with the title of the National organization.  Twenty-four new members were elected. 

Soon thereafter, at its recent session, an Act of Incorporation of the Vermont Society of Sons of the American Revolution was passed by the Legislature of Vermont.  The Act was approved by State Governor Carroll S. Page, November 13, 1890. For a list of the past society presidents click here

On September 25, 2008, at a ceremony held in the Cedar Creek Room of the Vermont State House, the Vermont Society of Sons of the American Revolution was awarded the Vermont Centennial Nonprofit Award for being one of Vermont's oldest nonprofit corporations and having been incorporated over 100 years ago. Presenting the award was the Governor of Vermont, the Honorable James Douglas and Vermont Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz. Accepting on behalf of the VTSSAR was Compatriot Thomas Patrick McKenna, Past President of the Vermont Society.

 

Centennal_Award_2008

From left to right: Governor of Vermont James Douglas, Past Governor of the VTSSAR Thomas Patrick McKenna, and Vermont Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz

 

 

 

View a List of VT SAR Past Presidents

 


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