DAR chapters holds yearly remembrance

June 13, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Rev. John Creaghead exhorted his congregation to fight during the War of Independence but, according to local lore, it was the words of a woman that stirred him to fight for liberty.

"Stop Mr. Creaghead! I just want to tell ye again if ye have such a purty boy as I have in the war ye will na be so keen for fighting," the woman said, according to a history of the Rocky Spring Presbyterian Church produced by the Franklin County Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. "Yer always preaching to the boys about it, but I dunna think ye'd be very likely to go yourself," she said.

Apparently chastened by her words, Creaghead and many members of the congregation went to New Jersey and joined the Continental Army in July 1776. The DAR lists the names of about 40 men from the church who served in the Revolutionary War, including one general, four colonels and a dozen captains.


On Sunday, the DAR held its annual memorial service for members who died in the previous year, six women who could trace their lineage to the original patriots - Charlotte Gonser Russell, a descendant of Zadock Ford of Connecticut; Juanita C. Condon, a descendant of Joseph Horst; Stella McGrady Fries, descended from Ensign Matthew Scott; Charlotte Scharz Stepler, whose Revolutionary War roots are traced to Private Bennett Thompson; Mary Geyer Rines, a descendant of Peter Geyer; and Vera Cook Gabler, a descendant of George Cook.

A white rose for each of the deceased members was placed in a vase.

"In the last few years, we've been holding our own," Janet Coldsmith, the chapter's chaplain, said of membership.

Past regent Patricia Stumbaugh said the chapter has 134 members and six applicants whose paperwork is being processed by the national DAR.

According to the tributes read on their behalf, the chapter members who died in the past year were not just stewards of history, but women of accomplishment in their own right.

Fries was a longtime teacher in Maryland and Pennsylvania and author of books on historical research and genealogy. She also won the 1932 Miss Maryland pageant.

A counselor, Condon earned three master's degrees and "was on call 24/7 for kids in crisis," said her sister, Janis Condon. "On more than one occasion, Juanita arranged for psychiatric hospitalization for suicidal students in crisis," her sister said.

Gabler joined the U.S. Navy's Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Service, or WAVES, during World War II and was a charter member of Women In Military Service For America.

Regent Shirley Lanman said the DAR chapter is responsible for maintaining the church cemetery. The group also sponsors college scholarships for high school students and citizenship contests for younger students among its activities, Lanman said.

Following the DAR service, the Presbyterian Church of the Falling Spring hosted a worship service in the church, which was built in 1794, although its congregation was formed in 1739. When the last member of the congregation died in the early 20th century, a board of trustees was appointed by the court.

Since that time, Coldsmith said, the board of trustees has worked with the DAR to maintain the building and honor a requirement set by the court to hold at least one Presbyterian service in the church each year.

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