Sons of Revolutionary Sires
On October 22, 1875, Dr. James L. Cogswell, acting master of the Crockett Masonic Lodge # 139, met with several lodge members met to plan activities for the upcoming Declaration of Independence centennial celebrations in San Francisco. They determined to form a group of descendants of Revolutionary War Soldiers who would march in the centennial parade on the 4th of July. A proposal was made that the name of the group should be the California Society Sons of the Revolutionary Sires. Major Edwin A Sherman, visiting from Nevada, recommended that the “California” be dropped in lieu of being recognized as a national organization to which all agreed. At the first “official” meeting on June 29, 1876 it was resolved to organize under the name “Sons of the Revolutionary Sires”. The group attracted over 80 men who marched together in the city of San Francisco 4th of July parade of 1876 (Sons Undated).
The Sons of Revolutionary Sires actively promoted their society throughout the country taking advertisements out in the New York Times with no results. Perhaps there was simply no interest in joining a group of revolutionary sires formed in a state that did not exist during the Revolutionary War. As the years went on the Sires numbers steadily declined and, as stated by Major Sherman in his book, Fifty Years of Masonry in California, that as the majority of its members passed away “…the thing though not dead was in a very sound slumber.” When the history was written in 1895, Sherman claimed that he and Cogswell were the last two surviving founders of the Sires. The society had carried on through the exclusive efforts of one man, Adolphus S. Hubbard, who served faithfully as the society secretary since 1877. The group never formally incorporated and its numbers dwindled down to two or three semi-active surviving members when the call came from William McDowell and a group of New Jersey gentlemen to become part of the Sons of the American Revolution (Sons Undated).
Sons of the American Revolution (SAR)
The history of SAR can be traced to the founding of the Sons of the Revolution, the New York Society which was organized in 1883. The Sons of the Revolution was founded by John Austin Stevens who envisioned an aristocratic social and hereditary organization along the lines of the Society of the Cincinnati.
In 1889, William Osborn McDowell, a New Jersey financier and businessman, Josiah Pumpelly and William Stryker, residents New Jersey and members of the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution organized the New Jersey Society of the Sons of the Revolution but were unwilling to accept the Sons of the Revolution requirement that other state societies be subordinate to the New York society. McDowell and the New Jersey members began a campaign of unofficially organizing Sons of the Revolution societies in New Hampshire, Vermont, Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia, Arkansas, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The purpose was to pressure the New York society to relinquish control over its “National” society status. Up to that point, the New York society felt that it was the primary organization and all others would be subordinate groups. The Pennsylvania Society Sons of the Revolution was curiously exempt from this status (Sons undated).
McDowell also wanted the society to become more of a mass movement of descendants of Revolutionary patriots rather than an exclusive social club. As a result, McDowell organized the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) at Fraunces Tavern in New York on April 30, 1889. This was the centennial for the inauguration of George Washington as the First President of the United States of America in 1789. SAR membership number 1 was assigned to McDowell. In addition to organizing the SAR, McDowell worked with six women to organize the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution on July 29, 1890 (Sons 2015).
McDowell called for a meeting of the New Jersey Committee of New York Society Sons of the Revolution and requested that delegates from all of the newly formed societies be present. All other members of the New York society failed to attend. The Pennsylvania delegate of the Sons of the Revolution urged the committee to form as an auxiliary and ultimately under the control of the New York Society. Major George B. Halstead of the New Jersey committee sat in as a representative of Adolphus S. Hubbard, long time Recording Secretary of the California Sons of the Revolutionary Sires. After making their position known and finding the option as an auxiliary to the New York Society Sons of the Revolution unacceptable, the group decided to form as the Sons of the American Revolution (Sons undated). 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 (Origins 2009).
At the April meeting of the SAR the following officers were chosen: General William S. Stryker was elected as president; Benjamin Myer as Vice President; Josiah C. Pumpelly as Secretary; Paul Revere as Treasurer; and John L. Boggs as Registrar. William McDowell and eleven others were elected to the Board of Management. The group decided that the Sons of Revolutionary Sires would merge with the SAR (Sons undated).
The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution was incorporated on January 17, 1890 in Connecticut. The first National Congress was held on April 30, 1890 in Louisville, Kentucky. At this meeting the delegates adopted a resolution that “the SAR was first organized in the state of California on the 4th of July 1876”. This has led to some to conclude that the SAR’s history was reverse engineered at this point (Sons undated).
SAR was formally granted a congressional charter by an act of Congress under Title 36 of the United States Code on June 9, 1906. The act was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, who was a member 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. (Origins 2009, Sons 2015).
The early membership papers of the founders of the SAR shows William Osborn McDowell as National Number 1, New Jersey State Number 1; Josiah Collins Pumpelly as National and NJ state number 2 and William S Stryker as National and NJ state number 3. George B. Halstead who represented the California Sons of Revolutionary Sires was SAR National and NJ state number 14. Adolphus S Hubbard, recording secretary of the Sons of the Revolutionary Sires was SAR National number 3403 and CA state number 3. Of the first ten SAR members, all were from New Jersey and none were from California. So, if the Sons of Revolutionary Sires was the original organization, it was not revealed in the numbering of the first members of the SAR. Perhaps the Sons of Revolutionary Sires should be considered a legacy organization and not the father of the SAR (Sons undated).
California Society Sons of the American Revolution
“…From the first suggestion of the idea of forming a National Society, California supported the movement with enthusiasm. At a meeting of its Board of Directors, held March 22, 1890, the name of the Society was changed to “The California Society Sons of the American Revolution,” and a committee was also appointed to draft a new Constitution and By-laws. Steps were taken to have the Society incorporated under the laws of California, and delegates were elected to the first convention of the National Society. On October 19, 1891, a new Constitution and By-laws were adopted.…” (Register 1901).
Charter of the California Society of the Sons of the American Revolution
A Resolution adopted at the first National Society Congress at Louisville, Kentucky April 30, 1890 indicates the importance of the State of California to the formation of the National Society.
“WHEREAS, The Society of the Sons of the American Revolution was first organized in the State of California on the Fourth of July, 1876; and,
“WHEREAS, To Colonel A. S. Hubbard, of the California Society, is due in a large degree, the credit of organizing that Society, and, in a still greater degree, the credit of maintaining that Society through trials which would have discouraged a less patriotic man; now, therefore,
“Resolved, That in the publication of the names of the Presidents-General of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, the name of Colonel A. S. Hubbard be hereafter included.
“Resolved, That the Secretary-General be, and is hereby, instructed to inform Colonel A. S. Hubbard of the honor which this Congress has conferred upon him.” (Register 1901).
SAR California Society resolution honoring Colonel A.S. Hubbard, adopted September 3, 1892
The Register of the California Society of the Sons the American Revolution states “…It is interesting to note that in April, 1891 Mrs. Adolphus S. Hubbard (Sarah I.) was nominated by the DAR National Board of Management as the organizing State Regent of California. It is reported in California History D.A.R. 1891–1938 that ‘We assume that the successful work of Mr. Adolphus S. Hubbard as a genealogist in organizing the Sons of the American Revolution had much to do with the selection of Mrs. Hubbard, both in the West and at the National capital, to organize the Daughters here.’ The formal certificate of election is dated September 14, 1891 and is signed by Caroline Scott Harrison, President General.
“Mrs. Hubbard also organized the first society of the Children of the American Revolution in the State of California, with thirty-three children, which they named the Valentine Holt Society, C.A.R., on February 22, 1896, and was their president for ten years).
“Three Honorary Presidents General from the California Society have been named by the National Society. Albert M. Winn served as the first President of The Sons of the Revolutionary Sires, 1876-1881. Colonel Adolphus Hubbard served as President of this Society, 1886-1892, and participated in the joining of the California Society and the National Society SAR in its earliest days. The third Honorary President General was Compatriot Harold L. Putnam so named in 1966 following 17 years of distinguished service as NSSAR Executive Secretary” (Register 1901).
The page below is excerpted from records of the California Society SAR meeting of May 25, 1906 following the 1906 earthquake. Note that it is recorded “…all records of the Society had been destroyed.” and “…the gavel made of timbers of the U. S. Frigate Constitution which had escaped destruction….”