Celebrating the SAR's 125th Congress

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
July 29, 2015

On the day after the 124th Continental Congress adjourned, I spent a little time trying to reorganize after a week at the Grand Hyatt, took Ann Dillon to the airport and dropped by Headquarters to thank our staff for their hard work during Congress. 

Early Tuesday morning, July 1, I flew to Louisville, KY for the Sons of the American Revolution’s 125th Congress, Lindsey C. Brock, President General.  Leslie Miller, the Kentucky State Organizing Secretary, greeted me at the airport and treated me to a delicious lunch at Lily’s Bistro.  Leslie also works at the SAR as a Genealogist.

The Sons of the American Revolution was organized on April 30, 1889, the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of George Washington as our nation's first President.  The 125th Congress was held at the Historic Galt House Hotel in Louisville, located on the banks of the Ohio River and site of the SAR’s first Congress in 1889.  Although this was not the original building of the Galt House, it was marvelous to reflect on what the first Continental Congress must have been like for the newly organized SAR. 

The location on the Ohio River was crucial to the early settlement of the area. Col. George Rogers Clark made the first Anglo-American settlement in the vicinity of modern-day Louisville in 1778, during the American Revolution. A year later, at the request of Clark, the settlers began crossing the river and established the first permanent settlement. By April they called it "Louisville", in honor of King Louis XVI of France, whose government and soldiers aided colonists in the Revolutionary War.  In 1803, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark organized their expedition across North America at the Falls of the Ohio and Louisville. The Lewis and Clark Expedition took explorers across the western U.S., surveying the Louisiana Purchase, and eventually to the Pacific Ocean.

It is no wonder the SAR would choose to return to Louisville for the 125th Congress.  With a membership of about 32,000 members, over 560 members and guests were welcomed, including many DAR members. 

I attended a lecture by Judge Ed Butler, President General, 2009-2010, who led a tour to Spain during his term.  There he met Crown Prince Filipe de Borbon who became King Felipe VI in 2014.  The future king asked Ed to write a book about Bernardo de Gálvez and his assistance in the American Revolution.  Judge Butler did extensive research and shared his findings with us in Galvez / Spain - Our Forgotten Ally in the American Revolutionary War: A Concise Summary.

Michael N. Henderson, a SAR Member in Georgia, shared his story of discovering a family connection to Galvez in his book, Got Proof? My Genealogical Journey Through the Use of Documentation.   Through genealogical research, he discovered he descends from a woman of color who gained her freedom in 1779 (Manumission signed by Bernardo de Galvez) and a French national who fought in the Revolutionary War under Bernardo de Galvez in Spanish Colonial Louisiana. 

The President’s Banquet was held that evening and began with a large Color Guard followed by the presentation of the National Officers and their ladies, many of which wore colonial costumes.

Peter Grassi, Master of Ceremonies for the evening and Past Vice President General, shared a history of the first banquet held at the first Congress, held in 1889. The band played “My Old Kentucky Home” and the menu featured clams, lobster, lamp, snipes, cigars and coffee.  Toasts were given to “The education of the people in patriotism!” followed by “To the Constitution in trials and triumphs!”  The last toast was “To the French Allies of the Revolution!”  It must have been a grand evening!

The first Kentucky State President of the SAR was Simon Bolivar Buckner, an American soldier and politician who fought in the Mexican–American War and in the Civil War.  He was elected governor of Kentucky in 1887 and was Kentucky Member #1 of the SAR.  Interestingly, his wife was member #2.  As you recall from the history of the founding of the DAR, shortly after accepting women as members, the SAR voted to be solely a male organization.  A Vice President who disagreed with the new policy, William O. McDowell, was instrumental in the organization of the DAR.

The evening included a delicious dinner, a formal Change of Color Guard command, installation of the new Ladies Auxiliary Board and awards.  Entertainment was provided by Un Hui Yi, a Korean Traditional Dancer and wife of Jim Fosdick, CASSAR.  I had met the Fosdicks earlier in the year at the Nevada State Conference and it was delightful to watch Un Hui dance in her beautiful costumes.

When Lindsey invited me to bring greetings, I shared our experience in April when we were presented to Queen Elizabeth II, explaining the “rest of the story.”  As she was almost ready to leave the Library in which samples of the archives of King George III were displayed, Lindsey inquired if we could have a photo made with her.  Keep in mind that photos were not permitted but he seized the opportunity and I didn’t hesitate to jump in the picture!  Lindsey went on to explain the rest of the “rest of the story.”  It seems in the seconds it took me to cross the room, he unintentionally put his hand on Her Majesty’s back, then quickly withdrew it.  Perhaps that is why she was not smiling as broadly as we were in the photo.  Thank goodness Lindsey took the initiative to have the photo made!

The  Commander of the American Legion, Mike Helm, brought greetings, followed by Lindsey’s formal address in which he shared his appreciation for the privilege of serving as President General. 

The next morning Leslie took me to SAR’s headquarters in historic buildings in downtown Louisville, site of old tobacco and cotton warehouses.  The SAR has grand plans to use half of the building as an interactive Museum. It is quite easy to find as it is directly across the street of the Louisville Slugger headquarters, featuring a two story bat leaning against the building.

The Library is the central part of the building.  A small room at the back featured many treasures, including one of only 12 flight-certified Lunar Bibles still in existence.  The Lunar Bible was carried to the surface of the Moon with the Apollo 14 astronauts in 1971.  This extremely rare complete Lunar Bible contains all 1,245 pages of the King James Bible printed on 1-1/2 inch square Microform.  This is the first published book ever carried by mankind to landfall on another celestial world.  The Lunar Bible is on loan, courtesy of Mr. Al Newberry of the Arkansas Society SAR.

Leslie introduced me to the staff and we posed for a photo with several of the local DAR members who are also employees of SAR before driving to the airport.

Lindsey and I agreed that although the missions of our organization are very similar, there is enough difference between the SAR and the DAR that we are able to reach far more people through our separate organizations about the importance of the American Revolution.  I am grateful that the DAR and SAR have worked closely together for 125 years.

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