Visiting the Hoosier State

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
November 2, 2015

After meetings with contractors and Department Heads at Headquarters for 3 days, I flew from D.C. to Indianapolis on September 17 for the Indiana Fall Forum.  Waiting at the airport were Treasurer General Martha Barnhart, State Regent Lois Huntington and State Vice Regent Charlotte Blair.  Unfortunately, my luggage was not waiting and did not arrive until the next morning…

That evening we drove downtown for dinner at the Columbia Club with the State Executive Board and Honorary State Regents.  The Club was organized to help elect Benjamin Harrison, the only Hoosier to occupy the White House, as our 23rd President.  We enjoyed an elegant dinner in the Library and I must admit that the Deep Fried Biscuits served warm with apple butter, were irresistible.

Directly across from the Club on Monument Circle in the center of downtown is the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument, erected following the Civil War to honor the Hoosiers who fought in the American Revolution, Civil War, War of 1812, Mexican-American War and the Spanish-American War.  The ornate limestone obelisk is surrounded by pools and fountains.  The impressive monument is only 15 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty.  In fact, Indianapolis is so aware of the sacrifices of those who serve our country that the city is second only to Washington, D.C. in the number of war memorials.

Our first activity Friday morning was to visit the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, home of our First President General, Caroline Scott Harrison.  We were greeted by Charles A. Hyde, President and CEO, and given a fabulous tour led by Jennifer E. Capps, Curator and DAR member.  Benjamin Harrison was named for his great-grandfather who served as Governor of Virginia and signer of the Declaration of Independence.  Public service was in his DNA as his grandfather, William Henry Harrison, was elected our 9th President in 1840. When he began campaigning for President, hundreds of supporters would gather on the lawn for his front porch speeches. 

Charles Hyde was eager to point out several special items with a Texas connection including a gift from a Texas supporter of a chair made of longhorns, cheetah fur and a diamond name plate. It was even more special to be in the home of our first President General since we are so close to our 125th anniversary.  Seeing Caroline Scott Harrison’s personal items in the home she helped design and decorate was a real treat.  Mrs. Harrison was an accomplished artist and many of her water colors are displayed. I am familiar with her orchid paintings but was surprised to learn that she was very fond of yellow roses, considering them a symbol of friendship.

Our next visit was to Crown Hill Cemetery to attend a Memorial Service at the graves of Benjamin and Caroline Harrison, organized by Caroline Scott Harrison Chapter and its Regent, Priscilla Austgen. Many of the state officers and chapter members attended and it was an honor to place a wreath on Mrs. Harrison’s grave.  The Crown Hill Cemetery was founded in 1863 and is one of the largest cemeteries in the country, including 1,616 prisoners of war from the Civil War.  It is absolutely beautiful with large trees and rolling hills.

We drove a short distance to the grave of Cornelia Cole Fairbanks, President General 1901-1905 and her husband, Charles Fairbanks, Vice President of the United States. It was during Mrs. Fairbanks’ term that Memorial Continental Hall was built on the first piece of land purchased by the DAR for $50,000.  The Memorial Service was conducted by the Cornelia Cole Fairbanks Chapter Regent Claire Rutledge and attended by many chapter members and state officers.  I appreciate the opportunity to place a wreath at Mrs. Fairbanks’ grave.

Leaving the cemetery, we were greeted at the Caroline Scott Harrison Chapter House by Priscilla Austgen and several chapter members.  This large, impressive house was built to accommodate the chapter meetings and to showcase many items from the Harrison family which are among the chapter treasures. Following a lovely lunch prepared and served by chapter members, Priscilla presented a book of Norman Rockwell’s Spirit of America drawings to each of us.  Additionally, she presented me with a $1,000 chapter check to the President General’s Project, a chapter cookbook and a Vera Bradley tote bag, made in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Our next special event was a rededication of an eight-foot obelisk placed by the Cornelia Cole Fairbanks Chapter in 1916 on the first state-funded highway to promote Indianapolis as the crossroads of America.  For several years the chapter has worked to restore the monument, add landscaping and flagpoles.  A plaque mounted on the obelisk states, “Over these roads came many of the pioneers, who, by their courage and industry, founded the great commonwealth of Indiana.” Chapter Regent Claire Rutledge led the brief service, attended by a large group of members.  A World War I reenactor reminded all of what it was like in 1916. Once again, I had the honor of placing the wreath.  

Following the Obelisk rededication, the Cornelia Cole Fairbanks Chapter hosted a marvelous tea at the Propylaeum, a wonderful old home which was purchased for the Indiana Women’s Club.  May Wright Sewall, an early suffragist and DAR member, was an organizing member of many of the women’s organizations and urged the Club to purchase a property which could be used by all of the women’s organizations.  Almost 200 members attended the lovely tea.

Returning to the hotel, the Executive Board and Honorary State Regents were invited to wear western attire and join the State Regent for a Tex-iana BBQ.  The highlight was a Sugar Cream Pie, the State Pie of Indiana.  Western themed games were played, including trivia about both Indiana and Texas.  All were invited to participate in a miniature arcade game, with door prizes for the winners. 

Early Saturday morning, Treasurer General Martha Barnhart drove me a short distance to The Palms Conference Center where Fall Forum convened with a capacity crowd.  The Indiana Society has 5,000 members in 88 chapters.  Lois’ theme is “Healthy Chapters are the KEY to a Strong DAR.”  It must be working as Indiana has sustained a net growth in membership for at least seven years! 

Many committees had tables of information and items for the silent auction.  Chapters took advantage of the fundraising opportunity and displayed baked goods, cookbooks, placemats, baskets and homemade items  at tables around the large room.  The Cornelia Cole Fairbanks Chapter had a life size cut up of George Washington and invited members to have a photo taken with our first president for a nominal fee.

Brief presentations were given on the Indiana Flag, which was chosen in a contest sponsored by the Indiana Society DAR during the state’s centennial anniversary in 1916.  Carleen Price of the Piankeshaw Chapter spoke of their appreciation for one of our Special Project Grants for the Scribner House, the oldest home in New Albany in 1917.    Stephanie Resler shared information on the Indiana State Flag and the efforts of the Ten O’Clock Line Chapter to place a historical marker at the home of its designer, Paul Hadley. Kendra Smith urged members to become involved in their counties and the state prepares for its bicentennial in 2016.

Following lunch, I shared a PowerPoint program on the many ways in which our building is used throughout the year as well as repairs needed to maintain our historic property.  For those who were not at Congress, I shared the Guardian Trust Campaign video and our need to provide for Tomorrow’s DAR.

Following tradition, Lois presented me with a charm for my bracelet of the Indy 500, which celebrates its 100th anniversary next year, along with a contribution to the President General’s Project.  I enjoyed presenting President General Project Certificates to the many chapters achieving 100% participation.  The State Officers surprised Lois with their personal commitment to the Guardian Trust Campaign in her honor.

As I said goodbye to drive to the airport with Pat and Vincent Dove, the 250 members in the room sang “Happy Trails to You.”   What a great send off from the lovely ladies of the Hoosier State!

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