Our 125 Year History: A tradition of Preservation, Patriotism, Education
The NSCDA-VT celebrated its 125th anniversary with a luncheon held at the Grand Hotel in Killington, VT. Close to 50 Dames joined in the celebration. Guests included our National President, Katherine Cammack, several former National Presidents and current and past National Executive Committee members. Societies from Wyoming to Florida to New Hampshire were represented! Calvin Coolidge also enjoyed the luncheon (photograph 2nd row, left) , and spoke to us, reminding us of his love for his little state of Vermont: “Vermont is a state I love. I could not look upon the peaks of Ascutney, Killington, Mansfield, and Equinox. without being moved in a way that no other scene could move me. It was here that I first saw the light of day; here I received my bride, here my dead lie pillowed on the loving breast of our everlasting hills. I love Vermont because of her hills and valleys, her scenery and invigorating climate, but most of all because of her indomitable people. They are a race of pioneers who have almost beggared themselves to serve others. If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the Union, and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont.”
This booklet is kindly underwritten by Stephanie Claire Duke Hockensmith in memory of past president Katherine McCabe. Elsie Smith, Past President of NSCDA-VT, was the author of the booklet. Illustrations by Katherine Brewster Robinson McCabe June 15, 2023
Mrs. Howard Townsend, a New York Dame and the National Society’s second president, asked Mrs. Bradley Barlow Smalley to organize the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Vermont. Mrs. Smalley, though a lifelong Vermonter, was already member number eleven of the Connecticut Society. In August 1897, the Society’s charter was granted; the charter from the State of Vermont was dated October 25, 1898. The permanent organization was formed in May 1900 with Mrs. Smalley as the first president. In 1908 Vermont signed the Covenant, an agreement between the Colonial and the Associate State Societies. All this was not an easy task. Vermont is not one of the original thirteen states. It is the fourteenth. Vermonters are proud of their ancestors who settled the state in the fifteen years prior to the revolution, had served with Vermont troops during the Revolutionary War, and who, when Vermont was not admitted as a state by the Continental Congress formed their own government and created a republic that was independent until 1791. The necessity of tracing ancestry through one of the original thirteen states rather than honoring the revered ancestor who lived in Vermont before 1776 and who rests in the local burying ground did not appeal to many. Our society has always remained small. The present membership hovers around 40 members and has never exceeded 69. A Society so small and widely distributed over the state finds it difficult to carry on large projects, but we have regularly contributed our share to every national undertaking and have carried out many small state-wide projects.. Vermont Dames have demonstrated a broad and enduring commitment to the pillars of NSCDA: preservation, patriotism, and education, both within their local communities and in support of national causes. Here are the highlights:
Past Presidents of NSCDA-Vermont Mrs. Bradley B. Smalley 1897-1902 Mrs. Albert E. Richardson 1902-1907 Mrs. E.D. Brooks Brown 1907-1910 Mrs. Henry Bingham 1910-1915 Mrs. John A. Mead 1915-1919 Mrs. John H. Jackson 1919-1935 Mrs. Arthur S. Isham 1935-1941 Mrs. Alfred A. Starbird 1941-1947 Mrs. Frederick V. Burgess 1947-1951 Mrs. Levi P. Smith 1951-1956 Mrs. Francis A. Englehart 1956-1959 Mrs. Fabian W. Kunzelmann 1960-1964 Mrs. James Elmer McKee 1964-1967 Mrs. James B. Campbell 1967-1971 Mrs. Hall Watson Cushman 1971-1973 Mrs. Pierre Victor Kieffer 1973-1975 Mrs. Arthur Dailey, Sr. 1975-1979 Mrs. John R. Mollica 1979-1981 Mrs. Herbert Ashley Durfee, Jr. 1981-1985 Mrs. Arthur J. Dewey, Jr. 1985-1989 Mrs. Charles Helmer 1989-1991 Mrs. Augusts B. Wadsworth, Jr. 1991-1993 Mrs. Edward J. Wynkoop 1993-1997 Mrs. H. Lawrence Whittemore, Jr. 1997-2002 Mrs. John R. Mollica 2002-2003 Mrs. Henry Cheves Hyde 2003-2005 Mrs. Katherine BrwesterRobinson McCabe 2005-2012 Mrs. Priscilla Alden Roessie Grayson 2012-2015 Mrs. Elsie Brewster McCabe Smith 2015-2018 Mrs. Martha Gardiner Simons Dale 2018-2020 Mrs. Patricia Abbott Michl 2020-2023
Museum Properties: Over the years there has been much discussion about a headquarters for the society in an old house of our own. Wise members have stressed our inability both in manpower and money to maintain a house. We have, however, made our mark on historic homes. The Vermont Society always contributes to Dumbarton House, Sulgrave Manor, and Gunston Hall. Members are also regular supporters of these important Dames properties. 1960-61 The Vermont Dames furnished the newly established genealogical library at the Bennington Museum with rugs, curtains, tables, chairs, and lamps. They presented historical and genealogical books with our own bookplate (an image from the design of our NSCDA Vermont seal). Over the door to the library entrance a brass plaque was placed which read “This Library Furnished by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Vermont, 1960.” 1968-69 Our society was represented on the Park-McCullough Foundation. The McCullough Mansion in Bennington, home of former member Mrs. Elmer Johnson, was declared worthy of preservation by the Society of New England Antiquities. The Dames undertook the preservation, care, and display of the fabulous dress collection belonging to Mrs. Johnson.
Historical Activities: 1901 Vermont Dames contributed to the Spanish War Memorial Fund to build the war monument at Arlington Cemetery. 1904 We contributed to the Carlisle Restoration Fund and Jamestown Restoration Fund. 1906-07 Vermont sent an exhibit to the Jamestown Exhibition, for which we received a gold medal. 1910-1911 We contributed to the George Washington Memorial. 1913-1920 We contributed to the Plymouth Rock Memorial. 1923-1928 Vermont Dames furnished a room in the George Washington Memorial. 1927 We marked the site of the birthplace of the first child born in Bennington (the first town settled in Vermont). 1930’s Prizes were given to Junior High School students for essays on “something of historical interest in your community.” 1931-1934 The society collected 100 slides and pictures from around the state. One set was sent to the Fleming Museum in Burlington. 1935 We placed a tablet, designed by one of our members, at the Rutland Armory to mark the spot where the first statehouse stood. 1945-1957 We were interested in, and contributed, to the Grand Isle Historical Society, which was restoring the c. 1740 log cabin on South Hero known as the Hyde Cabin. 1961 We sent a contribution to restore Eureka Schoolhouse near Springfield, Vermont, which is the oldest schoolhouse still standing (well over 200 years old). 1963 The Historical Activities Chair assembled a set of 75 slides of Vermont Houses built prior to 1825 with descriptive narratives and filed them with the Bennington Museum. Mid 1960’s Work on a marker at Mount Independence was completed. The monument was placed in the center of the horseshoe battery at the site of the Star Fort and commemorates the 1776 Army Headquarters and its shared history with Fort Ticonderoga. 1964-65 Our Regent to Gunston Hall sponsored an essay contest on George Mason. Also, a survey of all fourteen County Courthouses was completed, and the Vermont report is included in the publication “Three Centuries of American Court Houses.” 1968-69 A study was done of Vermont Custom Houses along the Canadian border. 1972-1997 We contributed annually to National Society’s American History Scholarship Fund (now known as the American Heritage Awards). Dames also actively participated in the National Society’s Portrait Index Project and mounted an exhibit “Faces in the Parlor: 18th and 19th century portraits from Vermont collections” at the Fleming Museum, University of Vermont, Burlington. 2003-2004 Vermont Dames purchased copies of “Why America is Free” and donated them to libraries across Vermont. 2004 Dames sponsored a lecture by noted experts Carol and Stephen Huber on antique samplers at Hildene in Manchester, VT. 2005-2006 We supported a photo exhibit project undertaken by our Vice-President Susanne Rappaport. It was held at the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury, VT and at the Bennington Museum. The photos were the source for Rappaport’s award-winning book “Messages from Small Town: Photographs Inside Pawlet, Vermont.” 2006 The Vermont Society compiled “Biographies of Ancestors, the NSCDA in the State of Vermont.” 2007 Vermont Dames began the oral history project (which became The Dames), interviewing Dames on their life in Vermont and involvement with the Society. Helen Kunzelmann’s interview was completed. 2009-2010 Slides (first compiled in 1963-65) of the “Houses of Historic Interest Built Prior to 1825” and “Templed Hills: A Collection of Vermont Churches and Meeting Houses” were converted to DVD. 2013-2014 Vermont Dames underwrote the catalog for past president Katherine Brewster Robinson McCabe’s art exhibit “From Paper to Stone.” Proceeds from this show supported the Mountain Valley Medical Center in Londonderry, Vermont. 2015-2017 We collaborated with the Vermont Folklife Center on the oral history project called The Dames. The project culminated in an exhibit – portrait photographs and accompanying interview outtakes – that premiered at the Folklife Center, toured the state of Vermont, appeared at the NSCDAs 2018 Biennial, and won the coveted Lamar Award. A printed monograph was created to replicate the exhibit. 2023 Today we continue our support of the New England Regional Scholarship for graduate students in history. We also make annual contributions to the Vermont Historical Society, the Bennington Museum, and the Vermont Folklife Center.
1901-1909 Vermont Dames ran an award-winning historical program in public schools throughout the state. 1914 We contributed to the scholarship fund at the University of Virginia in appreciation for the work of the third National President, Mrs. William Ruffin Cox. 1917 We contributed to the war relief work of the National Society. 1918 The Vermont Society donated to a women’s hospital in France and for several years made contributions to the welfare of two French orphans. 1923-1926 We made contributions “for the replica of Sulgrave Manor to be used as a restroom for women and children at the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial.” 1929 The Dames contributed to enable a weekly newspaper to be printed in Braille throughout the state. This continued our interest and contributions of many years to work to support the blind. The Children’s Aid Society also received donations for many years. 1940-45 Vermont Dames contributed blood and financial support to the blood bank at the University of Vermont, as well as financial support for a needy girl enrolled in nurse’s training at the University. 1942 We sent money to help transform the lower floor of Dumbarton House so that emergency classes could be held there. We also sent money to the USO in Ketchikan, Alaska. Mid 1940s – 1958 Our Dames contributed to Christmas celebrations at the USS Gunston Hall for the armed forces in Iceland. 1948 We began donating magazine subscriptions for the Veteran’s Administration Center in White River Junction. 1960 We contributed flags to the women’s armed services and cooperated with “Operation Freedom”. 1962 The Patriotic Service Committee supported the Veterans’ Hospital in White River Junction and the Soldiers’ Home in Bennington. 1972 – 1997 Patriotic Service continued its ditty bag project until the end of the war. We also supported the National Indian Nurse Fund (now American Indian Medical Scholarship), the Vermont Veterans’ Hospital, and the Vermont Veterans’ Home. 1987 Our relationship with the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten began at this time. Mrs. John Ralph Mollica represented our membership on Memorial Day for a wreath-laying ceremony honoring twenty-two Vermont servicemen buried there. Vermont Dames attended the naturalization ceremonies at the Burlington Courthouse and presented each new citizen with a Polaroid photograph taken by one of our members. 2006 Mary Mollica laid a wreath at Margraten for the nineteenth year; this year she also laid flowers at the grave sites of 4 female members of the Armed Forces. 2017 On the 4th of July a delegation of Vermont Dames attended the Naturalization Ceremony at the Calvin Coolidge Homestead in Plymouth, Vermont. The purpose was to learn how the ceremony is presented so that we may consider having one ourselves. 2018 On May 31, 2018 the Vermont Society was privileged to sponsor the first Naturalization Ceremony held at the Vermont Law School in South Royalton. Thirty-one new citizens from 16 countries took the oath of Allegiance. Consie West, our Registrar gave a splendid welcoming talk. Jennifer Sayles Harville, great granddaughter of President Calvin Coolidge sang the National Anthem. After the ceremony a variety of delicious refreshments was served. 2019 On April 11, 2019 our Society sponsored the second Naturalization Ceremony held at the Vermont Law School. Twenty-four new citizens from 18 countries took the oath of Allegiance. Martha Dale, our President gave the welcoming remarks. Arielle King, Vermont Law School class of 2021 sang the National Anthem. Vermont Dames again sponsored the refreshments. 2022 Vermont Dames began their participation in NSCDA’s Veterans History Project recording veterans’ oral histories for permanent archiving at the Library of Congress. 2023 This year Vermont Dames delivered over 100 valentines to the Bennington Veterans Home. We continue our interviews with Vets for the Library of Congress (19 to date), and our support for the American Indian Medical Scholarship. We also continue to lay wreaths and flowers for America’s fallen during World War II at Margraten Cemetery in the Netherlands, a tradition of which we are very proud.
Meetings: Due to Vermont’s terrain and weather, our society traditionally held only one meeting year “but it has been held every year including those when travel was difficult during wartime”. In 1901, the annual meeting was held in October and then May. In the mid-1950s, autumn regional meetings in the northern and southern parts of the state began. Today, our annual meeting is held in June, with other meetings held around the state during the summer months. Dames around the state also come together in the winter months for virtual membership meetings, book group discussion, and virtual winter lectures. 1915 Our United States flag and Vermont Society flag were given to us by generous members. 1972 The Vermont Society’s Diamond Jubilee (celebrating 75 years as a member of NSCDA) was a formal dinner in Bennington, which was preceded by champagne cocktails at the Bennington Museum. Four National Officers and Presidents from eight neighboring states also attended. 1997 Vermont and New Hampshire participated in the Region IV meeting held at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This is the beginning of our annual joint meeting with our friends in NH. 1999 NSCDA-VT saluted its 100th anniversary by encouraging all members’ daughters to join the Vermont Society. 2020 In March, a worldwide pandemic, COVID, brought all activity to a halt. Vermont Dames, however, were undaunted and embraced technology. Membership meetings continued virtually via zoom for two years. We introduced a Dames Book Club and virtual winter lectures. 2023 Today, June 15, Vermont Dames celebrate the 125th anniversary of joining the NSCDA with a gala lunch at the Killington Grand Hotel, a visit from a historical reenactor Calvin Coolidge, and leaders from our National Society.
Looking forward - NSCDA-Vermont’s Strategic Plan for 2023-2027: Mission: The NSCDA in the State of Vermont actively promotes our national and state heritage through historic preservation, patriotic service and educational projects. Vision: We envision a Vermont Society as an engaged and welcoming community of women who: 1) undertake significant projects that enhance historical literacy and patriotic service, 2) are a respected partner in our communities, 3) represent a statewide, intergenerational membership actively engaged in the mission of our society and, 4) demonstrate financial sustainability. Focus: Membership Participation and Satisfaction Pillars of Action: 1) Grow Membership – recruit members and move them along the process Manage prospects’ timeline Support Registrar Prepare membership recruitment packets Engage membership in recruitment efforts Invite new members to two BoM meetings 2) Programs – engage, educate and entertain members Create networking opportunities Consider new ways for members to connect with each other Encourage Young Dames-specific networking events Host house parties with emphasis on new and prospective members Hold meetings –virtual and in person (2x per winter 3x per summer –annual, joint, plus one) Conduct workshops, trainings and done-in-a-day projects Continue Book Group 3) Projects – support NSCDA mission Veterans History Project Margraten Naturalization Ceremony And any others that reflect our mission 4) Communications – ensure well-informed membership - include both members and prospects Issue event announcements (Print and email) Issue Newsletter – digital and print – 2x per year Explore options for membership communication - Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, and social media Strive for consistent look utilizing Society branding materials