Inside this Issue
Glimpse into the lives and passions of the diverse group of women who comprise today’s DAR membership.
Take a step inside the DAR Museum for a closer look at its fascinating collection.
Learn about the interesting historical articles from this issue.
To Come in Our Next Issue
Preview the exciting stories to be featured in the next issue of American Spirit.
Fighting for Justice
Volume 151, Numbers 1
By Lena Anthony
Photograph courtesy of Verne Greene
As a New Hampshire Cold Case Unit volunteer, Verne Green Cracks open decades-old murder files
Twice a week for the past six years, Verne Greene has made the 50-mile trip from her home in Keene, N.H., to Concord—the state capital and headquarters for the New Hampshire Cold Case Unit. As a volunteer, she spends approximately 12 hours a week meticulously indexing case files for unsolved homicides, suspicious deaths and missing person cases in which foul play is suspected. Some of the case files are 400 pages long; others include 15,000 pages of information that Ms. Greene and one other volunteer have to review and index.
“I work on one case at a time,” says the member of Reprisal Chapter, Newport, N.H. “I go through the box, take out any duplicates and arrange everything in chronological order. Then, I take one page at a time and index whatever is on that page, including the name, how they’re related to the victim, and what they said at the time of the investigation. Sometimes that’s when you catch a criminal—when you realize they told their story a little differently each time.”
wice a week for the past six years, Verne Greene has made the 50-mile trip from her home in Keene, N.H., to Concord—the state capital and headquarters for the New Hampshire Cold Case Unit. As a volunteer, she spends approximately 12 hours a week meticulously indexing case files for unsolved homicides, suspicious deaths and missing person cases in which foul play is suspected. Some of the case files are 400 pages long; others include 15,000 pages of information that Ms. Greene and one other volunteer have to review and index.
Her work, although slow going, has resulted in breakthroughs in a number of cases, many of them decades old. Since the unit opened in 2009, the Cold Case Unit has prosecuted seven cases; she says there are still 125 cold cases waiting to be solved.
When Ms. Greene joined the Cold Case Unit, her first assignment was the “Autopsy Project,” which involved locating medical examiners’ autopsy reports from the first half of the 20th century. “We found many of these reports stashed away in their homes or the homes of their descendants,” she said. “So we went to their houses and picked them up. We found a lot of information that we needed for the Cold Case Unit, including photos.”
Ms. Greene also volunteers on the Dean Murder Project, organized by the Jaffrey (N.H.) Historical Society to help explain the still-unsolved murder of
Dr. William Dean on August 13, 1918. Dean went out to milk his cows that evening, but didn’t return home. Police later found him tied up and lifeless at the bottom of a nearby cistern. His wife was suspected, as were German spies.
As new information linked to the case is found, the group discusses where to go next. “It’s a very intriguing case, and it’s the first one that I know of that has gone to a historical society before it was solved,” she said. “The historical society owns all of the investigation files, as well as the ropes used to tie him up.”
Before she worked on criminal files, Ms. Greene was cataloging and preserving court records from 1774 to 1900 in the Cheshire County Superior Court. “They were all there,” she said. “But they were in terrible condition, just dumped in boxes and thrown in the basement.”
It took a team of five volunteers three years to organize the files, which are now wrapped in acid-free paper and stored in the state archives in Concord.
Ms. Greene also has extensive experience with genealogical research. She currently serves as her chapter’s registrar, helping current and prospective members with new and supplemental applications. Her own interest in genealogy stemmed from something her grandmother said to her years ago. “We have an ancestor named Samuel Wilson, and she always wanted to know if he was the same man who inspired the name Uncle Sam,” she said. “I found out he’s not the same Samuel Wilson, but the search did spark my passion for genealogy.”
She wants to pass down that passion to her descendants. Since joining DAR in 2001, she has prepared DAR application papers for her daughter-in-law, two granddaughters and two cousins.
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Volume 151, Number 1, January/February 2017, Page 4
Photography by Mark Gulezian
Fashionably cut from a coarsely woven and poorly dyed fabric, this circa 1805–1810 homespun coat is a study in contradictions. As Americans sought economic and cultural independence from Europe, even their clothing choices became political statements. Efforts to establish an American textile industry were underway, but “homespun” fabrics, whether produced in the home or in factories, were not yet sufficient to supply the entire country. Nevertheless, some citizens made symbolic purchases in support of “domestic manufactures.” Presidents, members of Congress and college graduates were lauded by newspapers for wearing suits made of domestically grown and woven cloth.
This coat, a gift of Bessie Napier Proudfit, was probably worn by South Carolinian John Gilbert in the early 1800s. Thomas Jefferson’s Non-Importation Act of 1806 and subsequent trade regulations gave the homespun movement a boost, and several coats of that time survive as a testament to their owners’ patriotism. Although its high waist, turnover collar, long sleeves and turned-back cuffs were in fashion, the coat’s cotton and wool blend is of a noticeably inferior quality to imported cloth. The wearer could proudly proclaim himself not a rustic unable to afford a stylish coat, but rather a patriotic citizen supporting domestic textiles—and homespun values.
For more National Treasures, please visit the DAR Museum's Featured Objects.
A Day in the Life of an Archivist by Jamie Roberts
We follow a University of Alabama archivist as she preserves historical documents and makes them more accessible to students, professors and both serious and amateur researchers.
CSI: National Archives by Bill Hudgins
From crooked collectors to sneaky staffers, thieves in the National Archives and other repositories are no match for the investigators of the Archival Recovery Program.
Capturing Stories with the War of 1812 Pensions by Leslie Albrecht Huber
To protect the treasure trove of genealogical and historical data contained in the 7.2 million pages related to the War of 1812 Pensions, preservationists are working tirelessly to digitize and provide open access to these important records.
The Art of Handwriting by Megan Hamby
In Colonial America, handwriting was a practice reserved only for a select few—merchants, clergy, physicians, lawyers, and wealthy men and women. Discover the history of early American script and how to decipher it.
Searching for African-American Patriots by Kim Harke Sushon
Two Connecticut historians uncover a story desperate to be told again—the heroic efforts of African-American Patriots during the Battle of Norwalk on July 12, 1779.
Spirited Adventures: Omaha, Neb. by Courtney Peter
Since its founding in 1854, Omaha has transformed its frontier town image to that of a bustling city, offering visitors a diverse array of attractions.
Historic Homes: Haas-Lilienthal House by Courtney Peter
Peek inside San Francisco’s only intact late 19th-century Victorian residence open to the public, which serves as an icon of the city’s historic preservation movement.
Our Patriots: Windsor Fry by Lena Anthony
The Revolutionary War story of this former slave starts and ends with the war itself. He participated in at least 10 battles, including the sieges of Boston and Yorktown.
Plus the President General’s Message and Whatnot
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To Come in March/April 2017:
Women’s Roles in Early American Coffee Houses
Margaret Fuller: Transcendentalist, First Woman Reporter
Sarah Kemble Knight: The Courageous Journey of a Colonial Businesswoman
Old Moneymaker: The U.S. Mint Turns 225