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.
A Beacon of History: Shirley Willard
Volume 152, Number 6
By Lena Anthony
Photograph courtesy of Shirley Willard
Indiana Daughter illuminates her state’s important stories
When Shirley Willard taught middle school history in the 1970s, textbooks were still glossing over one of the state’s darkest chapters—the forced removal of the Potawatomi American Indians from Indiana to Kansas in the fall of 1838.
“I remember there was one paragraph dedicated to it,” recalled the member of Manitou DAR Chapter, Rochester, Ind., and former president of the Fulton County Historical Society (1971–2001). “And it made it sound like the Potawatomi went West and then fell off the face of the earth.”
The reality was much harsher: Some 859 Potawatomi Indians were forcibly removed from Indiana at gunpoint and forced to walk or ride horseback approximately 660 miles, through Illinois and Missouri, to Osawatomie, Kan. Water was scarce, and disease was rampant. The journey later became known as the Trail of Death, a reference to the 42 Potawatomi, mostly the elderly and infants, who died along the way and were buried in unmarked graves.
“It’s a black mark on Indiana’s history, but to ignore it like it never happened is a great disservice,” she said. “We can’t go back and change it, but we can recognize that it happened and reach out with our hand in friendship and be good neighbors.”
And that’s exactly what she has done. Since 1976, Mrs. Willard has been dedicated to building relationships with Potawatomi leaders and conducting time-consuming research—all in the name of bringing light to one of Indiana’s darkest moments.
In 1976, she helped establish the Trail of Courage Living History Festival. The event is now in its 43rd year of celebrating the contributions of the Potawatomi Indians and the settlers who lived in northern Indiana in the early 1800s. The festival features re-enactments, period music and other activities.
Later, Mrs. Willard oversaw the construction of a new Fulton County Museum in Rochester, Ind., and founded a living history village called Loyal, where 14 historic buildings rescued from across Fulton County are now located.
To celebrate Indiana’s bicentennial in 2016, Mrs. Willard played a central role in restoring the forced Potawatomi removal to its rightful place in history—by getting it included in four Indiana history textbooks. The removal route now boasts 82 historical plaques on boulders and 150 historic highway signs. (See www.potawatomi-tda.org to learn more.)
She’s also the author of four history books and writes a newspaper column about history and preservation for The Rochester Sentinel.
“I’ve been writing every single week for the past 20 years,” she said. “People are always contacting me with ideas. The public knows if they give me a story, I’ll help them tell it.”
On September 17, 2018, after the Trail of Courage Living History Festival ended, Mrs. Willard and more than two dozen other historians, descendants and others began a journey retracing the steps of the Potawatomi—but this time in cars, trucks and campers. Every five years since 1988, a group led by Mrs. Willard and George Godfrey, a member of Citizen Potawatomi Nation, has made the week-long trip from Rochester, Ind., to Osawatomie, Kan.
For all of her work in historic preservation and education, Mrs. Willard received the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indiana Historical Society.
“It was an amazing honor to be recognized,” she said. “Looking back, it’s kind of unbelievable that we were able to accomplish all that we did.”
Mrs. Willard technically is retired, but she still keeps an office at the Fulton County Museum, which she goes to a couple of times a week. Otherwise, she’s at home on her farm with her husband, Bill. Their 2-year-old great-grandson and family live next door.
“He’s the joy of our lives,” she said. “He’s constantly spouting off lines, and it’s so fun wondering what he’s trying to say. Usually it’s ‘Tractor.’ As in, ‘Take me for another tractor ride!’”
For more Today’s Daughters, please click here.
To nominate a Daughter for a future issue, e-mail a description to email@example.com.
Token of Gratitude
Volume 152, Number 6
Photo courtesy of Mark Gulezian
Cast by Tiffany & Company in 1916, this medal is a testament to the generosity of the American people and DAR members toward the Belgian people during World War I.
After Belgium was invaded by Germany in August 1914, the country experienced a food crisis. In the months and years to follow, Belgium began receiving critically needed food aid, largely in the form of flour, from the Commission for Relief in Belgium, which was under the chairmanship of future President Herbert Hoover. On June 22, 1916, DAR donated $148,615.99 ($3.5 million in 2018 dollars) to the commission. The commission bought and delivered 5.7 tons of food to those in need because of these efforts.
To show its gratitude, the Belgian government presented DAR with a bronze medal. On the front are the profile images of King Albert and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. On the reverse, a female figure representing America stands at the left side of the medal. A male, female and child figure representing the people of Belgium stand on the right. In the background is a ship with the word “Relief” across the bow. Around the edge of the reverse are the words “Generosite Amerique Belgique Gratitude 1916,” translated as “American generosity, Belgian gratitude.”
For more National Treasures, please visit the DAR Museum's Featured Objects.
DAR and the Great War by Courtney Peter
On the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the National Society looks back at early members’ contributions to the war effort and how those charitable actions sparked the organization’s strong tradition of patriotic service.
Fair Ladies by Courtney Peter
During DAR’s first three decades, members took part in a number of fairs and expositions across the country, relishing the opportunity to introduce DAR and its ideals to new audiences.
On the Oregon Trail by Bill Hudgins
The life of Marie Dorion—an American Indian woman who helped her husband guide an expedition for John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Trading Company—is a riveting saga of the struggle to cross the continent and settle the West.
Lily of the Mohawks by Bill Hudgins
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha was the first American Indian to be named a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. Her canonization in 2012 honored a short life that was spent in devotion and sacrifice, with her faith often putting her in danger.
Remembering Ocmulgee by Megan Hamby
Macon, Ga., is home to the Ocmulgee National Monument, a 702-acre park with truncated earthen mounds, trenches, wetlands and woods that charts the history of the American Indian groups that once lived in the region.
Spirited Adventures: Billings, Montana by Jamie Roberts
Big Sky adventures and history lessons of the western frontier beckon visitors to Montana’s largest city, started as late 19th-century railroad hub and now an energy and cultural capital for the region.
Historic Homes: Historic Bagg Bonanza Farm by Lena Anthony
A National Historic Landmark, the Bagg Bonanza Farm shows how early 20th-century industrial-scale farming brought prosperity to the Red River Valley region, as well as helped establish technologies used in today’s farms.
Our Patriots: Philip Mazzei by Abbey Dean
A close friend of Thomas Jefferson, Mazzei acted as an arms agent for Virginia during the Revolutionary War. The doctrine “All men are created equal,” was likely paraphrased from Mazzei’s writing.
Plus the President General’s Message and Whatnot
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To Come in January/February 2019:
The Doctors’ Riot of 1788
The Canary Islanders in Texas