Maryland’s smallest but most active chapter of the United States Daughters of 1812, the Ella Virginia Houck Holloway Chapter, is comprised of just 10 members scattered throughout Prince George’s, Charles, Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties.
Women age 18 and older who can prove they are lineal descendents of someone who provided civil, military or naval service to our country or who rendered material aid to the U.S. Army or Navy between 1784 and 1815, or who participated in the Lewis and Clark Expedition, are eligible to join, once they have been voted in by two current members who know them personally. There are more than 5,365 Daughters of 1812, in 162 chapters and 42 state societies.
“I was in the Daughters of the American Revolution. Once you get in one society, they invite you to others,” said Maryland Honorary State President Carol Whitsell, a Virginia native who now lives in Hughesville, Md. “I was retired eight months, and you’ve gotta do something. On jury duty I met a person in the DAR who was from Virginia, too. It turned out we were related.”
Whitsell joined the DAR in 2002. Memberships in the Colonial Dames, the Daughters of 1812 and other organizations soon followed.
EVHH Chapter President Connie Uy discovered her eligibility to pursue membership int eh DAR and the Daughters of 1812 just five years ago, when curiosity led her to genealogical research website Ancestry.com.
“One day, you’re 40 years old and wonder, ‘Who were my grandparents? How did they live?’ I logged on and was bitten by the genealogical bug. It was like an addiction,” Uy said.
Months later, a client at her beauty salon suggested she join the DAR.
“It took me maybe three or four months to attend my first meeting, and was a member within the year,” Uy said. “I wanted it so badly, my husband thought I was losing it.”
Whitsell’s eligibility was a challenge to prove because most of her family historical records were destroyed by a fire in Orange County, Va. A DAR member offered to help her with her research, and found her 1812 connections, as well.
Uy credits divine intervention with helping her discover most of her War of 1812 ancestors.
“I was doing my DAR research as my dad was battling terminal cancer. My mom couldn’t care less, but he was interested,” Uy said. “He passed away after I signed (the paperwork to become a DAR member) but after he died I found information on 10 more relatives. He went to heaven and found those ancestors and they sent the information.”
When those ancestors are confirmed, Uy will have a dozen official lineal relatives who contributed to the War of 1812. The research is never really finished, Whitsell and Uy agree, in part because of the continued discovery of new information about the individuals in the family line.
“A family tree is like housework with house cats,” said Uy. “It’s never complete.”
The Daughters work to promote and preserve the history of the War of 1812, and to correct common misconceptions about the conflict.
“It’s a forgotten war, and sometimes seen as a sequel to the American Revolution,” said Uy. “We have a big goal of changing that historical mindset. If you talk to the Brits, they think they won!”
A 2011 PBS documentary focused, Uy said, “all about Canada, but in the Chesapeake Bay it went on for two years.” Much of that conflict was centered throughout Prince George’s County.
Those educational efforts include visits to schools, support for local JROTC and scholarship programs and attending naturalization ceremonies and other community events. Next year, as part of the continued commemoration of the War of 1812, the EVHH Daughters will participate in a Prince George’s County War of 1812 parade through Bladensburg, site of important events during the war. The group, which meets at a member’s home in Hughesville, Md., also marks the homes and graves of patriots involved in the War of 1812.
On Oct. 15, the EVHH chapter joined national Daughters of 1812 leadership and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III (D) to unveil a marker at the grave of Dr. William Beanes in Upper Marlboro, Md. Beanes was captured by the British on charges of betraying the British, and asked Francis Scott Key for aid to arrange his release. The night after Key met with Beanes in British captivity, he stayed at Fort McHenry and witnessed the events which inspired him to write “The Star-Spangled Banner” the next morning. Ella Virginia Houck Holloway, for whom the EVHH Chapter is named, petitioned to have “The Star-Spangled Banner” become the national anthem.
“History never said it was due to Mrs. Holloway’s efforts, and that’s a shame,” said Uy.
The chapter is working to to refurbish and preserve a Benedict, Md.-area home which had a role in the War of 1812. Maxwell Hall, built in 1768, was occupied by approximately 3,500 British troops on their way to attack Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. in 1814.
The home fell into disrepair until it was purchased in 1980 by Edwin and Marion Swann, who restored and lived in the home until 2007, when Charles County acquired the property as part of Maryland’s Program Open Space.
“We have a partnership with the community regarding Maxwell Hall,” said Whitsell. The EVHH Chapter has raised funds to improve lighting and parking and to provide a wheelchair ramp and public restrooms to enable better access for the public. In 2012, the chapter sponsored a memorial program at the river’s edge near the home, where the British invasion landed.
“There’s something about being there that’s really special,” said Whitsell, who said that recent tours attracted approximately 600 visitors to the historic home. “It’s not even on local school curricula, and this upsets us.”
Though the Daughters of the War of 1812 were founded “by wealthy, at home women,” said Whitsell, the old guard is being replaced by women from a broader background than ever before.
“They let me in with dyed hair and tattoos,” said Uy. “Thirty years ago I could have been blackballed because of the way I look. The DAR is going through that, too: Change or die.”
For information, visit www.usdaughters1812.org.