Centennial celebrations of the important events of the American Revolution during the years 1875 to 1889 recalled memories of the days of the Revolution and inspired a pride in Revolutionary Ancestry.
A group of 80 descendants of Revolutionary Soldiers dressed in the uniforms of Soldiers of the Revolution took part in a parade held July 4, 1876, in San Francisco. So much interest was aroused that they formed an organization called “Sons of Revolutionary Sires.” This was the first organization of this character and a number of similar groups were organized in other States during the next few years. These groups usually called themselves “Sons of the Revolution.”
On April 30, 1889 a meeting was held at Fraunces Tavern, New York City, to form a National Society and to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Washington’s inauguration as President of the United States.
For several years a number of eligible people in Minnesota had been discussing and considering the formation of a Minnesota Society. The result was an organization meeting held at 4:00 P.M., Dec. 26, 1889, at the Chamber of Commerce in St. Paul. After Wm. O. McDowell of New Jersey, the Vice President of the National Society, explained the purpose of the meeting, Judge Albert Edgerton, a “real son,” moved “That, we the gentlemen here assembled, do hereby constitute ourselves the Minnesota Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.” The following were present and signed the roll: Gen. J.B. Sanborn, E.V. Smalley, Judge R. R. Nelson, E. W. Peet, Rev. Edward Mitchell, Rev. R. F. MacLaren, A. S. Tallmadge, C. B. Palmer, John W. Griggs, Sherwood Hough, Judge Albert Edgerton, John W.Boxell. P. Barton, E. V. Smith, W. K. Millikan, Douglas Putnam, and Geo. F. McAffee, all of St. Paul; Mayor E. W. Durant of and Stillwater; Geo. K. Shaw of Minneapolis, Benj. Nute of Duluth Daniel Getty of White Bear.
A committee composed of Gen. J. B. Sanborn, Judge Nelson, Judge Edgerton, Dr. Day, all of St. Paul; Geo. Shaw and E. W. Wilson of Minneapolis; Mayor Durant of Stillwater; Benj. Nute of Duluth and Earl Yoemans of Winona was appointed to prepare a Constitution and By-Laws.
This committee reported at a second meeting held Dec. 28, 1889, and the Constitution and By-Laws were adopted. The following officers were elected: Judge Albert Edgerton, President; George K. Shaw, Vice President; A.S. Tallmadge, Secretary-Treasurer; C.B. Palmer, Registrar.
The membership of Minnesota Society increased rapidly with the result that in 1894 Minnesota ranked sixth in total members, only being exceeded by: Connecticut, 798; New York, 499; District of Columbia, 424; Massachusetts, 403; New Jersey, 276; and Minnesota, 231.
The first banquet of Minnesota Society was held at the West Hotel; Minneapolis, June 17, 1891. Governor William R. Merriam’s subject was “Minnesota.” Col. E. C. Mason of Fort Snelling spoke on ‘The Army and Navy” and Judge Edgerton’s topic was “Our Society.” Douglas Putnam succeeded A. S. Tallmadge as Secretary-Treasurer.
The banquet held the following year, June 7, 1892, at the Aberdeen Hotel, St. Paul, was unusually successful and gave the Society much favorable publicity. General Horace Porter, President of the National Society, and U.S. Senator Chauncey M. Depew of New York were guests of honor.
Judge Edgerton held the office of President for five years and when he finally decided not to run for re-election an amendment to the Constitution was passed that after the year 1895, the office of President of the Society should not be held by one man for more than one term.
The idea of organizing chapters in different towns of the state was discussed at several meetings of Minnesota Society. On October 14, 1914, the By-Laws were amended to permit the formation of Chapters. A charter was immediately granted for the formation of George Washington Chapter of Minneapolis and the new Chapter completed their organization and elected officers. George Washington Chapter was never very active and on December 27, 1921, the charter was revoked by Minnesota. Society and a charter granted for the formation of Minneapolis Chapter No. 1.
St. Paul Chapter No. 2 was granted a charter on December 5, 1922, and, in 1925, charters were granted to Duluth Chapter No. 3 and General Warren Chapter No. 4 of Montevideo.
During the 1960s the Minnesota Society–like most traditional American institutions–suffered decline until the 1970s brought stability and renewed growth. Membership started at 261, hit a low of 109, and rebounded to 128 in 1979. By 2019 our society is 274 members strong and growing.
At the suggestion of Minnesota, the North Central District Conference was established in 1976. This has grown into a fine event, with the meeting place rotated among the states in the district.
A project that started in Minnesota was the Liberty Bell tour. Prior to the Bicentennial, a group of businessmen established the Liberty Bell Education Foundation, purchased an exact replica of the Liberty Bell, and set up a tour so that the school children of the area could ring the bell. Rev. Joseph Head, Past Chaplain General, NSSAR, was asked to prepare a program on history to present to school assemblies. At the end of the programs, all the students were to go out to the schoolgrounds and each was to ring the bell.
The idea was presented to the NSSAR, and it was met with enthusiasm. As a result, the NSSAR provided funds for the program to go on tour, and that tour covered 28 states. With each child receiving a certificate from NSSAR as a “Liberty Bell Ringer,” great attention was gained nationally. Minnesota is proud that this great project started in Minnesota and then went on to so many more states. The replica bell is now permanently enshrined at our National Headquarters in Louisville.
Col. James B. Ladd of the Minnesota Society, a career military man, made the support of the ROTC Medal program in the North Central District the first charge on a substantial estate left in trust. Compatriot John Hallberg Jones, Past President of the Minnesota Society, is the Liaison Officer for NSSAR to this trust and oversees the program in the district.
Under the inspiration and direction of Ross T. Dunlop, Past President of the Minnesota Society, the Minnesota Society Stephen Taylor award for History was created. The NSSAR officially accepted the award at a most moving ceremony in Winona, Minnesota, where the only known Revolutionary Soldier who is buried in Minnesota rests. The award is given annually to the Compatriot, who, by his writings and research, has made the greatest contribution to the preservation of the history of the Revolutionary War era and its Patriots. The Historian General selects the winner, from nominations submitted by the various Historians of the State Societies. This is the only award presented by the National Society that deals with the very purpose of the existence of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. The award consists of a beautiful plaque upon which the winner’s name is engraved. The plaque is displayed annually at the National Congress. The winner receives a handsome certificate, hand-lettered with the pertinent data.
During the last thirty years several young men joined the Society. In rather short time, they were elected to the Board of Managers. Some moved through the ranks quickly, becoming President of the Minnesota Society. Leadership was firmly on an upswing. Local chapters started to function once again. Good programs were planned. Social activities were held. Participation grew. By the turn of the millennia, the Minnesota Society had become a very dynamic group. And with the current membership and leadership, the future promises to be outstanding for the Minnesota society.