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DAR Jacksonville honored for 125th anniversary

Unveiling ceremony of the Jean Ribault Monument at Mayport by the Daughters of the American Revolution (May 1, 1924)

          On April 14, 2020, Jacksonville City Councilman Matt Carlucci introduced a resolution to honor the Jacksonville Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution on its 125th anniversary.
          The chapter, also known as “The Mother Chapter of the State of Florida,” was formed five years after the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) was founded in 1890 soon after the Sons of the American Revolution voted to exclude women from its organization. Four women – whose common bond was a father or grandfather who was a patriot of the American Revolution – laid the groundwork for the Society.
          The NSDAR was incorporated in 1896 by an Act of Congress, and with 3,000 chapters worldwide the Jacksonville Chapter holds a place of honor as the first in Florida. Many old, familiar Jacksonville names are part of the chapter’s history.
          The Jacksonville Chapter’s founding began when Fannie Stockton was appointed in 1892 by Caroline Harrison, the wife of President Benjamin Harrison, to organize the first Florida DAR chapter. Mrs. Harrison passed away five months later from tuberculosis at age 60.
          Fannie was the wife of John N.C. Stockton, an active Episcopalian, was very closely connected with the building of Old St. Andrew’s Church in Jacksonville in 1888, which is located adjacent to the Merrill House Museum on A. Philip Randolph Boulevard.
          Stockton was employed by Jacksonville banker D. G. Ambler as bookkeeper for five years before being admitted to partnership under the firm name of Ambler, Marvin & Stockton.
          Ambler’s wife, Clarissa, was appointed by Letitia Stevenson, wife of Adlai Stevenson I, 23rd vice president of the United States, as Florida State Regent. Mrs. Ambler was later elected State Regent in February 1896, and she served through 1897.
          In addition to Fannie Stockton and Clarissa Ambler, other charter members were Henrietta Shoemaker Christopher, Kate Livingston Eagan, May Livingston Mattair, Fannie Louis Mattair Davidson, Francis Barnard Taylor, Phoebe Caroline Meek, Isabelle Spafford Archibald, Mae Wilson Dancy, Sallie Alison Buckman, Fannie B. Stockton, Fannie B. Stockton Young, Julie Beauclerc Livingston, Mrs. W.S. Wightman and Mrs. J.E. Quimby.
          Although not one of the 15 charter members, Helen P. Merrill held Jacksonville Chapter DAR meetings at her home (now the Merrill House Museum, built in 1878) and was DAR Florida’s First State Secretary-Treasurer 1904-1908 and a State 2nd Vice Regent in 1916.
          During the early 1920s, the Florida Chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution were instrumental in spearheading the design and installation of a column to commemorate the beginnings of European colonization of Florida half a century prior to the Plymouth Colony. This new column, designed by Charles Adrian Pillars, sculptor of Memorial Park’s “Spiritualized Life” sculpture, would replace a stone column erected by Jean Ribault in 1562 to claim Florida for France.
          In 1924 a piece of land was donated near present-day Mayport for Pillars’ column. When U.S. Naval Station Mayport was established in 1941 the Ribault Monument became inaccessible to the public and was moved. Three moves later, in 1958, the monument found its permanent home on St. Johns Bluff, and became part of the new National Park site, Fort Caroline National Memorial. The Jacksonville Chapter paid for the renovation of the column in time for its rededication in 2012.
          Six years ago, the Jacksonville Historical Society received a collection of materials from Anita Moore, a member of the DAR Jacksonville Chapter. Four trunks and one box of documents and memorabilia were inventoried by Sherrard Ceglia, assistant archivist.
          Among those treasures inventoried was a silver nameplate with the inscription “Jacksonville Chapter – The Mother Chapter of the State of Florida – Organized April 2, 1895 for God and Country.”
          In Carlucci’s resolution, the Jacksonville Chapter is lauded for its focus in patriotism, education and historic preservation, and its involvement with Wreaths Across America for national cemeteries; scholarships for American History degrees; flag retirement ceremonies, and participation in naturalization services, among other activities.
          The Jacksonville Historical Society joins Mr. Carlucci and City Council in recognizing this milestone! Congratulations on your 125th anniversary!

Kate A. Hallock
Marketing & Communications Director

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