Western Reserve Society

Sons of the American Revolution

1st in Ohio - 2nd Oldest in the Country



This history was originally published in the Western Reserve Society - Cleveland, Ohio Centennial Register 1892 – 1992.

The founding of the National Society SAR, the Ohio Society SAR and the Western Reserve Society, all occurred within a three-year period starting in April 1889.

On April 10, 1889, a call was issued by the New Jersey Sons of the Revolution for a delegate convention to be held at Fraunces Tavern in New York City on April 30, 1889 for the formation of a National Society. After a two-day session, the National Society, Sons of the American Revolution came into being with eighteen State Societies, one of which was Ohio.

Earlier, noting the New Jersey call, the Rev. W. R Parsons of Worthington, Ohio entered into correspondence with the New Jersey Society. The result, a preliminary meeting of interested Ohio citizens was held in the office of Ohio Governor Joseph B. Foraker on April 11, 1889. Eleven days later, at a second meeting, Rev. W. R. Parsons was elected the first President of the Ohio Society. Others elected were Treasurer, Henry A. Williams, and Secretary, A. A. Graham. Thus, the organization of the Ohio Society on April 22nd, antedated that of the National Society.

After the convention in New York City, another meeting of the Ohio Society was held on June 4, 1889 at which a constitution was adopted admitting both men and women to membership. All who were present at this meeting were recognized as charter members. The new National Society looked with disfavor on the Ohio constitution admitting both men and women and ruled that only male descendants of participants in the Revolution would be admitted to membership. As a result, soon after in 1890, the Daughters of the American Revolution were formed with Mrs. Benjamin Harrison, wife of then President of the United States, as its first President General.

After the formation of the Ohio Society SAR, meetings were held in Columbus; however members were admitted from many areas of Ohio. By early 1892, the Cleveland area had 23 members and the Western Reserve Society was chartered by the Ohio Society on May 5, 1892. It was formally organized in meeting assembled in the Club Room of the Hollenden Hotel on December 13, 1892.

The WRSSAR is thus the 1st local chapter ever founded (1892) but whose existence may have only been possible thanks to the leadership of the New Jersey Society. The 1st member of the NSSAR is William Osbron McDowell of the New Jersey Society and he is credited with being the founder of the national SAR. He is also credited with being one of the people who helped form the National Society DAR in 1890.

Dr. Elroy Avery appears to have sparked the formation of the Society. He was an active civic leader and led the movement that restored the grave of Moses Clevealand in Canterbury, Connecticut in 1906. He had visited it in 1899 and reported it “disreputable.” Many years later, Moses Cleaveland’s graveyard again was found neglected, and Compatriot David Knight Ford, the President of WRS in 1959, and a Past President of the Early Settlers Association of the Western Reserve, in 1964 established a Moses Clevealand Cemetery Fund to provide income for the maintenance of the grave and cemetery in Canterbury. The grave now receives perpetual care.

Dr. Avery was Superintendent of Schools in the original East Cleveland Village, between Wilson Avenue (E. 55th) and Doan Brook, and author or compiler of a three volume History of Cleveland. The first President of our Society, he served three terms, 1892 through 1895. Mrs. Elroy M. Avery was also an educator and founder of the Western Reserve Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, and a Charter Member of Commodore Perry Chapter, National Society Daughters of the War of 1812. Our local Chapter of the Children of the American Revolution is named the Catharine Avery Society in honor of Mrs. Avery. Under the leadership of the Avery’s, our two Western Reserve groups and the CAR have established a close working relationship, which has lasted throughout these many years.

When the Western Reserve Society received its Charter from the Ohio Society in 1892, it was given jurisdiction over 12 of the 14 counties in the Western Reserve Territory. It received its name of Society, because there were no provisions for Chapters until they were formally implemented by the National Society in 1895.

The Western Reserve Society is the oldest Chapter in the country. Chapters, as such, were not formally designated by the National Society until 1895 when they were declared to be divisions of State Societies and with jurisdictions of no more than three counties. We predate the so-called earliest community chapter established by the New Jersey Society in Elizabeth, N.J. in 1893. We were grandfathered by keeping the name “Society” and our jurisdiction was not reduced although we have supported the organization of other chapters in our original jurisdiction.

Our claim as the oldest chapter is greatly strengthened by the congratulatory telegrams to the “Western Reserve Chapter” in 1892 from President General Horace Porter, General Greeley (President of the D.C. Society) and others. All are noted in The Plain Dealer of December 24, 1892.

Over the years, and as the State of Ohio developed and population grew, local Chapters were started in most of the counties over which the Western Reserve Society had jurisdiction. On December 17, 1903, the Nathan Hale Chapter in Youngstown, Ohio was organized and received jurisdiction of Mahoning, Columbiana and Trumbull counties. Later, however, on March 6, 1922, Trumbull County was given to Ethan Allen Chapter in Warren, Ohio. Lafayette Chapter in Akron, Ohio was organized on January 31, 1923 and given jurisdiction in Summit County. Northeastern Ohio Chapter was organized on February 22, 1949 and given jurisdiction in the Northeast Section of Ohio. Firelands-Bicentennial Chapter in Lorain, Ohio was organized on April 3, 1976 and given jurisdiction in Erie, Huron and Lorain Counties. In Painesville, Samuel Huntington Chapter was organized on May 22, 1976 and given jurisdiction to Lake and Geauga counties.

During the early years, Western Reserve Society had five members who were real sons. Their fathers had actually served in the Revolution. These were:

  • Dudley Baldwin (Nat. No. 2236);
  • Eli Turney (Nat. No. 2484);
  • Moses Warren (Nat. No. 11801);
  • Walter A Cheney (Nat. No. 16266);
  • George Arvin Ford (Nat. No. 17330).

We are proud to have, and to have had, as members these nationally recognized men:

  • Charles F. Thwing: President of Case Western Reserve University and a Charter Member
  • Cady Staley: First President of Case School of Applied Science
  • Marcus A. Hanna: U.S. Senator from Ohio
  • Archibald M. Willard: Painter of “The Spirit of 76”
  • Harold H. Burton: Mayor of Cleveland, U.S. Senator, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice
  • Carl V. Weygandt: Longest serving Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court
  • Frederick C. Crawford: Creator of TRW and active in many civic organizations
  • Charles E. Spahr: Retired Board Chairman of the Standard Oil Co. of Ohio; during his tenure the Great Alaskan pipeline was completed
  • M. Roger Clapp: Retired Board Chairman of Lubrizol Corporation and active in many civic and educational organizations

In 2012, we crossed our largest membership goal of 449 members and we hope to one day cross the 500 mark. In the growth years, the motto of the Board of Trustees was: “Every Member is a Member of the Membership Committee.”

We have several trustees meetings per year, with 10 to 15 officers and trustees in attendance, handling the current business and planning for the future. Our members are enthusiastic and enjoy our luncheons, dinners and social outings each year. Our three special meetings are the Washington’s Birthday Luncheon each February, our Family Night Out with the Cleveland Indians at the stadium each July, and our Christmas Dinner and Annual Meeting each December.

Our patriotic, educational, and historical out-reach activities include:

  • Supporting receptions of New Citizens at U. S. Federal Courthouse in Cleveland, Ohio.
  • The annual awarding of Good Citizenship Certificates to some 500 Eighth Grade students in the Greater Cleveland area.
  • Participation in the Douglass G. High Historical Oration Contest for high school students and sponsoring our winner at the Ohio Society state contest.
  • Recognition and award to the top Eagle Scouts in the Cleveland area.
  • Medal awards to outstanding ROTC and JROTC cadet’s at area schools.
  • Participation in the NSSAR Americanism Committee 3rd, 4th and 5th grade Poster Contest and sponsoring our winner at the Ohio Society state contest.
  • Participation in the NSSAR Americanism Committee 6th, 7th and 8th grade Brochure Contest and sponsoring our winner at the Ohio Society state contest.
  • Placing markers at the graves of Revolutionary war veterans.
  • Awarding the SAR Award for heroic service by the police, fire and EMS services.
  • Awarding Citizenship Medals to outstanding individuals in all areas of our society.
  • Providing donations, clothes and other articles to the Ohio Veterans Home at Sandusky, Ohio.

The members of the Western Reserve Society are looking forward to a second century of good fellowship and service in furthering the declared aims of the National Society, which is chartered by the Congress of the United States for patriotic, historical, and educational purposes.