On March 7, 1889 at Fraunces Tavern in New York City, William McDowell, Josiah Pumpelly and William Stryker, all residents of New Jersey and members of the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution met with the intentions of forming a New Jersey Society of the Sons of the Revolution. McDowell, an aggressive and charismatic character, was a key figure in a power struggle between the New Jersey and New York members. His aim was the creation of a national organization which would coordinate the society’s overall direction and goals. The meeting was unsuccessful in forming either a New Jersey Society or a new general society.
Shortly after, McDowell and the New Jersey member began a campaign of unofficially organizing SR societies in New Hampshire, Vermont, Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia, Arkansas, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The purpose was to pressure the New York society to relinquish control over its “National” society status. Up to that point, the New York society felt that it was the primary organization and all others would be subordinate groups. The Pennsylvania Society SR was curiously exempt from this status.
On April 30, 1889 McDowell called for a meeting of the New Jersey Committee of New York Society SR and requested that delegates from all of the newly formed societies be present. All other members of the New York society failed to attend. The Pennsylvania delegate of the SR urged the committee to form as an auxiliary and ultimately under the control of the New York Society. Major George B. Halstead of the New Jersey committee sat in as a representative of Adolphus S. Hubbard, long time Recording Secretary of the California Society Sons of the Revolutionary Sires (SRS). At that meeting after making their position known and finding the option as an auxiliary to the New York Society SR unacceptable, the group decided to form as the Sons of the American Revolution.
At the April meeting it was decided that California society SRS would merge with the SAR. The SRS was first organized on October 22 1875 at the office of Dr. James L. Cogswell, acting master of the Crockett Masonic Lodge # 139, who with several other lodge members met and planned for the upcoming centennial celebrations in San Francisco. It had been suggested that an organization be form by the descendents of Revolutionary War Soldiers who would march in the centennial parade on the 4th of July. During this first planning meeting it was proposed that the name should be the California Society Sons of the Revolutionary Sires. Major Edwin A Sherman, visiting from Nevada, recommended that the “California” be dropped in lieu of being recognized as a national organization to which all agreed. At the first “official” meeting on June 29, 1776 it was resolved to organize under the name “Sons of the Revolutionary Sires”. The group attracted over 80 men who marched together in the San Francisco city 4th of July parade of 1876.
The SRS actively promoted their society throughout the country taking advertisements out in the New York Times with no results. It is possible that there was, at that time, simply no interest in joining a group of revolutionary sires formed in a state that did not exist during the Revolutionary War. As the years went on the Sires numbers steadily declined and, as stated by Major Sherman in his book, “Fifty Years of Masonry in California”, that as the majority of its members passed away “…the thing though not dead was in a very sound slumber”. When the history was written in 1895, Sherman claimed that he and Cogswell were the last two surviving founders of the Sires. The society carried on through the exclusive efforts of one man, Adolphus S. Hubbard serving faithfully as the society secretary since 1877. The group never formally incorporated and its numbers dwindled down to two or three semi-active surviving members when the call came from McDowell and his group of New Jersey gentlemen.
Also at the April meeting of the SAR the following officer were chosen: General William S. Stryker was elected a the new society’s president, Benjamin Myer as Vice President; Josiah C. Pumpelly as Secretary; Paul Revere as Treasurer and John L. Boggs as Registrar. William O. McDowell and eleven others were elected to the Board of Management.
The National Society was incorporated on January 17, 1890 in Connecticut. the first National Congress was held on April 30, 1890 in Louisville, Kentucky. It was at this meeting that the delegates adopted a resolution that “the SAR was first organized in the state of California on the 4th of July 1876”. This has led to some to conclude that the SAR’s history was reverse engineered at this point.
The early membership papers of the founders of the SAR shows William Osborn McDowell as National Number 1, New Jersey State Number 1; Josiah Collins Pumpelly as National and NJ state number 2 and William S Stryker as National and NJ state number 3. George B. Halstead who represented the California SRS was SAR National and NJ state number 14. Adolphus S Hubbard, recording secretary of the Society Sons of the Revolutionary Sires was SAR National number 3403 and CA state number 3. The point of all of this being: of the first ten SAR members, all were from New Jersey and none were from California. So, if the SRS was the original organization, it was not revealed in the numbering of the first members of the SAR. Perhaps the SRS should be considered a legacy organization and not the father of the SAR.
William O. McDowell pushes on – Daughters of the American Revolution.