An Extraordinary Community Project Leads to a Special Donation from the Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Chapter of the DAR
By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission
Our effort to build the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC has brought us partners from many different parts of the country, and from many different groups of people. The stories they bring to us are extraordinary -- their personal/historic ties to World War I, their belief in remembering our veterans, their commitment to giving the lessons to future generations. Among the most extraordinary stories of support comes to us from Kalamazoo County, Michigan -- specifically from the Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Their members created a special project to mark the centennial of the end of World War I. As part of that project, they included a fundraiser aimed at helping build out memorial in the nation's capital. We had the opportunity to speak to Elizabeth Kraatz, Vice Regent of the Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Chapter, to hear the full story.
Tell us about this special donation to the new National WWI Memorial. Who is your organization, How did it come about, who helped to put it together, who contributed?
The Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Chapter is the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) chapter in Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Founded in 1890, the DAR is a non-profit, non-political volunteer women's service organization. We're open to any woman 18 years or older -- regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background -- who can prove lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution. The DAR is the world’s largest women’s service organization. Our objectives are Historic Preservation, Education, and Patriotism. One of the ways that we preserve our country's history is to commemorate historic events, such as the centennial of the First World War.
The Lucinda Hinsdale Stone chapter sponsors the Ki-Ka-Ma-Sung Society, Children of the American Revolution (C.A.R.) and its Junior American Citizens Club (JAC). “Ki-Ka-Ma-Sung” means “pot of boiling water” and was the name the Potawatomi used for the area; with time, it morphed into the name “Kalamazoo.” The C.A.R. was founded in 1895 by Harriet Lothrop, the author of the beloved “Five Little Peppers” series of children’s books and a DAR member. C.A.R. is open to all children – boys and girls, birth to 21 – who can trace their ancestry to a patriot of the American Revolution. The C.A.R. is the nation’s oldest and largest patriotic youth organization. Its mission is to promote true patriotism and love of country and development of leaders through education and service projects. The JAC was established by the DAR in 1901 and is open to all children, regardless of ancestry, who are interested in exploring their American history and heritage.
The money was raised through a Luminarium - an installation of hundreds of glowing luminarias -- in Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park, both in 2017 and again in 2018. The Luminarium was co-sponsored by the Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Chapter, NSDAR and the Ki-Ka-Ma-Sung Society, N.S.C.A.R. Additional volunteer support was provided by two key groups: the Colonel Joseph B. Westnedge Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) and Boy Scout Troop 205. Colonel Westnedge was the beloved leader of the troops from Kalamazoo (126th Infantry, 32nd Division). He was hospitalized during the last week of WWI and died of septicemia on November 29, 1918. He is buried in the American Army Cemetery in Nantes. Providing volunteer assistance in his honor and memory was one of the first service projects for the newly-organized SAR chapter that bears his name. Boy Scout Troop 205 was founded in 1916 and is the oldest troop in Kalamazoo. A number of “boys” from Troop 205 served in WWI including its first Eagle Scout, Donald Charles MacEwan, who served as a Sergeant in the Medical Corps and was wounded at Juvigny. The Troop 205 boys of 2018 provided volunteer service for the Luminarium in honor of the Troop 205 “boys” of 1918.
Donated by Kalamazoo’s founder Titus Bronson, Bronson Park lies at the center of Kalamazoo. It is home to many memorials and tributes to our nation’s veterans, but there is no WWI memorial in Bronson Park. There is, in fact, no memorial to WWI in all of Kalamazoo County. For one night, two years in a row, Bronson Park itself was transformed into a monument to commemorate WWI. On November 11, 2017 and on November 11, 2018 – the centennial of the Armistice -- a Luminarium was staged in Bronson Park to serve as a glowing tribute to those who have served in the armed forces. Although the Luminarium centered on those who served during “the war to end all wars,” particularly the 114 Kalamazoo “boys” who never returned home, the event also honored all those who have followed in the pursuit of a world at peace – veterans of war, veterans of peacetime, civilians who served on the home front, and those in our community today who continue to work toward a peaceful world.
The public was invited to dedicate luminarias in honor of individuals. The individual lives represented by the luminarias reflected service abroad and on the homefront, in war and in peacetime, and from the Revolutionary War to the present day conflict in the Middle East. All branches of service made their presence felt – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, and Militia. Those who had served in the allied military forces were also remembered – Canada, England, France, and Sweden. Little known chapters of military history – such as the First World War’s “Polar Bear Expedition to North Russia” – were once again recalled to the minds of those who wandered the Luminarium. The richness of civilian service on the homefront provided inspiration for the gathered public. Names and stories of patriotic men and women long dead flickered to life once more.
The Luminarium also included a solemn wreath-laying ceremony and several educational components, including a living history doughboy re-enactor and a mobile museum featuring Kalamazoo’s service in WWI.
Why did you choose this memorial effort to support? What is the tie, or core interest in our WWI veterans? Why is important for you to remember WWI?
Commemorating the centennial of the First World War was one of the objectives of our national DAR Commemorative Events committee, but the effort became personal to us when we realized that there is no WWI memorial in Kalamazoo County. As we learned about those who had served in the war from our area, we wanted to make sure that their stories would not be forgotten.
Tell us about Lucinda Hinsdale Stone? She must have been a remarkable figure.
Born in 1814, Lucinda Hinsdale Stone was an early feminist and educator. She moved to Kalamazoo with her husband, James Stone, in 1843 when he was named the principal of the institution that subsequently became Kalamazoo College. Lucinda Hinsdale Stone taught at the college and was named the head of the College’s “Ladies’ Department.” She successfully fought for female students to be allowed to attend classes with male students and to be given access to the same curriculum – a radical innovation at the time. In addition to promoting women’s education, Lucinda Hinsdale Stone was an advocate for the abolition of slavery and for women’s right to vote. She left a lasting imprint on Kalamazoo, on Michigan, and on the nation.
The DAR played a significant role in supporting America's WWI efforts, as well as the postwar healing if both American veterans and the philanthropic rebuilding of Europe. Can you tell us a little about that?
As descendants of our nation’s first generation of veterans, we seek to honor the veterans who have served throughout our history and those who continue to serve today. The Lucinda Hinsdale Stone DAR Chapter was in the vanguard of homefront service during WWI, doing Red Cross work and contributing to the Belgian Relief Fund even before the US entry into the war. The chapter maintained a hospitality room throughout the war, which provided a home-like refuge for all citizens engaged in war relief work and to soldiers on leave from training. The Honor Roll of Kalamazoo County records that the chapter members volunteering in the DAR Hospitality Room brought the soldiers a spirit of friendliness and good fellowship - sometimes to sew on a button or a shoulder strap, to find a helmet for a boy who came in with frosted ears, to play an accompaniment while he sang, to give a bit of information or to listen when he wished to talk. To some soldiers, the club room was a place to leave an overcoat, to freshen before a dinner engagement, or where he might read a newspaper, or write a letter. But to others it had a deeper meaning. It was a place to rest when one was tired; where one had broth, medicine, and care when one was ill; or where he found cheer and understanding when he was blue, for happy soldiers are the best soldiers.
Lucinda Hinsdale Stone DAR chapter members provided more than 5000 items for the troops (including hospital garments, books, Victrola records and surgical supplies), hundreds of pounds of gift baskets (containing candy, jelly, cakes, cookies, fruit, and flowers) to cheer the hospitalized soldiers during the holiday season, and 250,000 gun wipes. In addition to the more than $100,000 invested by individual chapter members in Liberty Loan Bonds, the chapter sold an additional $37,000 worth of Liberty Bonds. The chapter joined the other DAR of Michigan chapters in adopting the destroyer ship “John Paul Jones” and supplied its crew with knitted garments throughout the war. Sixteen chapter members sent their sons into military service and the husbands of nine members served; two of those serving made the supreme sacrifice.
The children in the JAC clubs sponsored by the Lucinda Hinsdale Stone DAR chapter were also active in war work. They knitted garments, made gun wipes and trench candles and assisted in Red Cross work. One of the chapter’s 32 former JAC members who entered active military service was cited for bravery in battle.
What other efforts have you folks supported in the past?
The Lucinda Hinsdale Stone DAR Chapter and the Ki-Ka-Ma-Sung C.A.R. Society honor the service of veterans past and present. We mark the graves of Revolutionary War veterans in our area so that visitors to the cemetery can see the service these men gave to our country.
We are involved in the ongoing efforts to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. In 2016, we jointly hosted a Tribute to Vietnam Veterans and their Families at which hundreds were honored, many receiving the thanks of a grateful nation for the first time. Both years, Veterans of the Vietnam War who attended the WWI Commemorative Luminarium were awarded with a commemorative lapel pin.
We also work together to welcome veterans back from Talons Out Honor Flights. These flights take veterans from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam on a whirlwind tour of Washington, DC - departing southwest Michigan on a Saturday morning and returning Saturday night after the veterans have had the chance to see their memorial in our nation’s capital. We join hundreds of others to line the receiving area as soon as the veterans return. We clap and cheer, and we shake their hands and thank them for their service.
Most of our support is done through volunteer work, which makes our monetary donation to the National WWI Memorial stand out as something relatively unusual for the Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Chapter. Ki-Ka-Ma-Sung Society made a small donation to the memorial in February, 2018 that was the result of collecting coins at each of its meetings using the slogan “I’ve got a chicken in France” as a reminder of the efforts spear-headed by the DAR to “re-chickenize” France in World War I.