Founded in 1896, Milford DAR chapter celebrates 125 years

MILFORD — The Freelove Baldwin Stow Chapter of the Daughter of the American Revolution of Milford celebrated its 125 anniversary Thursday, with acknowledgments from those DAR members in state and nationwide for the years of service.

Christy Hendrie, Connecticut DAR state regent, said she was honored when the Milford DAR asked her to participate in the gathering, which was held at the local chapter house at 55 Prospect St.

“I’ve been down in (Washington) D.C. for eight days, and while I was there, I told them about your chapter and the 125th anniversary,” Hendrie said. “The Connecticut Daughters, 2,300 plus strong, send their regards and congratulations.”

The DAR Organizing Secretary General Virginia Sebastian Storage wrote a letter congratulating the Milford chapter and sent along a certificate from the Daughters of the American Revolution congratulating the local organization for its longevity.

Milford Regent Barbara Stewart said this year the group has made updates to the chapter house, including a new access ramp, new push bars on the front and back doors, and bathrooms upgraded to be ADA compliant.

“Everything that you’ve done to the house is great,” Alice Ridgeway, the state’s honorary regent, said. “Great job to raise the money to fund all these important enhancements.”

Kendra Davis, second vice regent for the Milford chapter said the group had received several awards from the state chapter this year, including the We Can Do It Membership Challenge for adding three new members, the Constitution Week Leadership Award, the Chapter with a Proclamation from a City Mayor award, the Flag Literature Award, and the America 250 for outstanding use of social media to honor patriots.

According to regent Barbara Stewart, the local chapter marked its 125th anniversary with a series of donations to local charities. The group is donating $125 and 125 cans of soup to Beth-El Center; 125 cans of dog and cat food for an animal shelter; 125 pairs of socks to the Veterans Hospital in West Haven; and 125 hand-knit hats.

The Freelove Baldwin Stow DAR of Milford Chapter was organized by Mary Hepburn Smith during the spring of 1896.

The first meeting of the newly established DAR was held on June 17, 1896, on the anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Smith became the first regent and served until 1913. She also served three years as the Vice president general of the National Society.

The Freelove Baldwin Stow Chapter DAR gets its name from the wife of Stephen Stow, who in 1777 cared for a group of men who had been released from a British prison ship on the shores of town, under a flag of truce. Of the 177 men released, more than half were suffering from smallpox. Stow contracted the disease himself and later died. He was buried with the soldiers who died from the disease.

Baldwin Stow established the first chapter house, and on June 17, 1907, on her 82nd birthday, the cornerstone was laid. Members contributed china, silver, linen and furniture. In 1953, plans for a new building were developed. The land chosen had historic significance. It was the original land grant in 1639 to Peter Prudden, who was a preacher and leader in the First Church of Christ. In Peter Prudden’s time, the land part was his garden and later became a burial ground. He was buried there in 1656.

The chapter’s current home is a one-story, red-brick building of Colonial design. The 1907 cornerstone from the first building can be seen under the bay window of the new building.