Some Highlights From Our Chapter Archives
In 1892 society granted women very little power outside their own homes. Our Liberty Bell Chapter represented a golden opportunity for ladies to make decisions that didn't require the authorization of men. The band of intrepid Lehigh Valley females threw themselves into action and never looked back.
Opportunities to attend the State and National get-togethers were met with great enthusiasm. Our Ella C. Dech Stopp shared her 1915 impressions of the Continental Congress. She reports they arrived in Washington after a delay caused by a lost hatbox. She wrote: "Back to the New Ebbitt [Hotel] we went and then secured possession of what was to be our home for the next eight days, the McKinley Suite, large, pleasant, and comfortably furnished, with all conveniences. Miss Mary I. Stille of West Chester, State Historian, joined our party." Another delegate, Irene Anewalt, wrote in 1922, "At about 8 o'clock on Saturday morning, Mrs. Yeager packed our regent, Miss Grim and I with her into her automobile for the trip to Washington. We may say "packed" because as you know, when Daughters travel to Congress they take all the feathers they possess. Missionaries may travel light, sometimes, but Daughters, Never!"
Our chapter also became involved in local and national events. In 1915 the Liberty Bell was to be taken to San Francisco. This was, you understand, the 7th pilgrimage of the famous bell. But Pennsylvanians didn't like someone taking their bell all the way to the West Coast. Voices were raised all over the State, none louder than our Liberty Bell Chapter women. The bell was, after all, cracked and wouldn't withstand the stress of the journey. Our Elizabeth Rinker wrote an impassioned plea citing concerns that the crack would slowly widen during the perilous journey, and that, "The Bell cannot be repaired because the molecules of the steel of which it is made have become so porous and rotten, that they would not mix with the material of which our modern steel is composed." She also worried about a train wreck. What if there was a train wreck and the bell was smashed into many pieces. What if people took the pieces of the bell away, never to be seen again. What if the pieces of the bell were carted off and the people of California decided to make a new bell, which wouldn't of course be the real bell any longer. Or what if none of this happened and the people of California simply decided not to return the bell. The objections did not alter the plans, and the bell was transported to San Francisco.
Today our chapter continues a long tradition of honoring local young people. This custom began modestly in 1910 with DAR Medals to Miss Margaret Swayze of the Allentown College for Women [now Cedar Crest College] who weighed in with an essay entitled, "The Pennsylvania German during the Revolutionary War" and, Miss Hilda Kline of Allentown High School, who chose as her subject, "The Women of Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War". By 1914, the exercise had evolved to include male students from Allentown's Preparatory School with Walter Smith snaring the prize for, "The Personal Character of William Penn".
Through the years the essays have reflected the concerns of the day. Nineteen sixteen found the young ladies sharing their views on, "The American Woman Preparing for Universal Peace". Louise Gerber began with the sweeping statement, "The great law of the ages, the unwritten law that has instilled into our beings the true value of life and nature, has also convinced us that feminism is the greatest factor in solving the equations of humanity. And that was long before the women's movement. By the following year, the doves had turned into hawks and heralded, "Woman's Service to Her Country in Time of War".
Patriotic ceremonies are also important to us. Each year the Liberty Bell Chapter sponsors a Veteran's Day ceremony honoring Revolutionary War Veterans and veterans of all other American wars and conflicts. In 2001 the November memorial service was held at Mickleys' Cemetery near the grave of John Jacob Mickley, Sr., and his four children. One son, John Jacob Mickley, Jr., helped bring the Liberty Bell from Philadelphia to Allentown during the American Revolution to keep it out of the hands of the British.
But our modern day ceremonies pale in comparison to the one that occurred in 1917 when the unveiling of the restored Mickley family memorial was the occasion of much excitement in Allentown. In October of that year, the 21st State Conference of the DAR was held in Allentown. Reporters from area newspapers invested lavish coverage of each and every event which was hosted by the Liberty Bell Chapter.
On Friday the 11th, 159 conferees, their husbands and children, Mickley descendants, city officials, and "a large number of friends," went to the cemetery in a large procession of autos, commandeered by [Liberty Bell's] Mrs. Minnie Yeager Donecker, wife of County Commissioner Edwin A. Donecker. Arrangements were made to have special trolley cars run along the lines that crisscrossed through Lehigh County to transport even more spectators. The throng was met by a color guard consisting of a thousand soldiers from the United States Ambulance Camp and the Corps band.
Following the ceremonies a reception was held at "Nirvana", the Mickley family homestead which at that time was considered one of the most famous landmarks in the Lehigh Valley.
Then, as now, our predecessors never missed an opportunity to honor our nation's flag. They gathered for Flag Day Exercises, threw flag day lunches and presented flags at every opportunity. Their 1916 Flag Day luncheon featured the Allentown College Orchestra consisting of, "twelve young ladies under the direction of Miss West, [who] furnished both vocal and instrumental music." Miss Anna Grim, the chapter's Poet, gave, "a beautiful descriptive poem," of the Liberty Bell Chapter.
Not that they limited their luncheons to Flag Day. They pulled out all stops in 1917 in observance of our chapter's 25th anniversary. At the Lehigh Country Club the dainty appetites were satisfied by a menu of "watermelon rinds, ripe olives and queen olives, followed by cream of tomato soup, fresh crab cutlets, creamed peas, roast stuffed jumbo squab, candied sweet potatoes, yellow tomatoes and lettuce, mixed ice cream, cakes, and demitasse." All this was consumed by the ladies while they were tightly corseted.
In 1918, the National DAR urged her chapters to contribute funds to help rebuild war torn towns and villages in France and to adopt "French War Orphans." The Liberty Bell Chapter donated $44.00 to assist in the restoration of the village of Tilloloy and "adopted" Renee Guilloteau. Three individual members of our chapter also adopted orphans.
We know Renee was born April 29, 1912. In 1919 her mother, Juliette, was alive, and two brothers, one younger and the other, her elder. Renee states in one letter her elder brother was "only eight years at my father's death." Our chapter sent Miss Guilloteau $36.50 a year for her support, something we continued to do for several years. Recent inquires have revealed that Renee married and moved to Paris but nothing more is known at this time of her fate.
In the 1920's the chapter started marking historic spots throughout the Lehigh Valley. Whether it was the site of a Continental prison camp or a hospital for our patriots, if it held any relationship to the Revolutionary War, we put a bronze tablet on it.
Through the decades Liberty Bell daughters have faithfully remembered those who have served America. We have cleaned grave sites, made blankets, rolled bandages, knitted sweaters and wristlets and mufflers and hats. We have given blood, clipped stamps, made jelly, and saved soap and lotions.
For over a century the Liberty Bell Chapter members have been there for our country, our state, our community, and we have been there for each other.
We have rejoiced at the birth of babies, and celebrated marriages. We have supported each other in times of distress and wept when one of our own was swept into the Arms of the Almighty.
And what in the twenty second century will another Liberty Bell Chapter historian have to say about us? Why, my dears, she will say: "For 210 years the Liberty Bell Daughters have been there for our country, our state, our community, and we have been there for each other."
God Bless America, and God Bless the DAR.
Old Zion Reformed Church
Liberty Bell Shrine and Museum
In 1950, the United States Department of the Treasury and several private companies commissioned a foundry in Annecy-le-Vieux, France, to cast 54 full size replicas of the Liberty Bell. The bells were intended as gifts to each State, U.S. territory and the District of Columbia to be displayed and rung on special occasions. This was part of a savings bond drive conducted in the summer of 1950 with the slogan, "Save for Your Independence".