June 25, 2011 9:39:00 PM
To make it to 103, you must be doing something right. The Shuk-ho-ta Tom-a-ha chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution mark that anniversary this month, celebrating more than a century of patriotism, education and historic preservation.
In June 1908, thanks to initial efforts by Mrs. John White (Erskine Young White) and Mrs. John Maxwell (Lucy Banks Maxwell), the Columbus chapter was formally organized. Mrs. Thomas Blewett Franklin (Lilla) was chosen as the organizing regent.
The chapter''s distinctive name commemorates Choctaw Indians of the area who boasted "never to have lifted a hand in battle against the pale face."
According to local lore, when Columbus was a mere trading post along the Tombigbee River banks, there was a tavern operator who resembled a grinning possum. The settlement became known as Shuk-ho-ta Tom-a-ha, the Choctaw words that translated to o''possum.
"The name stuck until more white settlers arrived and the new colonizer preferred a more dignified name and changed to settlement name to Columbus," explained Chapter Regent Betty Wood Thomas.
For all generations
Members of the DAR chapter range in age from mid-20s to early 90s, and all are active in a number of community programs.
"We''re very proud of the large number of our members who have 40 or more years of service in DAR," Thomas said. The number of junior members, 18-35 years of age, is increasing, illustrating that "this generation, just as those before, continues to be interested in their community, with regards to historical preservation, promotion of education and encouragement of patriotic endeavors," she added.
Locally, Shuk-ho-ta Tom-a-ha members can be found serving food to local veterans, placing American flags at veterans'' graves, presenting community programs, conducting genealogical workshops and recognizing area students for their achievements.
One notable Shuk-ho-ta Tom-a-ha member was Edwina Dakin Williams, who joined the Columbus group in 1911, the year her son, Tennessee Williams, was born. Framed copies of her DAR papers were recently placed on permanent loan with the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center on Main Street by the chapter.
Wealth of information
Formed in 1890, DAR now has more than 165,000 members in nearly 3,000 chapters worldwide. Membership offers numerous opportunities for service, as well as establishing lineage as a descendant of a patriot of the American Revolution.
Occupying an entire city block near the White House, the national headquarters includes a library filled with more than 18,000 volumes of unpublished source records, as well as genealogical, state, county, church and cemetery records.
More than $80,000 in scholarships is given annually by the service organization in fields including American history, political science and historic preservation. DAR is also a member of the National Veterans Administration Voluntary Advisory Committee. Thousands of volunteer hours have been served with veterans'' programs.
"We also provide support to our troops involved in America''s worldwide war on terrorism," Thomas remarked.
"DAR brings the chance to meet new people with similar interests and develop friendships with those who enjoy promoting the ideas of patriotism and love of country. We share the same passion in trying to make America a better place to live."
Membership is open to women 18 years or older, regardless of race, religion or ethnic background, who can prove lineal descent from a patriot who gave aid, or was a soldier, in the American Revolution. To learn more, contact Vice Regent Wilda Thomas -- who followed her mother, Betty Wood Thomas, into DAR membership -- at ColumbusDAR@gmail.com, or at 662-570-9232.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.