Hellen Polk of the Hic-A-Sha-Ba-Ha DAR Chapter of Starkville, center, assists Susan Gettman, lower left, and Kelly O'Shieles of the Andrews Carruthers DAR Chapter of Austin, Texas, in placing a DAR insignia on the headstone of the Texas chapter's founding regent at Odd Fellows Cemetery in Starkville Jan. 2.
Photo by: Courtesy photo
January 19, 2019 9:59:52 PM
Light rain fell on a small group of women gathered in Odd Fellows Cemetery in Starkville on the second day of 2019. It didn't dampen their sense of purpose. Four of the gathering had traveled more than 600 miles to be there, to place a DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) insignia on a headstone. The trip was the culmination of more than two years' effort by members of the Andrew Carruthers DAR chapter of Austin, Texas. The goal, to honor the chapter's founding regent, Asenath Wallace Carothers, interred at Odd Fellows Cemetery in 1933.
When contacted by their Texas counterparts, members of the Hic-A-Sha-Ba-Ha DAR Chapter in Starkville stepped up to assist. The shared experience created a memorable bond between the two chapters.
"It shows DAR has a huge network of resources and friendships," said Hellen Polk of Hic-A-Sha-Ba-Ha. Polk is the DAR Mississippi state regent-elect.
Answering an appeal from Hic-A-Sha-Ba-Ha Regent Patsy Stuart, Polk, who is familiar with the historic cemetery, offered to locate and measure the headstone for the Texas chapter.
"And then her husband went to the cemetery and cleaned the stone for us," Muriel Parker of Pflugerville, Texas, told The Dispatch. Parker, registrar of the chapter in Texas, traveled to Starkville for the commemoration ceremony along with Chapter Regent Kelly O'Shieles, Honorary Regent and Historian Susan Gettman and Lineage Chair Sharyl Burshnick.
"They were so wonderful," Parker said of the Starkville members. "They went over and above to get us information and help us and make it possible."
Asenath Wallace Carothers was born in 1859 in New London, Arkansas. Orphaned at 5, she was raised by an aunt in Mississippi and became an honor graduate of the Starkville Seminary for Women. In 1882, she married Neil Carruthers of Starkville. The family later moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and then Fayetteville, Arkansas. At some point, the spelling of the last name became Carothers.
After her husband's death in 1901, Carothers became head librarian at the University of Arkansas. In 1903, she accepted a position as the first director of the Woman's Building, a residence hall at the University of Texas in Austin. She founded the Andrew Carruthers DAR Chapter in 1909, naming it for her husband's patriot ancestor, using the colonial spelling. Charter members were exclusively UT students.
Because Carothers had seen so many girls leave university burdened with debt, the chapter, under her leadership, established a scholarship for females at UT.
Carothers remained as head of the Woman's Building until retirement in 1928. It still stands as Carothers Dormitory. A plaque in her honor is displayed in the main hall. After her death Feb. 25, 1933, at her daughter's home in Michigan, Carothers was buried in Starkville, alongside her husband. That fact eventually brought DAR members from Austin and Starkville together on a damp January day.
Stuart, of Starkville, said, "Hellen Polk and I enjoyed being with them so much. It was like having instant friends. ... We stood in the rain for the ceremony and did not mind a bit."
O'Shieles, of Austin, remarked, "Our chapter was so grateful and amazed at the help they provided us. It touched our hearts."
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.