Chapter History

 

Princeton, New Jersey

Organized in 1893

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Daughters of the American Revolution

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Chapter History

Under the guidance of Mrs. Josephine Swann, Princeton Chapter NSDAR was officially organized January 28, 1893. Currently, it is the second oldest chapter in New Jersey. Mrs. Swann and organizing members were instrumental in early efforts to preserve and restore the residence at Rockingham. Chapter members today continue to serve as volunteers and trustees for this historic site.

The Princeton Chapter NSDAR name honors one of the most historic and well-known towns in New Jersey. First established as Stony Brook, the town was renamed Princeton (after the Prince of Orange) in 1724. The College of New Jersey, today Princeton University, was founded in Elizabeth in 1747 and located permanently at Princeton in 1756.

The Battle of Princeton, January 1777,  was fought within two weeks of George Washington's dramatic winter crossing of the Delaware River at McKonkey's Ferry and the American surprise attack and defeat of British and Hessian troops at Trenton. While awaiting ratification of the Peace Treaty with England, Congress convened in  Princeton during 1783. General and Mrs. Washington resided at nearby Rockingham at this time.

Among distinguished citizens who have made Princeton their home were signers of the Declaration of Independence,  John Witherspoon and Richard A. Stockton.  Stockton's restored residence, Morven, has served as the New Jersey Governor's mansion and is open today as a museum. Eminent scientist Albert Einstein lived and taught in Princeton. President Grover Cleveland and NSDAR charter member Mrs. Roger A. Pryor are buried in Princeton Cemetery.

The first decade of the 20th century saw chapter interest in Native American culture and heritage with concerted fundraising efforts for the bronze statue of Pocahontas, erected at Jamestown, Virginia.

History and Conservation have merged in 1932 and 1984 with chapter markings of catalpa trees planted by Richard Stockton. Gavels from fallen branches of these trees were presented to 40 State Regents. Preservation of genealogical records and rare books, and scholarship donations to DAR schools testify to Princeton Chapter commitment to education.

Patriotism has been marked by more than 7,700 hours of service to the Princeton Red Cross during World War II, and continued involvement in observation of Constitution Week and Independence Day pilgrimages to the gravesites of John Witherspoon and Richard Stockton.

History, Education, Patriotism: the name "Princeton" reflects deep roots in these cornerstone objectives of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. We have a heritage of which to be proud, and a challenging future to fulfill.

About our Founder

Josephine Antoinette Ward Thomson Swann was born in Sing Sing, Westchester County, New York. She was the daughter of Congressman Aaron Ward and Mary Lucy Watson. Josephine's maternal grandfather, Elkanah Watson, acted as a messenger during the Revolutionary War, travelling to France in 1779 to deliver funds and dispatches to Benjamin Franklin. After the war, Elkanah had the opportunity to visit George Washington at Mount Vernon.

John Singleton Copley, 1782. Portrait of Elkanah Watson .

 

Josephine Ward's first husband was College of New Jersey graduate (class of 1817) U.S. Senator John Renshaw Thomson, whom she married at the age of 16. Senator Thomson's first wife was Annie Stockton, daughter of Declaration of Independence signer Richard Stockton. Richard Stockton built a home near his own in Princeton called Thomson Hall for his daughter Annie when she married John Stockton. After Annie died, Senator Thomson and his new wife Josephine lived in the house. After the death of Senator Thomson in 1862, the house was renamed Belgrade. Josephine maintained the home on Stockton Street for the rest of her life, renovating it in the Victorian style. Upon her death, Thomson Hall/Belgrade was bequeathed to the borough of Princeton.

Josephine's second husband, whom she married 16 years after the death of Senator Thomson, was Thomas Swann. Thomas Swann was a former governor of Maryland and was a U.S. Representative from Maryland when he married Josephine in 1878. Although she spent a great deal of time in Washington DC with her husband, Josephine always maintained an interest in Princeton's historic preservation.

Josephine founded the Princeton Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution on January 28, 1882 and became the chapter's first Regent. Josephine used her considerable influence to help reorganize the Washington Headquarters Association in 1896. Through her leadership and fund-raising efforts, the Princeton Chapter was able to assist with the purchase the 1710 Berrien Mansion (now known as Rockingham) to keep it from being destroyed by quarry operations. Since Rockingham's purchase in 1896, the house has been move three times to save it from destruction from quarrying and blasting operations.

Josephine died in Washington D.C. on March 2, 1906. Her remains were transported to back to Princeton to her home, Belgrade. A funeral service was conducted for her at Trinity Church and she was buried in the Princeton Cemetery.

The legacy Josephine left still remains evident in Princeton today. Thanks to a bequest in honor of her first husband, the Princeton University Graduate College was built as memorial to Senator John R. Thomson. The portrait of Josephine's grandfather, Elkanah Watson, by American painter John Singleton Copley graces the halls of the Princeton University Art Museum thanks to Josephine's estate. Washington's Headquarters at Rockingham still stands as a testament to her drive and determination. The Princeton Chapter DAR that Josephine founded remains a strong and vibrant community of women dedicated to historic preservation.

Sources

Collins, V. (1919). Guide to Princeton, the town, the university. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Retrieved on September 13, 2014 from archive.org

Princeton University Art Museum. (n.d.). John Singleton Copley, American, 1738-1815. Retrieved on September 13, 2014, from http://artmuseum.princeton.edu/collections/objects/29121

Princeton University Graduate College : A Brief History. (n.d.). Retrieved on September 13, 2014, from http://www.princeton.edu/~gradcol/perm/hist.htm

Rockingham State Historic Site. (2014). Retrieved on September 13, 2014, from  http://rockingham.net

Muser, J. (2013). Two NJ women who saved Washington's last wartime headquarters. Retrieved on September 13, 2014, from http://www.gardenstatelegacy.com

New York State Library. (2010).  Elkanah Watson papers, 1773-1884. Retrieved on September 13, 2014, from http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/msscfa/sc13294.htm#bio

 

 

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Princeton Battlefield State Park      Princeton, New Jersey