When the Hillsboro Waw-wil-a-way chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution received its charter in 1895, it was a different age and time.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1895 marked the playing of the first professional football game, Grover Cleveland was president of the United States and the legendary “Sultan of Swat,” Babe Ruth, was born.
The local group, which present day regent Jane Stowers said is the oldest active women’s organization in Highland County, will celebrate it’s 125th anniversary Saturday with a celebration luncheon at the Ponderosa Banquet Center in Hillsboro.
“Ida Matthews was the first regent and had belonged to the chapter in Cincinnati,” she said. “She came back home very excited about it, and she and some other ladies did the paperwork that proved that they were related to some of the patriots in the Revolutionary War, and in turn, started the chapter, which in its early days had well over 100 members.”
Local historian Jean Wallis, in her Highland Guide Posts feature that appeared in The Times-Gazette and its forerunner The Press-Gazette, wrote that the DAR was organized in Washington, D.C. in 1890 with its first president general being Caroline Harrison, the wife of former U.S. President Benjamin Harrison.
Wallis, in a brief history from the April 25, 1985 editionof The Press-Gazette, said that the local group’s charter was granted on March 2, 1895, with the first regular meeting held 26 days later.
It was the 10th chapter formed in Ohio, she wrote, and the 107th chapter formed in the United States, with a motto that proclaimed “To live in hearts we may leave behind, is not to die.”
Stowers said the local group was named in honor of a Shawnee Indian chief.
“Waw-wil-a-way was a very friendly Indian to the whites and lived among them,” she said. “There was a story of a man who was killed and the whites thought that the Indians had done it.”
In the publication “Roots & Shoots,” Wallis’ article entitled “An Indian’s Bravery, the White Men’s Treachery at Hardin’s Creek,” detailed the act of cowardice that led to the tragic death of the native American in the time before the state of Ohio and Highland County came into existence.
In the spring of 1803, hunters found the body of Capt. Thomas Herrod tomahawked and scalped, and because of the condition of the body, the crime was believed to have been perpetrated by the Indians although who really killed him remains a mystery.
According to the 1888 book “Historical Collections of Ohio, an Encyclopedia of the State – Volume 2,” by Henry Howe, David Wolfe and two companions named Williams and Ferguson were passing through a prairie in the vicinity of the mouth of Hardin’s Creek in what is now Madison Township in Highland County, when they spotted an Indian approaching them in the distance.
The Indian was Chief Waw-wil-a-way, who the Rev. James Finley in his autobiography described as “an old and faithful hunter of Nathaniel Massie during his surveying tours, and an unwavering friend of the white man.”
Finley wrote that after shaking hands with Wolfe and his two companions, an offer was made by Wolfe to trade guns with the Indian and after exchanging the arms for examination, returned the weapon and dismounted from his horse, saying he didn’t want to trade after all.
The book stated that Wolfe confronted Way-wil-a-way about the death of Herrod, which the Indian said he knew nothing about and said that “Indians and white men are now all one, all brothers.”
When the conversation ended and Waw-wil-a-way turned to leave, Finley wrote that Wolfe raised his rifle and shot the Indian in the back.
While the shot eventually proved fatal, Waw-wil-a-way fought back against the unprovoked attack, killing Ferguson and severely wounding both Wolfe and Williams before, as Finley wrote, “he turned to walk out into the grass and fell upon his face amid the wild flowers of the prairie.”
Stowers said that Saturday’s celebration luncheon will feature both the state regent and vice-regent from the Ohio DAR, in addition to the state registrar and three of the organization’s district directors.
Janet Florence, Waw-wil-a-way’s chaplain, will appear in authentic 1895 attire and share with the audience how the chapter began and some of the events from 125 years ago.
Longtime members Jean Wallis and Martha Saylor will be presented with certificates honoring 50-years of membership in the local chapter, she said, and Pat Young will speak on the life and tragic death of Chief Waw-wil-a-way.
“Several DAR chapters will be represented Saturday, and Dwight Crum of the genealogical society will be there,” Stowers said. “Our newest member, Vicki Knauff, will be there on behalf of the Highland County Historical Society.”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.