DAR Celebrates Martha Dandridge Washington’s Birthday

At the annual Martha Dandridge Washington Birthday Luncheon on June 8, guests enjoyed sunny skies, a hint of lavender and rosemary in the air, delicious savory and sweet dishes, and a taste of Victorian grandeur in the architecture and furnishings of the Glenmore Mansion. A tour of the house and an appearance by Martha Dandridge Washington herself topped off the event that delighted the participants.

The luncheon celebrated the 288th birthday of the nation’s first First Lady and was hosted by the Martha Dandridge Washington Chapter (MDW), National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR).

Upon arrival, guests were met by Parliamentarian Ellie Betts and Susie Jarnagin who had organized a silent auction and white elephant sale on the front porch of the grand manor. They had assembled quality items including original artwork; glassware; jewelry; a variety of gift baskets filled with such items as pet supplies, wine and wine glasses, and items for American history lovers; as well as a mix of white elephant “treasures.”

Craig Carr Portraying Martha Dandridge Washington

Following that, Glenmore Docents Dale and Benjamin Stanton led an informative tour of the majestic home filled with historical tidbits about the Branner and Jarnagin families who were the only families to own and live in the lovely house, originally set on a 15,000 acre property that encompassed most of Jefferson City.

John Roper Branner, who originally built the home in 1868, unfortunately died before it was finished. Guests learned that he, as CEO of East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, fostered prosperity in Mossy Creek, the original name of Jefferson City, by insisting that every train that passed on the tracks also stop in the growing town. It was reported that Branner would go up into the tower room of the home and from that location could see the trains as they left Knoxville.

Branner’s name for the stately home was The Oaks; however, Milton Preston Jarnagin, Sr., bought it in 1882 and renamed it Glenmore after his first son who died in infancy. In 1970, the heirs of Jarnagin gifted the home to the Jefferson County Chapter of the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities (APTA).

After a welcome by Regent Jane Chambers, the singing of “Happy Birthday” was led by Chaplain Elizabeth Finchum .

Standing in the magnificent Grand Hallway, one could almost imagine the young ladies in floor-length frocks and young gentlemen chatting and walking in and out of the parlor, dining room, library, and ballroom. Imagination became reality as Martha Dandridge Washington (aka Craig Carr) gracefully descended the cherry wood staircase and began telling her listeners about an event in her life as the wife of President George Washington. She wore a floor-length green day dress with a white shawl and bonnet, her fan demurely spread in front of her bodice.

Martha recounted how authorities feared that she might be kidnapped to be used as a bargaining chip against the President and the new nation, but the plucky lady assured everyone that she knew how to ride a horse, and if threatened, she would mount her horse and escape.

After Martha’s monologue and prayer by Chaplain Finchum, the guests were seated at tables in the parlor, library, and downstairs bedroom where they dined on broccoli salad, pasta salad, savory Virginia ham wraps, sweet cream cheese and pineapple finger sandwiches, and skewers of cucumber cubes and grape tomatoes. Diners were offered their choice of iced summertime tea, summertime lemonade, and fruit water. Dessert was a selection of angel food cake and strawberries, strawberry poke cake, lemon cake, chocolate cake, and red velvet cake.

This annual luncheon is a fundraiser for the MDW chapter to help support the DAR mission of Patriotism, Education, and Historic Preservation. Chapter members serving on the luncheon committee in various capacities under the leadership of Chairman Karen Chambers included Ellie Betts, Karen Bible, Jane Busdeker, Craig Carr, Jane Chambers, Janet Chumney, Jill Evans, Elizabeth Finchum, Susie Jarnagin, Karen McFarland, Carolyn Mitchell, Wendy Randolph, Katie Schmidt, Danielle Settlemoir, and Anne Word.

For information about the DAR, contact Registrar Karen McFarland at (865) 258-8670 or Regent Jane Chambers at (865) 591-3857.

Source: Daughters of the American Revolution, Martha Dandridge Chapter.