Chapter History

Chapter 2
A History Lesson

Mrs. Chenoweth's priority as regent was to raise awareness of the historic significance of Yorktown- despite its shortcomings.

Many of the historic buildings were in a state of disrepair in 1922, the battlefields were not preserved, and the area did not draw visitors. And folks in the area were unaware of the treasures in their own back yard.

"Another instance interesting to recall," wrote Mrs. Chenoweth, "is that on our pilgrimage to the Moore House, many asked the question as to why we should visit the Moore House. So little was known of its significance and its history."

She began her regency by making sure the Virginia Daughters learned their history, and invited State Regent Barrett to hold the 26th State Conference in Yorktown. Over 100 delegates attended the conference at the York County Courthouse, and enjoyed the hospitality of the Comte de Grasse Daughters. Mrs. Chenoweth felt that the delegates should be shown hospitality, and members were housed in private homes.

To raise the $500 needed for the conference, chapter members held a pie and cake sale, and more ambitiously, negotiated with Harper Brothers publishers of New York for the republishing rights to 1881 book, The Yorktown Campaign and the Surrender of Cornwallis in 1781. The books arrived in time for the conference, and sold at $2 each.

To reinforce the historic significance of the Surrender, Mrs. Chenoweth held the Virginia DAR State Conference to coincide with Yorktown Day. (shown at left)

While there had been some semblance of a ceremony every year, Yorktown Day was not consistently celebrated since the 100th anniversary in 1881. The Comte de Grasse Chapter initiated the Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Victory Monument in 1922; a tradition that continues to this day. Until the Yorktown Day Association was formed in 1948, the Comte de Grasse Chapter took the lead in planning Yorktown Day for 26 years.

Mrs. Chenoweth asked her chapter members to do a little research of their own, and the ladies prepared papers they had written about historical sites or subjects in Yorktown.

Miss Lula Jones (right) presented a paper on the graves of the French soldiers, long forgotten in the area once called Wayne's Woods. Miss Jones' father, Captain John A. Jones, had shown Lula the site many times during her childhood.

Miss Jones related that during the 100th anniversary of the Surrender, many visitors, especially the French, went to the site of the graves and "canes were sold, cut from the trees near the graves." Forty-one years later, the land was owned by the Old Dominion Land Company and the Newport News Water Company; the soldier's graves unmarked and seemingly lost forever.

Together with the Hampton DAR Chapter, Comte de Grasse Chapter successfully negotiated with Mr. Walter B. Livesay, president of the company, to locate the graves, excavate to prove their location, and mark the spot for posterity.

In 1924, a large white cross was erected with a bronze tablet to the memory of these French soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom.

Next Chapter:   Chapter 3    This Old House