Chapter History

Chapter 4
Yorktown Day

The celebration of the anniversary of the surrender of Cornwallis to General Washington has been an event in Yorktown, however, not on a consistent basis.

We know that the Surrender was celebrated on October 19, 1824, when General Lafayette visited Yorktown. In 1837, Virginia's own Honorable John Tyler made an address in an event sponsored by the Williamsburg Guards.

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper from New York held an interesting account, published November 8, 1879, about a "preliminary celebration of the centennial" held on October 23, 1879 (right). The paper reported that "vessels of the North Atlantic Squadron rode at anchor off the town handsomely decked out with national colors." Five or six thousand people attended this program, and at the close of the ceremonies, military and invited guests were entertained at huge barbecues on the lawn in front of the Nelson House. Quite a few of these guests spilled over onto the grounds of the Custom House.

Following this preliminary celebration came the Centennial Celebration of 1881. It was this year that the cornerstone of the Victory Monument was laid.

"Following this, observance of the October 19th anniversary seems to have continued at varying intervals," wrote Sarah Armistead. "The older residents of Yorktown today recall frequent celebrations held in the early 1900s, some sponsored by the Yorktown Historical Society (no longer in existence) some perhaps by other groups, the people of the village and of the Peninsula."

As we saw in 1922, Mrs. Chenoweth was adamant about recognizing the historical significance of Yorktown, and in particular, of the Surrender. Following her orchestrated wreath-laying ceremony of 1922, the chapter continued to plan the annual Yorktown Day. Many dignitaries were on hand for the day, both at the ceremony at the monument as well as in the Custom House Garden.

The Comte de Grasse ladies intensified the significance of Yorktown Day until 1931, when a larger event required a greater effort; the Sesquicentennial (see Chapter 5).

After the sensation that was the Sesquicentennial Celebration of 1931, Yorktown Day continued to be organized by the Comte de Grasse Chapter with assistance from other patriotic organizations, the citizens of Yorktown, and the Colonial National Monument.

In 1937, Mrs. Chenoweth was recognized for her efforts when the Virginia DAR commissioned a plaque in her honor (left).

From 1938 to 1941, the National Park Service also cooperated in planning Yorktown Day festivities.

And while WWII raged on overseas and rationing curtailed many activities in Yorktown, Yorktown Day survived. A brief program was held at the Custom House during those years, faithfully attended by NSDAR President General Mrs. Pouch (right), who became a trusted friend of Mrs. Chenoweth.

In 1948, Mrs. Herndon Jenkins, the Chapter Regent, invited several organizations to participate in the planning of Yorktown Day.

Soon to be known as the Yorktown Day Association, these members came from Comte de Grasse Chapter, Thomas Nelson, Jr. Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution, Virginia Society of the Cincinnati, American Friends of Lafayette, the Trustees of the Town of York, and the Colonial National Historical Park.

Next Chapter :    Chapter 5    The Sesquicentennial