Millions of people are proud to be American, but only some can trace their lineage back to the patriots who risked everything to help America reach independence. The Sons of the American Revolution, an organization for male descendants of those patriots that helps to preserve the history, has a new chapter based in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs.

“This exists to make sure we do not forget our heritage,” said Dunwoody resident Shep Hammack, 72, the organizing president for the new Mount Vernon SAR chapter. The chapter, which has met since March, will receive its charter at a banquet Sept. 24 at Villa Christina in Brookhaven, and expects to have at least 60 members.

Members of the Mount Vernon Chapter Colorguard in full uniform, from left, Geoff Oosterhoudt, Tom Chrisman, Bob McCleskey, Shep Hammack and Randy Pollard. (Special)

The SAR consists of 50 societies, 500 chapters and approximately 33,000 members. There are 32 chapters in Georgia.
The new local chapter’s name has a dual significance. “Mount Vernon” is the name of George Washington’s home in Virginia, and the name of a street connecting Sandy Springs and Dunwoody, the cities where most of the new chapter’s members reside.

Membership eligibility is based on being able to prove descent from someone who fought in or actively supported the Revolution. SAR members tend to be of retired age, but are able to join at any age. Hammack enrolled his grandsons in the SAR, but doesn’t expect them to be active unless they develop an interest.

“I’ve always been interested in history,” Hammack said of his interest in genealogy. “I had known about my great-great grandfather who was in the Confederate army, and killed at the breakout [during the siege of] Petersburg [in Virginia]. I have a letter written by him to my great-grandfather, who was 3 at the time.”

“Ten years ago I decided to look further back,” he continued. “I joined SAR to prove the line. I wasn’t going to get very involved. I just wanted to prove what I thought was true. But then the rest was history and I got involved.”

Hammack traced his ancestry back to a William Dugan, who was at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania.

Another member, Sandy Springs resident Don Hart, with the help of his wife Marlene’s interest in genealogy, traced his lineage to a great-grandfather (going back five “greats”). That ancestor was a captain of light horse cavalry; his six sons fought with him in the Revolutionary War. He won a battle at Mask’s Ferry on the Peedee River at Wilmington, N.C.

The SAR brotherhood works to perpetuate the memory of and records from the Revolutionary War through educating students, seeking out burial grounds of soldiers to give them a grave marking, and presenting a color guard for civic events, parades and other patriotic program.

SAR chapters also give businesses certificates for properly displaying the American flag, which includes keeping it lit at night.

Many SAR chapters focus on education by visiting elementary and middle schools with a traveling trunk filled with reproductions of toothbrushes, soap, dolls made of cornhusk and other items to teach the students about life during the 1700s.

SAR chapters are also active with Eagle Scouts, and offer scholarships at the chapter, state and national levels.

The SAR holds meetings once a month, and often invite speakers to give historical talks. The local chapter’s topics have included Christmas celebrations during Revolutionary times and the life of Baron Johann de Kalb, a war hero who was the namesake of DeKalb County. The Mount Vernon chapter meets on the second Tuesday of the month, with its next meeting taking place Oct. 11.

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–Jaclyn Turner