PATRIOTIC SOCIETIES, organizations formed to honor early American settlers, their deeds, and their legacy, are composed of men or women whose ancestral lineage meets strict eligibility rules. The earliest in Cleveland was the New England Society of Cleveland & the Western Reserve, organized on 22 Dec. 1853 at the Plymouth Congregational Church's celebration of Forefathers' Day to commemorate the Pilgrims' landing at Plymouth Rock. Membership, open to "any person of good character" who was a "native or descendant of a native of a New England State," grew from the 55 charter members to include 250 people in 1935. The Western Reserve Chap. of the Natl. Society Daughters of the American Revolution was organized 19 Dec. 1891 by Catherine Hitchcock Tilden Avery, wife of historian Dr. ELROY M. AVERY. Other area chapters were the Molly Chittenden Chap. (1912), the Moses Cleaveland Chap. (1913), the Lakewood Chap. (1937), the Shaker Chap. (1931), the Martha Devotion Huntington Chap. (1940), and the Ann Spafford Chap. (1946). Chapters hold monthly meetings to vote on various resolutions passed by the national society and to plan and implement national and local projects. Membership is open to women 18 or older who are descended from a man or woman who rendered service or aid to the cause of independence during the American Revolution.
On 5 May 1892, Elroy M. Avery helped found and became president of the Western Reserve Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, which had been formed in New York in 1889. Membership was open to men 18 and older who were lineal descendants of ancestors who "rendered active service in the cause of American Independence." The Western Reserve Society numbered 23 charter members in 1892 and grew to about 400 members in the mid-1940s. Formed in 1896 was the Order of Founders & Patriots, membership in which is open to men 18 and older lineally descended from a settler in an American colony prior to 13 May 1657, and whose later ancestors supported the colonial cause during the American Revolution. The Cleveland Circle of the Natl. Society of the Colonial Dames of America, chartered on 1 July 1896, consisted of women whose ancestors had settled in an American colony prior to 1750 and founded an important institution, held government office, or otherwise rendered distinguished service to the nation prior to 5 July 1776. In 1930, Mrs. Walter D. Meals organized the Cleveland Colony of the Society of Mayflower Descendants, which grew from 15 members to 290 in 1984. Formed "to perpetuate to a remote posterity the memory of our Pilgrim Fathers," the society performs genealogical research on the descendants of the Mayflower passengers and holds annual Thanksgiving celebrations. The Natl. Society of Colonial Dames of the XVII Century, founded nationally in 1915 and in Ohio in 1960, is the most recent addition to the patriotic societies in the Cleveland area. Open to women who are lineally descended from an ancestor who lived in one of the 11 British colonies of America prior to 1701, the society works to preserve historical records and sites, to foster interest in Colonial research, and to promote education.