Local colonial group is now history, too

July 15, 2012 

In 1994, Mary Bhuta of Los Osos accepted the nomination of president for the newly chartered Sierra de Santa Lucia Chapter of the National Society of Colonial Dames XVII Century. She and Sally McGovern of Pismo Beach organized the chapter after discovering their common interests to preserve historic sites and records, honor their colonial ancestors and educate youths about colonial America.

The chapter began with 25 members. After 20 years of actively pursuing their mission with many significant goals achieved, the last 15 members disbanded the organization.

On June 16, Mary Bhuta, Susanne McCaslin, Harriet Barnes, Lila Bhuta, Jessika Leorard, Pandra Moriarty, Bonnie Valko and President Denise Mortorff celebrated their successes at their last meeting.

“Every organization has its time,” Mary said.

Denise added, “Our small group was part of a large network that made an impact.”

Members have managed voter polling sites to donate money to honor students with the group’s annual American History Award. The group has also given scholarships, donated historical books and provided support to San Luis Obispo County’s History Center and Genealogical Society.

Working with the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County in 2000, the organization proudly placed a historical marker on the Octagon Barn south of San Luis Obispo.

Denise explained how the group’s treasury must now be reallocated. Its members decided to honor their active members with named donations to colonial historical projects.

“Membership requires ancestry be related to the original American colonies. Members join to preserve our American heritage,” she explained. “Besides additional funds donated to San Luis projects ... we researched active projects in the colonies where our current members had ancestry.

“With small donations from $50 to $175, we were thanked generously for supporting some amazing projects.”

In Jamestown, Va., the local group supported an archaeological dig.

Elsewhere, the Old State House, where the Declaration of Independence was first read to the people of Boston, is being restored. The Friends of Washington Crossing Park are creating a replica of Washington’s sword to preserve the original. In Maryland, colonial art by Charles Willson Peale is being restored.

Some local chapter members plan to support future historical projects in their own way.

Mary plans to continue her interpretative re-enactments of Dolley Madison, Abigail Adams and Betsy Ross for community meetings and school presentations. Her daughter, Lila, creates period costumes. For bookings, call 528-5979.

Denise has developed online genealogy courses at www.familysearch.org to help others with research.

Mary discovered that an ancestor participated in the Boston Tea Party and another married Aaron Burr, who was vice president under President Thomas Jefferson. Denise learned an aunt served Robert E. Lee dinner before the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War.

Many local communities have a historical society. Discovering your family’s past brings history alive.

Judy Salamacha’s column is special to The Tribune. Reach her at judysalamacha@gmail.com or 801-1422.

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