President Dave Whaley called the meeting to order. The Rev. Sam Melton gave the Invocation, Ron Harris led the pledge to the U.S. flag, state Sen. Todd Gardenhire led the pledge to the Tennessee flag, and John Hood led the SAR flag pledge.
The guest introduced included Ken Moffett and John Clines Jr.
Under Officer Reports, treasurer Bill Hamilton gave the Treasurer’s Report and stated both the general and statue accounts were in good shape.
Whaley made several announcements. He had received a nice thank-you card from the coordinator of the 4-H Tennessee History Fair, Kathryn Ervin, thanking the chapter for the $100 check to help with the awards, and for the chapter members who served as judges. The card was signed by a number of the 4-H contestants.
Other announcements included the chapter’s participation in JROTC awards this year; one at Rhea County High School where Whaley presented the Bronze JROTC Medal. Stan Evans was to present the other Bronze JROTC medal at Bradley Central High School on May 10.
Whaley also spoke on a form included in each program concerning, “A Tombstone Survey and Burial Places of East Tennessee where Civil War Soldiers have Unmarked Graves.” All are requested to make copies of these and give them to others to fill out and return them at the next meeting. This is an East Tennessee Historical Society project.
He also reported on two upcoming projects the chapter will be heading up. One is major cleanup effort of a much-neglected cemetery with important graves in it off White Oak Road. He said it would require removal of some rather large trees.
The second project concerns a marble monument that is to have the names of all the Revolutionary War veterans who lived in Bradley County, and is to be placed near the Col. Benjamin Cleveland statue on first Street Square Park. Each will require a fundraising effort.
Whaley also reported on the upcoming chapter-sponsored Grave Dedication for Revolutionary War soldier Joseph Layne, which was held Saturday at the old Lee Cemetery near White Oak Road. There will be a number of patriotic groups participating, including other SAR chapters, Sons of the Revolution Color Guard, with Daughters of the American Revolution and Children of the American Revolution chapters laying wreaths.
The Tennessee Society Color Guard will assist the local color guardsmen, and all muskets are requested to be brought for a three-volley firing (21-gun salute).
Evans reported on some recognition he has noticed lately on the Col. Benjamin Cleveland statue. He stated there is a painting of it on the wall in the newly opened Sante Fe Cattle Company Restaurant at the mall, and a picture and mention of the statue is in a Newcomers booklet just released by the Chamber of Commerce.
Again at this meeting, one member participated in the “Pin the Patriots” program. John Conner told about his family, who came over from Ireland in 1732 to Virginia. He reported the Conner family had a Revolutionary War soldier who fought in North Carolina and received a land grant in Virginia near Mount Vernon, the home of President George Washington.
Conner’s patriot that he came into the SAR under was James Lillard, a soldier with the Culpeper minutemen under Lawrence Taliaferro, Virginia Continental Line, and was at the Battle of Great Bridge and at Yorktown.
Guest speaker Barry Phillips was introduced by Second Vice President Bill McClure.
Phillips’ program was on what can be described with the words, “dousing, dousing stick, divining rod, and water witch,” terms which are all associated with the ancient art of finding underground streams of water.
Phillips is a douser, but imagine this — he plies his talent to locate unmarked graves in old cemeteries. As intriguing as this may sound, what boggles the mind is the information that we have from Polk County that he can identify the gender of the interred.
Phillips first described his work at the Dandridge Revolutionary War Cemetery that was sanctified in 1785.
He was contacted by Robert Jarnigan, county historian, to assist in locating unmarked graves in the cemetery.
Jarnigan stated in a letter that Phillips used dowsing or diving rods to locate areas determining width and length in order to confirm a gravesite.
He further stated that Phillips conducted his search in a systematic and professional manner, and that he used the dowsing method to locate about 400 graves, of which only about a 100 had headstones.
Phillips went on to say two weeks after “dousing” the Dandridge cemetery, Dan Bryan, president of the Charleston-Calhoun-Hiwassee Historical Society, contacted him. He told Phillips the historical society granted permission to commission him to look for unmarked graves in the old Methodist Cemetery in Calhoun.
At the end of October 2013, he went to the Calhoun cemetery. Several of the historical society members watched Phillips walking through the cemetery, dropping at unmarked graves. They said it was an amazing process and they did not fully understand the “hows and whys” of the process, but were convinced that on that day, he located 150 unmarked graves.
They did know the unmarked locations of several graves from early records, and without revealing this to Phillips, he went directly to the sites and marked the same locations.
He and McClure spoke of several other “dousings” in the Cleveland area, including Fort Hill Cemetery.
The question that most wanted answered, was how he can determine whether the body in the grave is male or female. He explained that the rods point to the “head” if it is female, and points to the “foot” if it is male. He can’t explain why, but it correctly repeats consistently.
He explained another example which sounds like an old wives’ tale, that in the old days if they wanted to determine the sex of an unborn child, then they would suspend a needle on a length of thread down to the mother’s belly, and that it would turn counter-clockwise if the child was a female, and clockwise if it was a male.
Whaley next spoke about “The shot heard ’round the world” that started the Revolutionary War, and about “The ride of Paul Revere.”
He stated that on that night there were around 40 riders out warning about the British.
He also told a beautiful story about the “home-place rose.”
He said that during America’s Colonial era, many emigrant girls brought a reminder of home along on their journey. This reminder was sometimes in a floral form, and was planted near the front door so that it could be viewed with each passage.
Whaley further stated that “there is, in our front yard, such a plant, and here’s an insight into why we prize it so dearly: My mother knew her family history very well. She cherished and guarded an heirloom rose that passed down mother to daughter since brought from the old country many generations earlier.”
He said this mother’s line descended from Ulster Scot emigrants from Northern Ireland who eventually settled in Augusta County, Va. Whaley said the chain of passage through the female line was broken with only him and his brother, but that he had detoured to his two daughters.
He stated that through the years he has been a good steward for the rose, moving the plant each time they relocated. He said that it’s a Red Velvet — not an exact name but a general horticultural description of color and petal texture.
He said that based on family names and chronology, it’s a 300-year-old Irish Rose, still blooming faithfully every Mother’s Day!
Up near the podium were two roses in two old antique medicine jars. Whaley had passed out tickets to all ladies present, and they had a drawing on these two red roses.