The Increase Carpenter Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (ICC-NSDAR) recently celebrated the anniversary of its founding. The Chapter was organized June 25, 2012, by thirteen women to fulfill the mission of the National Society. This Chapter is currently the only chapter in all of Queens. A lovely luncheon was held at the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House for members and friends of the chapter. The day was marked by an Induction Ceremony for new members and a musical performance by The Patriot Brass Ensemble. Patriot Brass works to improve the quality of life for veterans and military families through musical programs and services.
The Daughters of the American Revolution “was founded in 1890 with the simple mission of promoting historic preservation, education and patriotism.” This nonprofit, nonpolitical volunteer women’s service organization is dedicated to securing America’s future through better education. In the past 120 years there have been over 930,000 members. The organization currently consists of over 190,000 members in 3,000 chapters across the world. Women 18 years or older must prove lineal, bloodline descent from an ancestor who aided in achieving American independence to be eligible to join the DAR. One noteworthy thing the DAR does is place historic markers with the cooperative work of Chapters and the National Society. They will also soon be planting a memorial grove of trees in Yorktown, VA, called The Pathway of Patriots.
The Queens chapter is one of the first in the DAR’s nearly 122-year history that was started by a woman of color: Wilhelmena Rhodes Kelly. Ms. Kelly traces her origins to the relationship between a slaveholder and a slave, who appear to have considered themselves married. She presented a Newtown Pippen apple tree to the Queens Historical Society on behalf of the chapter. Her efforts have led to about 100 women successfully completing the paperwork required to join the NSDAR. She became the highest-ranking woman of color in the history of the DAR and a member of the National Board of Management. She was installed as New York State Regent in June 2019. In 2012, Kelly said, “You must know who you come from to really appreciate who you are and what people have gone through for you to live in this country.” When another founding member, Dr. Olivia Cousins was named an offi- cer in a small ceremony establishing the new chapter, her daughter took photos documenting an important moment for the D.A.R.: 5 of the 13 members of the newly formed chapter were black.
“My parents understood that they were Americans and that they were a real important part of the American story,” said Dr. Cousins. Her Revolutionary War ancestor was a free man of mixed race.
Helen Day, a genealogist, partnering with The Increase Carpenter Chapter participated in a unique Juneteenth community project between historians and students to honor the life of Millie Tunnell. Written words by the students were preserved on a bronze plaque on Millie’s memorial stone pictured here. When Day finished com- piling research in March 2021, she was able to conclude Tunnell was a slave for approximately 70 years and was born into it around March 10, 1781, to 1785. Millie was born on the Tunnell plantation near Drummond town in Accomack County, Va. When she was about 14 her master Henry Tunnell sent her to a nearby tavern “to see that the illustrious father of his country did not go away from the table hungry.” George Washington was visiting at John Matthews tavern and was served by and spoke to the young woman. Millie worked on the plantation for 5 years after Henry Tunnell died to earn $1269 to buy her family’s freedom. They settled in Flushing around 1860. Millie later lived with her daughter on Grand Street in Jamaica. Until her passing at age 111 in 1896, Millie was a local celebrity. Her age and story drew the attention of the local papers.
Increase Carpenter, the namesake of the chapter, was Quartermaster for the Continental Army. He served as 1st Lieutenant in the Jamaica Militia formed on March 27, 1776 and wore the uniform of the Jamaica Minutemen. Carpenter was a member of the Sons of Liberty and served on the Committee of Correspondence. He was also a prisoner of war. The family of Increase Carpenter owned an inn located near what is now the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 195th Place in Hollis, Queens. The building built in 1710 stood until 1921 when it was replaced by housing. It was at Carpenter’s Tavern that General Woodhull was captured, a protest meeting of the Patriots of the American Revolution was held and in 1774 the Sons of Liberty met to discuss the Tea Act Tax. Increase Carpenter is buried in Prospect Cemetery in Jamaica, Queens. The cemetery is also the final resting place for more than fifty Revolutionary War patriots.