Payson's connection to the creation of the United States of America rests with a group of a dozen women. And, last month, they reminded the community of that creation with the commemoration of Constitution Week, Sept. 17-23.
They are the active members of the Mogollon Chapter of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution. They are women who can document their genealogy back to "a man or woman who, with unfailing loyalty to the cause of American Independence, served as a sailor, or a soldier, or civil officer in one of the several Colonies or States, or in the United Colonies or States as a recognized patriot, or rendered material aid thereto..."
Payson's DAR actually has 27 members on its rolls, but some of them are no longer residents and others have become less active over the years. The average age of the ladies is over 65.
The chapter was formed April 18, 1992 with 19 charter members. Seven of the first participants are still on the rolls.
The DAR meets at 1 p.m, the second Friday of each month at the Payson Public Library.
"We're always looking for more people," said Regent Jo Patterson, this year's leader of the group.
The Mogollon Chapter was organized at the request of one of the Prescott chapters, according to Peggy Gray, one of the original and still active members.
Alene Conway was a member of the Prescott group, but lived in Payson and was asked by her fellow members to try to organize a chapter here.
"She twisted a lot of arms and was able to get it started and served as its first regent," Gray said. "It is a small group, but it's a very good group and we have become best friends," Patterson said.
The chapter has other activities in addition to the commemoration of Constitution Week, which every other year involves the "I Signed the Constitution" program, where residents can sign a large, scrolled reproduction of the U.S. Constitution. They invite students to participate in various scholarship contests; for the past two years, the chapter has given books to the Payson elementary schools; contributions are made to the summer reading program at the library; copies of the constitution are given away; and books on citizenship are provided to residents studying to become U.S. citizens.
The chapter members also make group donations to the food bank and help with Veterans Day activities.
Since genealogy is the key to membership, the group has also hosted genealogy workshops, but they have been open to everyone, not just women interested in joining the DAR.
Another project, assigned to all DAR chapters is the maintenance of 12 statues erected in 1927 and 1928 to designate the National Old Trail Road.
"The national society was charged by Congress to mark an old trails road from ocean to ocean," Gray explained.
The 12 states involved have the same statue, Madonna of the Trail. Arizona's is in Springerville and was erected Sept. 29, 1928. Madonna of the Trail depicts a pioneer woman, carrying a baby in one arm, with a little boy clinging to her skirts and a rifle in her other hand, Patterson explained.
To raise money for the project, the Mogollon Chapter sells calendars featuring all 12 of the statues, the one for 2003 commemorates the 75th anniversary of the statue program. In addition to Arizona, there are Old Trails Road statues in Ohio, West Virginia, Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, New Mexico, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, California and Maryland. The sculpture of the statues was by August Leimbach.
The group also is responsible for placing a historical marker at the Old Strawberry School, Gray said.
She added it is one of only two organizations incorporated by Congress.
"The Society was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia June 4, 1891, and in 1896, incorporated by an Act of the United States Congress. President Grover Cleveland signed the charter. Under this Act of Incorporation, the Society reports annually to the United States Congress through the Smithsonian Institution," according to a pamphlet, All About the DAR, published in 1998.
That report is part of the Congressional record every year, Gray said.
At the October 11 meeting, the members of the Mogollon Chapter of DAR will learn about scrapbooks from Connie Smith, owner of Homespun Memories.
For information about the DAR meetings, call Gray at 474-5015 or Patterson at 472-2346.