DAR pin takes a long trip
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For 46 years, Sandra Casteel bragged that her married family dated back to a Revolutionary War patriot.
And why not? She had a pin from the Daughters of the American Revolution, given to her years ago by her husband's aunt, who got it from her mother. She planned to enroll her granddaughters in the DAR.
"I told everyone, 'You have a Revolutionary soldier in you family,'" said Casteel, mother of Charleston lawyer Rusty Webb.
Last week, Casteel found out otherwise. Her family did, indeed, have a DAR pin, dating back to Webb's great grandmother, Lena Jean Hager Webb. She learned the truth when she called the DAR national office in Washington, where she spoke with Jane Shackleford.
"I gave her the pin number. She said to my disbelief, this belongs to a Mary Guiher Hutchinson from Uniontown, Pa." What's more, the DAR had no record of a Lena Webb, or Lena Hager, from Boone County, West Virginia.
Here's where things get really curious. In trying to learn more about the pin last week from her home in eastern Tennessee, Casteel had left a message with the Kanawha Valley Historical and Preservation Society. Its president, Henry Battle, called back ... twice.
"I didn't really need anything from Henry," Casteel said. "I was really deflated. My gosh, we aren't members. But I called back. I told him I was from Madison, I'd talked to Washington, and they said it belonged to Mary Guiher Hutchinson.
"He said, 'How do you spell Hutchinson? My cousin is a Hutchinson.' Three minutes later he calls back. He says Mary Guiher Hutchinson was from Uniontown, Pa.
"I said, 'You're making this up. You're blowing my mind.'"
Battle, it turns out, is a cousin of Berry Hutchinson, the wife of former Charleston Mayor John Hutchinson, whose mom was Mary Guiher Hutchinson.
"I can't believe this," Casteel said. "I make one phone call and Henry Battle knows the owner of this pin?"
Now assured they no longer have rights to the pin, Casteel and Webb want to return it to the proper owners. They have tentative plans to do so in a modest ceremony in a week or two.
John Hutchinson said he has no idea how, or when, his mom lost the pin. She never talked much about the DAR, he said, and he has no clue about his Revolutionary ancestor. "I vaguely remember her saying she was a member. I wouldn't be surprised she had a pin.
"My mom was born in '01," he said. "Mother grew up in Smithfield, Pa., just outside of Uniontown. Her father was a doctor. Dad was in the coal business, an executive with Island Creek." The couple soon moved to the West Virginia coalfields.
At their marriage, on her dad's lawn, the doctor offered a fancy wedding present. "He gave them a Model A or Model T Ford and said if you can get it to Logan County, you can keep it." The car made it there but died on the spot, Hutchinson said.
"Mother never had any daughters. It may have been mother gave the pin away, or she lost it. I never heard her say she lost it."
The Webbs grew up in the coalfields, too, in Boone County near the Logan County line, Webb said. His great grandfather was a carpenter; his grandfather and father were miners.
The two families could have crossed paths there, although Casteel thinks it probably happened later, in Charleston.
Lena Webb, who died in 1951, gave the DAR pin to her daughter, Edith Webb Montague, Rusty Webb's great aunt, who in turn gave it to Casteel.
"Probably in 1966, Rusty's dad and I visited his great aunt in Fraziers Bottom," Casteel said. "She had no children, an only daughter. She was just crazy about my children. One day I visited her and she gave me the DAR pin. She told me her mother was a member.
"I kept that pin for 46 years. About 20 years ago I misplaced it. I moved several times -- South Charleston, a couple in Madison, I got divorced, western Kentucky and now Tennessee. I just assumed I lost it.
"Around the first of August I was going though a bag of coins and there it was. I was so excited. I had always dreamed of my granddaughters becoming members of the DAR."
Joining the DAR is typically a tough process. You have to prove a direct bloodline to a "patriot" ancestor -- a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a continental soldier, a member of the Boston Tea Party or similar patriotic service.
"I was the keeper of this pin for 46 years," Casteel said. "We had this proof. We didn't have to do research."
Now that the truth is out, Casteel wonders how the pin ever got into the Webb family's hands.
"I think Mrs. Hutchinson was rushing around the streets of Charleston at Christmas, lost the pin, and Mrs. Webb picked it up."
Casteel wants to be there personally when the Hutchinsons are reunited with the pin. She's already returned it to Charleston.
Hutchinson said he's just glad to be getting the memento back, and wants to learn more about his family tree.
"I certainly thank them for bringing it," he said of the Webb and Casteel. "That's a small world."
Reach Jim Balow at email@example.com or 304-348-5102.