A special ceremony was recently held at the Pleasant View Cemetery in rural Bellwood recognizing a late Butler County homesteader who was the daughter of an American Revolutionary War soldier.
The event, held Saturday afternoon, was hosted by members of the Lewis-Clark and David City chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The group is a lineage-based membership service organization for women who are direct descendants of at least one person involved in the United State’s efforts toward independence from Great Britain.
The day was of special importance to David City resident Jacqueline Mahlin and her niece, Fremont resident Judy Ekeler, both of whom are directly tied to Mary Ann “Polly” Keith Havens. Lineage studies completed by Ekeler and analyzed by the national Daughters of the Revolution organization confirmed that Polly was the great-great-great-grandmother of Ekeler and great-great-grandmother of Mahlin.
Polly was the daughter of Michael Keith Madden, who fought in the war (lasting 1775-1783), and she married a man named George Havens, the son of Joseph Havens, whom Ekeler and Mahlin are descendants of. Passing at the age of 75 in 1880, she was buried in the Pleasant View Cemetery. However, as expected, her grave marker deteriorated over the years.
So, the collective DAR groups took action.
“Dugan Funeral Home (in Fremont) donated the marker, which is really wonderful because it’s a beautiful marker,” Ekeler said. “In order to do it, you have to get permission from the (DAR) historian general. We also had to get permission from the national society to place anything like that, and also get permission from members of the cemetery board.”
Members from the Fremont and David City DARs gathered at the American Legion in Bellwood before making the short trek out to the cemetery to view the new grave marker.
“It’s very unusual to have a daughter of an American Revolutionary war soldier living in this area,” Ekeler said. “And the DAR tries to recognize the daughters of Revolutionary War soldiers all over. These markers are put up all around the county to honor and recognize them.”
Information provided by Ekeler shows that Polly made her way from Michigan to the Alexis Township in Butler County in 1870 with some of her family following the death of her husband in 1868. Upon arrival, she filed for a homestead and received the patent for 80 acres of land. Upon that plot, a 14-by-19-foot sod house was built, she plowed and fenced 20 acres of land, dug a 20-foot well and planted about 450 trees.
Mahlin said that being in attendance and learning more about her distant relative was a pretty special experience.
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“I was just saying to people, ‘don’t you wish we could have known these people and talked to them about what it was like to come here on a covered wagon?’” she said. “We know things weren’t easy in those days, not like they are now.”
Mahlin said that Ekeler, a retired school teacher, started doing research learning her ties to the American Revolution several years ago. Ekeler became a Lewis-Clark Chapter DAR member in 1996, and a whole lot of painstaking work led to reaching that milestone.
“It took me several years to get done,” Ekeler said of connecting the trail to her primary patriot, Joseph Havens. “It was before Ancestry.com got so popular, so most of the work you did to prove those generations was done by mail. You wrote to different counties and states to get marriage certificates and birth certificates and stuff like that. A lot of that is all online now so it’s a lot easier for people to prove that lineage.”
Mahlin got involved in the David City DAR chapter around the same time. Currently, there are 27 Nebraska DAR chapters and the organization has about 180,000 members nationally.
She noted that she takes pride in her lineage and added that it helps fulfill her patriotic duty.
“I was just brought up being patriotic,” Mahlin said. “My father fought in World War I and I was brought up with the Legion Auxiliary, and I’ve just always been honoring vets. And my great-grandfather on my dad’s side fought in the Civil War.”
That’s why she takes her organization membership so seriously.
“It’s just in my blood,” Mahlin added.
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at email@example.com.