Patriots, Ancestry, & Books

Laura FrantzAncestry, Book Clubs, Books, DAR, Daughters of the American Revolution, Heroes and Heroines, Historical Fiction, Patriots, Travel, Uncategorized

Rarely do I speak but the DAR – Daughters of the American Revolution – is dear to my heart. The ladies of Franklin – and a few gentlemen! – welcomed me warmly in a special meeting for their Old Glory Chapter. I’m blessed several of them have taken time for my books. I gave a brief talk which was followed by questions. Here’s the gist of my remarks…

“I’m a member of the Berea-Laurel Ridges Chapter in Berea, KY. George Hightower is the Patriot who opened the door for me to realize my long held dream of being a DAR member in 2017. As a fairly new member, I’m in awe of you ladies with numerous Patriots and years of membership and service.

My grandmother, Catherine Cleek Feagan, was a founding member of the Boone County chapter in northern KY in the 1950’s. I’ve been in touch with Robin Bennett from there who said, “please tell the ladies from Franklin that the Ky State Registrar who descends from Cyrus Broyles says hello : )

As a writer of historical fiction, I deal with centuries and people of the past on a daily basis, which gives me much to ponder, especially now that I’ve passed the mid-century mark.

 One of our most intriguing founders is Benjamin Franklin. I would be remiss if I failed to mention him given his name was used when Franklin, TN was founded in 1799. I’m actually more a fan of Deborah Franklin than her husband though I do find him fascinating. One of my favorite Franklin quotes says –

“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.”

I believe DAR does both by promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America’s future through better education for children.

Speaking of Benjamin Franklin, I discovered the obituary he wrote for himself when he was only 22 years of age. It captivates my attention, reading:

The Body of B. Franklin Printer; Like the Cover of an old Book, Its Contents torn out, And stript of its Lettering and Gilding, Lies here, Food for Worms. But the Work shall not be wholly lost: For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more, In a new & more perfect Edition, Corrected and Amended By the Author.

At age 84, Franklin’s actual epitaph at his gravesite simply reads “Benjamin and Deborah Franklin”. That’s a very short summation of his long, colorful, adventurous life.

I’m thrilled that some of you have taken time for my 9th novel, The Lacemaker, published in 2018. This story was inspired by my interest in lacemaking which was a highly valued skill in the 18th-century. It seems women of every class aspired to own a bit of lace. The book’s cover is an actual photograph of an existing blue and white gown from that time period that’s currently in an Indiana museum collection.

The Lacemaker was also inspired by the patriot I mentioned, George Hightower, a Virginian and my 5th-great-grandfather. He was born in North Farnham Parish, Richmond Co, VA in 1733.

When the American Revolution began he was 43 years old. His wife, also Virginia-born, was Susanna Thorne Hightower, age 35. They were blessed with 8 children, 4 sons and 4 daughters.

Together they supplied the Continental Army during the American Revolution. George and Susanna are somewhat shadowy figures. What did they supply? We don’t know. Little is recorded about them though they did move to Kentucky after the war ended where most of my family has been ever since.

I confess that at first I was a bit disappointed that my George wasn’t an actual enlisted soldier. But I’ve since learned how vital a role supplying the Continental army was in those days since General Washington and his troops were plagued by supply problems from start to finish.

I had hoped to join DAR with my grandmother’s Patriot, George Hume, who is said to have served as a Sgt during the Revolution. But there’s a problem with a previously verified paper about him so he’s been red-lined, my registrar said. Documentation today is very different than when my grandmother joined many years ago.

Writing historical fiction is always a challenge because we can only imagine what life would have been like back then for our ancestors. As has been said, “the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.”

We are here because our founders dared to do things differently. I wish we had time to go round the room and hear stories of your Patriots. Each so unique, each making a lasting contribution and leaving a legacy. It’s truly amazing that we are about to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 2026.

It seems like yesterday that I marched in the bicentennial parade in Lexington, KY in 1776. My grandmother had sewn me a red and white linen costume to wear with a little mobcap. I still have it today.

I’m currently working on a 1776-1777 novel due to release during that historic marker. In the story’s pages, I leave Virginia where so many of my books have been set and make the leap to New Jersey which has been called “the crossroads of the revolution” as so much happened there during war time.

This new novel was inspired by my editor’s ancestry. One of her forefathers – or foremothers in this case – was the equivalent of an 18th-century celebrity. Jane McRae of New Jersey, was described as a tall, attractive woman, whose long hair touched the ground. Her father was a pastor and she had several brothers who fought for both the Americans and the British. She was being courted by David Jones, an officer in the British army, who sent her a letter saying he hoped they could meet and be married at Fort Edward on the colonial New York frontier.

On July 27, 1777, Jane McCrea started out with a female friend and an Indian escort arranged by her intended to deliver her safely to him. She never arrived. Her escort claimed she had been killed by a stray bullet from a colonial detachment, but it was generally accepted that one of her escort killed her. Her scalp was delivered to her intended, the British officer.

Her death sent a shock of horror through the colonies; it was even felt in England, where in the House of Commons, Edmund Burke denounced the use of Indian allies. In America the deed galvanized patriotic sentiment, swung undecided colonists against the British, and encouraged a tide of enlistments that helped end a major British invasion three months later. We’ll never fully know the extent of the sacrifices made and lives lost during this epic period of history.”

After the DAR event, I was able to drive across Middle Tennessee with the redbuds in bloom to see my mom in Knoxville as well as some family who came down from Kentucky. Now I’m home again and back to work. Much to do, including celebrating Easter. Much to be thankful for, the resurrection of our Savior foremost!