Harriet Smith Gelder was appointed Organizing Regent on Feb. 08, 1922 by the National Board of Management of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. She called members-at-large and other women eligible for DAR to an organizational meeting on February 21, 1923, at the Twentieth Century Club, Reno, Nevada. The result was the formation of Nevada Sagebrush Chapter with Mrs. Gelder as its first Chapter Regent. The Chapter’s name was selected because of the great profusion of sagebrush in Nevada.
Mrs. Harriet (Polly) Smith Gelder was active in civic, fraternal, and patriotic organizations in Nevada. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Mrs. Gelder became Nevada’s first Vice-President General (1950-1953). She died in Reno, Nevada May 17, 1958.
The Nevada Sagebrush Chapter is the oldest chapter in Nevada. Prior to its founding, the Montezuma Chapter had been organized in 1910 at Goldfield, Nevada. It remained active until 1919, when the population dwindled following collapse of the mining boom in that area.
Activities of the Chapter have supported the historical, educational, and patriotic objectives of NSDAR. On May 31, 1930, the Chapter’s first historical marker was placed on the Virginia Street bridge to mark the place where pioneers en route to California crossed the Truckee River on the Overland Trail. Other markers on the grounds of the State Capitol in Carson City and on the University of Nevada, Reno, designate trees planted by the Nevada Sagebrush Chapter. A Norway Spruce was planted in front of Lincoln Hall on the University campus on April 30, 1932. Currently the tree towers over its original marker which is still in place. Northeast of the Capital, in Carson City, the Chapter planted a Washington Baby Elm tree in October 1932. The marker reads: "George Washington first took command of the American Army under the great grandparent of this elm at Cambridge, Mass, July 3, 1775." Later another elm and two walnut trees from Mount Vernon, VA, were planted by the Chapter in the same area. These trees still shade the Capitol grounds. On Oct. 13, 1961, a bronze plaque was placed and dedicated at the site of Ophir in Washoe Valley on the centennial of its founding.
At the site of Fort Churchill in Lyon County, Nevada, a bronze historic landmark plaque recognizes the role played by the Nevada Sagebrush Chapter in preserving the Fort. Established in 1860 to protect settlers from Indians, Fort Churchill was abandoned by the army in 1869. The following year, frame buildings and salvageable parts of other buildings were sold at public auction. The stucco buildings that remained fell into disrepair. Beginning in 1925, the Nevada Sagebrush Chapter urged Gov. J. G. Scrugham to petition the federal government to grant the buildings and 200 acres to the State of Nevada. Nevada received a deed to the land and its buildings in 1931, with the Nevada Sagebrush Chapter named as custodian. Chapter members and spouses worked to clean up the site and posted signs to protect the area. On November 24, 1934, Gov. Scrugham wrote the National Park Service in behalf of the Nevada Sagebrush Chapter DAR, asking that a Civilian Conservation Corps camp help restore the Fort and create a state park. The CCC helped the DAR dream become a reality, making about 100,000 adobe bricks for reconstruction and building a visitors’ center. In July 1957, Gov. Charles H. Russell officially proclaimed Fort Churchill a state park. On February 16, 1961, the Nevada Sagebrush Chapter reconveyed title to Fort Churchill to the State of Nevada, that it might, by official proclamation, be designated as a state historical monument. The bronze plaque was dedicated October 22, 1967.
On March 19, 1970, a historical marker was dedicated by the Washoe County Fair and Recreation Board to memorialize the route of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, near Lake’s Crossing (now Reno) where it ran from Reno to Carson City between 1872 and1950. Thirty-two years later on November 01, 2002 members of the Nevada Sagebrush Chapter joined members of other northern chapters to celebrate the relocation and rededication of the marker, near the Reno/Sparks Convention Center.
The Nevada Sagebrush Chapter promotes patriotic education through essay contests on American History, presentations in schools, and medals for good citizenship. A gold ROTC medal is presented each year to an outstanding ROTC cadet at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2005, the Chapter presented bronze ROTC medals to outstanding cadets at ten Washoe County High Schools. The Chapter also helps support DAR Schools.
Constitution Day has been celebrated with displays at libraries and other public buildings. The Chapter encourages local radio and television stations to acknowledge Constitution Day with public service announcements.
Nevada Sagebrush Chapter, in 1994, proudly sponsored Major Ralph Levenberg, USAF (Retired) of Reno, who was the winner of the of the prestigious National Outstanding Veteran-Patient Award at NSDAR Continental Congress. Mr. Levenberg survived the World War II Bataan Death March and was a prisoner of War for more than three years. Levenberg dedicated his life to POW issues and veterans’ services.
In 1997, two chairs were purchased for Constitution Hall in memory of former Nevada DAR daughters Mary Alice Picard and Joyce Fuller Sugden. In the Nevada State box, another chair was placed honoring Stacy Jennings (now Stacy Woodbury), recipient of the 1998 National Outstanding Junior Member Award.
The fall of 2000 marked the debut of the "Tumbleweed", the Nevada Sagebrush Chapter newsletter. The newsletter communicates Chapter activities to all members, including those who live out-of-state and those who are homebound.
On Memorial Day May 28, 2001, Chapter members, and guests gathered at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Fernley, Nevada, to dedicate a marble monument, a flag pole and a 48-star U.S. flag, gifts given by Nevada Sagebrush member Edith (Mrs. William Henry) Bates, family and friends. The flag once flew over the American Cemetery in Florence, Italy. The beautiful marble monument is a tribute for all the veterans who fought and gave their lives in World War II. In 2003, Edith added a black marble bench near the monument.
The Reno Veteran’s Medical Center has been the beneficiary of many gifts from Chapter members at holiday times. Quilts made by chapter members have been donated to the hospital and to the Veterans’ Guest House. Margaret Calhoun, Nevada Sagebrush Chapter member, helped develop the VA Hospital Museum. The Chapter participates in the NSDAR Veterans’ History Project through efforts of member Lois Shoupe. From 2002 through 2006, 158 veterans were interviewed and videotaped with the aid of the Regional Technical Institute. These videotapes have been placed in the Library of Congress where they help preserve our nation’s military history. Chapter members have sent letters, cards, boxes of cookies, and other items to service men and women serving in the middle East and wounded personnel at Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany.
Between 2002-2004 Genealogical Records were preserved totaling over 1,688 pages and equaling seven volumes of Nevada genealogical records. Member Mrs. Louise Sklar indexed 46 books of Nevada genealogical records, making 135,008 entries.
To commemorate the statue of Sarah Winnemucca placed in the U.S. Capitol Statuary Hall in 2005, the Chapter contributed to the DAR Program Library three copies of the videotape, Sarah Winnemucca: The Dream Fulfilled.
Since the organization of the Nevada Sagebrush Chapter members have worked toward the historical, educational, and patriotic objectives of NSDAR. Each year the Chapter has attained Level 1 (the highest) ranking in Chapter Achievement Award. With chapters working individually and together National Society Daughters of the Revolution will continue to promote our American ideals of God, Home and Country.