Chapter History

Kaweah Chapter DAR was organized on October 28, 1954, in Visalia, California, a Central California city that sits in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley.  Visalia is the oldest city between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and is often called the Gateway to the Sequoias. In 2007, Visalia was named the third fastest growing city in California and 19th fastest growing city in the United States. Visalia lies within miles of the tallest mountain range in the contiguous United States (the Sierra Nevada), and is the closest major city to Sequoia National Park, home to some of the largest living things on earth -  the Giant Sequoia trees.

In 1852, pioneers settled in the area, then called Four Creeks. The area got its name from many watershed creeks and rivers flowing from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. All the water resulted in a large swampy area with a magnificent oak forest. The industrious group of settlers petitioned the state legislature for county status and on July 10 of that same year, Tulare County became a reality. One of the first inhabitants of a fort built in the area by the settlers was Nathaniel Vise. Nathaniel was responsible for surveying the new settlement. Visalia is named for Nathaniel Vises' ancestral home of Visalia, Kentucky. Early growth in Visalia can be attributed in part to the gold rush along the Kern River. The gold fever brought many transient miners through Visalia along the way, and when the lure of gold failed to materialize, many returned to Visalia to live their lives and raise families.

The chapter name is derived from ga-we-hah, a Yokut Indian word meaning “crow” or “raven’s cry.” The Yokuts of the Southern San Joaquin Valley (Tulare County area) date back at least 8,000 years, and were the first inhabitants of the Kaweah River Watershed. The tribe settled in several villages in and around the present-day site of Lake Kaweah, an irrigation and water supply lake. The Yokuts subsisted mostly on acorns found in abundance in the area due to huge stands of oak trees. They ground acorns in mortars with granite pestles, and created cakes and other foods from the ground material.

Chapter Organization History

Kaweah Chapter was organized October 28, 1954, with 18 organizing members. Though Mrs. Charles Olsson has been listed as the organizing regent in our yearbook for many years, and is also listed as such in the State History Book, reading through the old scrapbooks of the chapter has revealed that Mrs. Olsson resigned and Mrs. Harry H. Holley (Kate) was appointed as organizing regent. There are 40 charter members listed on the official charter. The organizing meeting was held at St. Paul's Episcopal Church (now St. Paul’s Anglican Church). The chapter was confirmed by the National Society on December 7, 1954.

Including the organizing regent, 27 different Daughters have served as chapter regent, with six regents, Peggy Gist, Emily McClaine, Barbara Jaggers, Linda Calvin, Debra Jamison, and Jane Blair, serving two terms of office. Carole Reeder served three terms.

Josephine Pinkham was the first member of Kaweah Chapter to serve as a state officer. She served as state historian from 1966-1968 on the board of Eleanor Spicer, who later became California's first President General. Jo also served as president of the State Officer's Club.

Linda Gist Calvin was the second chapter member to serve as a state officer, serving in four positions on the State Board, culminating with service as State Regent from 2000-2002. Linda was the first member of the chapter to serve on the National Executive Board, serving as Recording Secretary General 2005-2008, and serving in the highest office in NSDAR as President General 2007-2010.

The third chapter member to serve as a state officer, Debra Parent Jamison, served as state recording secretary 2008-2010, and state vice regent 2010-2012 and culminating with service as State Regent from 2012-2014.

In addition, the chapter has had five Daughters serve as district director: Mesdames Gist, Jaggers, Calvin, Reeder and Jamison, along with many who have served on the District V board. 

Seven Juniors have served as pages on the state level, four as personal pages to State Regents and three as personal pages to a President General. All three of the "Gist girls" were State Outstanding Juniors and both Linda and Carol were honored at the state level as Outstanding Chapter Regents. Debbie Jamison was honored as State Outstanding Veteran’s Volunteer.

Many chapter members have served as state chairmen of various committees and five have served as national chairmen.

Other surprises can be discovered reading though state history. One volume shows that the first project of the newly organized chapter was to cooperate with the Visalia Presbyterian Church to help organize a public gathering to hear Mr. R. E. Combs, Counsel for the California Senate Fact-finding Subcommittee on Un-American Activities, speak on "Communist Front Organizations," and in 1955 the chapter presented Mr. Combs with a National Defense Merit Award. For many years Kaweah Chapter was known for its strong support of the National Defense and Resolutions Committee, winning first place in the state on numerous occasions. Our first regent, Kate Holley, served on the National Resolutions Committee and was the state resolutions chairman. The chapter counted on the chapter committee, with Peggy Gist as chairman, to submit resolutions.

In 1973, Barbara Jaggers, as state junior membership chairman, conceived and carried out a plan to place an American eagle at the top of the flag pole at Independence Hall as part of Mrs. Spicer's "Gift to the Nation." Barbara also supervised the National Junior Membership doll, "Miss Eleanor," honoring Mrs. Spicer.

The chapter was also very interested in conservation with particular interest in flood control. After the floods in the 1950s, the chapter passed a resolution for the construction of Terminus Dam and wrote letters to congressmen asking for immediate action.

Kaweah has organized celebrations for Constitution Week since 1956, holding a yearly luncheon, sponsoring displays in the City Library, County Court House, schools, and stores in downtown Visalia. During the city-wide bicentennial celebration of the Constitution, the chapter contributed money to sponsor the planting of a tree in the newly created Constitution Park, in memory of our member, Barbara Gist Jaggers.

Even though many chapters sponsor work within the various committees framework, these numbers seem worthy of mention. Since the inception of the American History Essay contest in 1956, the chapter has sponsored the contest in area schools honoring over 200 students as winners, and thousands of students as participants. The DAR Good Citizens Awards and scholarships in area high schools have been sponsored since the organization of the chapter in 1954. DAR Good Citizenship Medals have been awarded to graduating eighth grade students in Northern Tulare County Schools for over 45 years and over 1100 medals and certificates have been presented to encourage good citizenship in our youth.

The chapter promotes patriotism through its work at the Fresno VA Hospital. Thousands of flags were presented to naturalized citizens prior to the ceremonies being moved from our area. Thousands of copies of the DAR Manual for Citizenship have also been presented, including some printed in Spanish for citizenship classes in area farm labor camps.

In 1976, for the Bicentennial Celebration of the United States, the chapter donated large flags to the Visalia City Library and also planted a tree in Mooney Grove Park in the museum area, which still stands today.

Seven volumes of genealogical records, acquired from family Bibles, family papers and obituaries, were indexed and bound by the chairman of the Genealogical Records Committee, Shirley Farnesi, assisted by chapter members.

During Mrs. Calvin's term as State Regent, the chapter generously provided funds for her State Regent's Conservation project, the building of the Wild Flower Gazebo at the Clemmie Gill School for Conservation (SCICON), and also sponsored the re-carpeting and refurnishing at Tamassee DAR School's Pouch Cottage.

Since the inception of the Outstanding Community Service Awards, the chapter has honored Peggy Gist and Mayor Mary Louise Vivier for their service to the community. It was an honor to present a National Conservation Medal several years ago to local horticulturist Ralph Moore in recognition of his outstanding dedication and contributions to the rose industry.

Looking back, the past 60 years have been very productive. In addition to the accomplishments listed, we have had a good time with long-time members and new ones. Not many of us will be here in 2054 when the chapter centennial celebration is held, but hopefully those members will look back on the accomplishments of the first sixty years and know that the group of Daughters who organized the chapter in 1954 and those who have worked so hard during the first sixty years were a dedicated group of Daughters committed to our DAR motto of God, Home, and Country.