McPherson resident Bobbie Hulse will be installed as the president for the Kansas Society of Sons of the American Revolution at the organization's annual convention on Saturday.
Hulse's interest in the SAR was sparked by an unusual object — a pulpit Bible from a church in Saint Simons Island, Georgia. He bought the Bible as part of a box of antique books being auctioned off at an antique dealer's estate sale. Being a student at the time, it was one of the only items he could afford.
"Being in junior high, I didn't have a whole lot of money. I mowed grass for people for 50 cents an hour with my own mower and buying my own gas, so it didn't pay well," Hulse laughed.
When Hulse came across the box decades later, he searched online to see if the church still existed. In the process, a link on the town's chamber of commerce page led him to the SAR. Remembering his great aunt had told him his ancestor, Richard Hulse, had fought in the Revolutionary War, Hulse sent an inquiry and got a call from a member a few days later who would aided him in the documentation of his heritage.
Since joining the SAR just over a decade ago, Hulse found himself increasingly involved in the society's activities and mission of promoting patriotism and serving veterans.
"My first meeting, I was asked to be secretary of the chapter," Hulse recalled.
At the second meeting, he was asked to take on the role of vice president; when the next meeting was convened, the chapter's president was taken ill and Hulse stepped into the gap.
"I moved up pretty fast." Hulse laughed.
Hulse took his duties seriously, serving for four years as president of his local chapter while starting a newsletter and sponsoring dozens of applicants, which required him to assist in the genealogical research for each individual. He is currently finishing up a term as the state society's vice president.
SAR members serve veterans in many ways, including visiting them in nursing homes and hospitals, transporting them to appointments, assisting with their genealogical research, or donating items to veteran's organizations. They also promote Americanism through youth programs, acknowledging proper flag displays, founding and building up new chapters, poster and essay contests, and honoring public servants and volunteers.
That purpose is one Hulse said became more of a priority for him after 9/11.
"This was one of the ways I felt I could inspire young people to learn about the country and our Constitution," Hulse said.
SAR founded its society in Kansas in 1892. Until recently, membership was dropping and chapters across the state were closing.
"People these days don't do this stuff as much as they used to," Hulse said.
Hulse was at the forefront of efforts to turn that trend around; thanks in part to his making hundreds of phone calls and attending meetings across the state, SAR membership in Kansas is now double what it was a decade ago.
"My goal in the next two years is to put in four more chapters," Hulse said. "...It's time to go to work."
To join the SAR, a person must be a male, lineal descendant of a patriot who supported the American Revolution — which is not always someone who fought in the war.
"Proof of patriotism is not necessarily that they were in the regular army or the militia; it can also be the fact that they provided sustenance to troops," Hulse said.
Having documentation of an ancestor's paying taxes to fund the war is another path to being accepted as a member. Some SAR members can even trace their family tree back on women who donated supplies like gunpowder, socks, or livestock and had their actions recorded at town meetings.
"There are things like that that count as providing assistance to the cause," Hulse said.
Using census records and other genealogical documents, many people can trace their family tree back to an ancestor that lived during the Revolutionary War.
In recent years, genealogical proof standards have changed, but DNA testing can provide additional information for individuals.
"If you get a DNA match to a (Daughter of the American Revolution), it helps solidify what may not have been quite acceptable. That adds further proof," Hulse said.
To assist those wanting to learn more about how DNA can add branches to a family tree, Kansas Registrar Tim Peterman will lead a workshop focusing on DNA results and how they are used to find out more about who we are, where we came from and connecting with others who have the same quest. The free workshop will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the McPherson Museum, 1111 E. Kansas Ave.
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her stories on Twitter at @MiddleSentinel.