History of the Sophie de Marsac Campau Chapter

Written by Mrs. Henry B. Davis (excerpt)

Portrait of Sophie de Marsac Campau, said to be by Charles H. Moore, c1852.  Chapter archives.

Portrait of Sophie de Marsac Campau, said to be by Charles H. Moore, c1852.  Chapter archives.

In May 1896, a group of ladies, three of whom were members of DAR chapters elsewhere -- namely, Mrs. Harvey J. Hollister, Mrs. L. P. Rowland and Mrs. T. J. O’Brien -- organized a local chapter of the DAR.  Mrs. Hollister, a member of the Louisa St. Clair Chapter of Detroit, was given permission to organize the new chapter. She was chosen the first regent, which office she held during her lifetime. The first important decision was the selection of a name.  As the names of prominent Revolutionary heroines had been largely appropriated by chapters in the Eastern states, the society decided to commemorate . . . the name of Sophie de Marsac Campau [a native of Detroit], wife of Louis Campau, founder of the city [of Grand Rapids, Michigan] . . .

In this way, the chapter perpetuated the name of a woman of rare grace and character who was held in high esteem by the early pioneers.  Quoting from a short history of Mrs. Campau, written by Miss Rebecca Coffinberry soon after the organization of the chapter in 1896:  ". . . It has been a pleasant task to collect the data from which to present a brief sketch of the life and character of her whose name we have chosen as the distinctive appellation by which this recently formed chapter of DAR is to be known.  And yet in another way it has its discouraging features, for as I recall her stately form, her beautiful face, her sweet manner and address, I realize how inadequate are mere words to convey to those who never knew Mrs. Campau even a slight conception of the dignity and grace of person which so faithfully portrayed the sweetness and nobility of heart and soul.  She was a woman to adorn any station in life, and all who came within the circle of her acquaintance felt instinctively that here was a woman to be loved and revered.  She frequently shared her generous hospitality and in times of trouble and distress she was a sister of mercy to any in need of shelter or comfort.  She drew no color line . . . "

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Highlights:  In the past 120 years, the Sophie de Marsac Campau Chapter has: 

  • Counted as members many remarkable women, including Dorothy Gardner King Ford, the mother of former US President Gerald R. Ford; and at least four Real Daughters, women whose fathers took part in the Revolution:  twin sisters Elizabeth Ann Frank Russell and Julia Ann Frank DeMaray (John Peter Frank, Pennsylvania); Marilla Hill Sherman (Zimri Hill, Vermont); and Euphrasia Smith Grainger (Ebeneezer Smith, Massachusetts)

  • Marked or recognized local historical sites such as the center of the largest Ottawa Indian village on the Grand River, Louis Campau's first trading post and various homes, and the first book store in Grand Rapids

  • Observed Constitution Week in September each year with displays in local libraries and schools

  • Presented flags to community groups, schools, and new American citizens 

  • Placed memorials for Union Army and World War I soldiers

  • Restored the graves of Grand Rapids founder Louis Campau and his wife, Sophie

  • Marked the grave of Moses Clark, the only Revolutionary War soldier to be buried in Kent County

  • Authored, co-authored or compiled 14 genealogical collections found at the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

  • Created a Kent County Gravestone Records file available at the Grand Rapids Public Library

  • Helped establish and celebrate Pioneers Day in the City of Grand Rapids, which later became known as Founders Day

  • Awarded scholarships to local school children

  • Supported the Tamasee DAR School and the Kate Duncan Smith DAR School in the Appalachian region

  • Been honored to have chapter members serve as officers in the Michigan State NSDAR and to host several state conferences

  • Contributed to home front war efforts during the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II




Photo credit:  Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, photograph by Harris & Ewing, [reproduction number LC-H261- 5121].