In a time when women were written into the backgrounds of history books, the women of Bryan Station were busy breaking the mold.
A 119-year-old memorial stands today just off Bryan Station Road in Lexington to remind the world of their strength and sacrifices, according to Carol Bailey, former regent of the Bryan Station Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The names of every brave woman of Bryan Station is on that memorial, she said.
“The women of Bryan Station are still around. As a regent last year, I had people whose ancestors’ names are on the memorial contact me to see if they could come and see the memorial.”
Those names belong to the women who inhabited the Bryan Station fort, built a few years post-Revolutionary War. The women cooked, sewed and washed clothes, brought back water and tended to the food they grew. During battle at the fort, they loaded guns for their husbands and shot at the enemy.
“Women had a lot of work that they had to maintain,” Carol said. “If you didn’t have the women to stay in the fort and hold the ground down while the men went out to gather…you wouldn’t have something for them to come back to. Women were very important.”
Around 1782, the fort, made up of about 44 cabins and buzzing with settlers, was something to be desired by outsiders, namely Native Americans and Canadian Rangers. There was a buffalo trace in the area in which buffalo traveled through during certain times of the year. The Bryan Station settlers received word that Native Americans were planning to ambush, but they were in need of water.
“They decided to send the women down like a normal day, as if they had no idea (the Native Americans) were in the area. They made their way down to spring for water and carried it back to the fort,” Carol said.
The Native Americans saw the settlers going about their normal daily activities, which led them to believe they’d be caught off guard when ambushed,. But the women’s brave actions allowed the men to prepare for battle.
The Bryan Station Memorial was erected in 1897, 122 years after the fort’s existence, by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
“It was the first memorial by women for women in this country,” Carol said.
Being a part of the organization starts with a member tracing back his or her heritage to an ancestor, or a patriot. Carol said the men would not allow the women to trace back to their patriot in the organization’s beginning, but the four founders of the DAR, including Lexington-born Mary Desha, pushed for the women’s branch of the organization.
“If not for those four women who persisted in saying, we know you (the men) fought in the war, (but) the women helped you fight, and they need to be recognized too,” Carol said. “There were strong women at that time. (They were) patriotic and believed in the preservation of this country.”
The chapter honors Desha each year by marking her grave in the Lexington Cemetery.
Carol also said those honorable women, who appreciate historical preservation, written word and saving buildings and landmarks, exist now and are invited to come on board with the DAR.
“We need a lot more,” she said.
Last year was the 125th anniversary of DAR, and Carol said the Bryan Station chapter received permission from the property owner to visit the memorial and plant a tree.
“That was fun,” she said.
For more information on the chapter, visit bryanstationdar.com.