The formation of the Society of The Colonial Daughters of the Seventeenth Century was not the outcome of sudden inspiration but developed after patient consideration and consultation.
The founder, Mrs. Harland Page Halsey of Brooklyn, New York, recognizing the value and advantage of patriotic societies, concluded that it would be an excellent idea to organize a society having in view the special commemoration of men and women and events covering the colonial period in our country’s history - a society where membership should include, exclusively, descendants of the very earliest settlers who had rendered distinguished services prior to 1700, hence the name, “COLONIAL DAUGHTERS OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.”
Mrs. Halsey gathered several ladies who could trace their colonial ancestry to those who met the above qualifications and this group adopted a Constitution and set of Bylaws.
The Charter of the Society was signed by the Secretary of State in Albany, New York, and a Certificate of Incorporation, dated May 5, 1896, was forwarded to the Society making the Colonial Daughters of the Seventeenth Century a legal organization.
The first social gathering of the Society, a colonial tea and musical, was held at the home of the President on November 27, 1896. This event was extremely successful and the purposes and prospects of the Society became more widely known. Many applications for membership were received.
As chapters were added, the General Assembly became Founders Chapter, and on December 14, 1948, in Brooklyn, New York, the General Society officially changed its name to the “National Society Colonial Daughters of the Seventeenth Century, Inc.” Missouri Chapter, organized April 10, 1905, was the first to join Founders Chapter in the General Society and became Chapter Number One.
The fifteen founding members established a tradition of perpetuating the memory of those brave and hardy men and women who bore the burden of establishing the colonies of America and laid the foundations upon which the Republic of the United States of America now stands.
Starting in 1979, it became the custom for the President General to begin her term in office by selecting a project, preferably one pertaining to the Colonial Period and one that enhances the objectives of the Society. The project of Mrs. Louis W. Patterson, President General from 1979 to 1882, was a portrait of King James I, donated to the Old Word Pavilion at Jamestown to commemorate the 375th anniversary of the founding of that colony. Significant contributions by other Presidents General are too numerous to mention here, but many of the selected projects have taken the form of scholarships to students majoring in American or Colonial History.
The Cornelia H. Davis Academy Award Fund was established to provide funds for the awards presented by our Society at the Naval Academy at Annapolis and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The Martha Todd Roberts Rare Book Fund at the College of William and Mary is used to replace the books given in 1698 by Royal Governor Nicholson to establish a college library. A fire at the college in 1705 destroyed the library, but an inventory of the volumes is extant, which enables the college to replace original editions as they become available. In 1994, a search for the original fort, located on Jamestown Island in Virginia, was begun. Undisputed evidence of the site of the first English speaking colony in America was dedicated in 1996 as "Jamestown Rediscovery." Through the efforts of three Presidents General an archaeological library has been established and materials needed to assist in cataloging excavated artifacts have been donated. The projects of the Presidents General are supported annually by the Society's chapters.