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Lexington Cemetery

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Best known for founding the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in 1890, Mary Desha was a Lexington native and schoolteacher. Desha also was involved in the United Daughters of the Confederacy and served as the DAR hospital corps’s assistant director during the Spanish-American War. The gravesite features a monument with the DAR’s seal which was dedicated in 1915.

Desha's Headstone in Lexington Cemetery

Desha's Headstone in Lexington Cemetery

Portrait of Desha

Portrait of Desha

Lexington native Mary Desha is famous for being one of four founders of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Desha got her start attending schools in the city before the Civil War. During the war, Desha and her mother fled to Canada where they remained for several years. Their Confederate sympathies made their position in the region precarious and upon their return the family struggled to regain their prewar financial standing. Desha took on teaching roles in Lexington to help support the family and took a number of classes at State College which would eventually become the University of Kentucky.  

In 1885, Deshar relocated to Washington D.C. and began work as a clerk in the federal government. Later in 1888, Desha briefly took on a government teaching position in Alaska but soon left the position and returned to the capital as she found the living conditions to be below her standards. She remained in Washington D.C for the remainder of her life and held positions in the pension office and the Office of Indian Affairs. In addition to her work with the DAR, Desha was also very involved with the United Daughters of the Confederacy and was a supporter of the women’s suffrage movement.  

Desha, Mary S. Lockwood, Ellen Walworth, and Eugenia Washington began the DAR in 1890. The group would eventually be chartered by Congress in 1896. Those interested in joining the DAR must prove that they are descended from soldiers or political revolutionaries. Today the group has around 3,000 chapters. The DAR promotes history and service and provides a number of scholarship opportunities.  

Daughters of the American Revolution, Encyclopedia Britannica. July 20th 1998. Accessed September 27th 2020.

Kleber, John E. The Kentucky Encyclopedia. University Press of Kentucky, 1992.

Mary Desha, Daughters of the American Revolution. Accessed September 27th 2020.

Notable People, Lexington Cemetery. Accessed September 27th 2020.

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