October 18, 2008 in City

DAR to honor ‘real daughter’ buried here

By The Spokesman-Review

Among the colorful figures in Spokane history is a woman whose father fought in the Revolutionary War.

Today, members of the Daughters of the American Revolution plan to commemorate Isabella Johnson Conway, who died in 1915 and is buried at Greenwood Memorial Terrace, 211 N. Government Way.

The 2 p.m. event at the cemetery is open to the public.

Conway was one of only about 250 women across the U.S. who joined the DAR as first-generation daughters, or “real daughters,” and she is the only one buried in Washington.

The organization’s national vice chairwoman and state regent will be on hand for the commemoration.

Conway’s is “a fascinating story,” said Annie Pierce of the Esther Reed Chapter in Spokane. “There were so few of the ladies whose fathers served who joined the DAR.”

Conway was born in 1836 as the 12th daughter of Phillip Johnson, who fought under George Washington. Johnson enlisted in 1781 out of New York; Isabella was born when he was in his early 70s.

“My mother was much younger than my father, you know,” Conway said in an interview in her later years in Spokane.

Family lore had it that Conway’s grandmother would hide her mother and others in a pit when British soldiers moved through their community, according to the historical interview.

Pierce said Conway also told a story about how her father and other soldiers were forced to swim across a river or bay to escape the British and one of their comrades was killed by a shark.

Conway’s uncle fought in the War of 1812, and her brothers and husband served in the Civil War.

Conway came to Spokane from Milwaukee in 1887 and ran the Railroad Hotel prior to the Great Fire of 1889. After the fire, she ran the Leland Hotel. She had two sons – George and Henry Savage – from her first marriage. The sons were working in Spokane when she died in 1915 at age 79, according to her newspaper obituary. Her second marriage was to Peter Conway.

Pierce said today’s event is part of an ongoing program by the organization to revisit historic DAR sites.

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