Among Washington cities, Spokane holds a unique distinction with the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Since its inception in 1890, the DAR has had more than 872,000 members nationwide, including such notables as Susan B. Anthony, Mary Baker Eddy, Laura Bush, Rosalynn Carter and Janet Reno.
Of the entire roster, only 767 women have received the designation Real Daughter.
And only one of those Real Daughters is buried in Washington state – Isabell Johnson Savage Conway, who was laid to rest in 1915 at Greenwood Memorial Terrace in Spokane.
To be a Real Daughter, a woman had to be a member of the DAR and a daughter of a Revolutionary War patriot.
Conway and her sisters, Margaret and Cinderalla, were members of the Benjamin Tallmadge chapter of the DAR in Milwaukee, though only Cinderalla lived in that city.
Many Real Daughters were the youngest children in large families or were born to older fathers in second marriages. Isabell’s father, Phillip Johnson, was born in 1764 in New York and died there at age 80 in 1845. At that time, Isabell, the 12th in a family of 13 children, was 9.
The DAR, a nonprofit genealogical society of women with lineal descent from American Revolutionary patriots, keeps records and has done extensive research on its Real Daughters. Kati Grulke of Vaughn, Wash., the DAR’s state commemorative events chairwoman, and Annie Pearce, of Spokane’s Esther Reed DAR chapter, researched Conway’s background. (There are four DAR chapters in Spokane.)
Isabell Johnson was born in 1836 in Palatine, N.Y. She married Peter Savage, a teamster, and lived with him in New York and Michigan. They had two sons. She later married Palouse farmer and Civil War veteran Peter Conway. They were in Whitman County around 1897 and shortly afterward moved to Spokane.
They bought the old Railroad Hotel, which they lost in Spokane’s Great Fire of 1889, then ran the downtown Spokane Leland Hotel, which also burned down.
In a newspaper story written when Isabell Conway was 75, she recounted stories she heard from her mother, who was much younger than her father, about how as a girl her mother had hidden in a damp pit covered with brush when the family heard British soldiers approaching. Isabell also recalled a war story from when she was young about how her father and two companions were retreating and had to swim across a body of water infested with sharks.