Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums
International Order of the Congenial Circle of King’s
Daughters and Sons, Inc., Mary Fitch Circle
Scope and Content
The records of the Mary Fitch Circle of the International Order of the Congenial Circle of King’s Daughters were donated to the Hayes Presidential Center through the years. The final deposit occurred in 2004. Although the organization officially disbanded in1993, the remaining active members continue to meet monthly and make charitable sewing projects.
The charitable organization, known as The King’s Daughters was founded in New York City in 1886. Two years later, the organization incorporated under the laws of the state of New York as "The Order of the King’s Daughters." That same year, the first Ohio chapter organized in Newark. Within five years of its inception, the Order included men and boys, and established branches in Canada and other foreign countries. Reflecting these changes, the organization altered its name to "The International Order of the Congenial Circle of the King’s Daughters and Sons, Inc."
The Ohio Branch was established in 1893. It was comprised of some 2,400 members and 150 circles. The fundamental tenets of the organization are: religion, education, and philanthropy. Working independently, the various Ohio chapters established and managed children’s homes, public libraries, public health programs, and hospitals throughout the state.
In 1905, the state inaugurated what was known as the "Summer School" at Lakeside, Ohio. In 1909, the school occupied its own property known as the Rock Ledge Inn (Port Clinton, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie). The association offered to deed the property to the state if the state paid the mortgage. After finalizing the financial arrangements, the Ohio branch managed Rock Ledge Inn as a vacation home for self-supporting women and girls. Maplecrest, located in Bucyrus, Ohio, opened in 1921 as one of the Ohio branch’s efforts to provide a home for dependent girls. The Ohio branch also supported the Sophie Waldron Fund, which provided for the care of the elderly.
The Fremont, Ohio chapter was organized in 1906. The group named its chapter in honor of Mary Fitch, a Presbyterian missionary to China and the wife of Dr. Robert Fitch. Monthly meetings were held at members’ homes where group devotionals and work sessions dominated the agenda. The organization undertook fund raising efforts and made clothing. The foremost recipients of the organization’s charitable efforts were Fremont, Ohio, residents in financial need. During World War I, the Order extended its reach, making or donating clothing to the American Red Cross, supporting the work at the city’s Red Cross rooms, and sending packages to local servicemen. Through the years, the organization expanded its charitable work to include the making of quilts and comforters as well as bandages for victims of leprosy and cancer. The chapter hosted the organization’s state convention in 1910 and again in 1918.
In 1931, the Order became a participating agency of the Fremont Community Chest. From that date, the organization maintained a location in Fremont from which it distributed new and used clothing, and groceries to Fremont’s needy families. The Order annually distributed "Christmas Dinner Baskets" and toys. It also acted as a clearinghouse for other service organizations by receiving and distributing donations or alerting groups to families with unique needs.
In addition to its chapter work, the Mary Fitch Circle was especially active in the management and support of the Rock Ledge Inn. Perhaps, the circle’s proximity to Rock Ledge fostered its greater participation in the inn’s management. In 1925, a chapter was created to meet the specific needs of the inn. One hundred eighteen King’s Daughters became charter members of the Rock Ledge Inn Chapter. Mrs. Laura Goodhue of Cleveland, Ohio, became its first president. A "promoter" to advance the cause of the Rock Ledge Inn was appointed to each of the six regional groups of the Ohio branch. Meetings of the chapter were held annually following the state convention and again in the summer at the inn itself. Within a decade, the purposes of the inn altered. Rather than a summer retreat for women, the Order began renting the facility to other organizations. Annually, some fifty visually impaired individuals from the "Blind of Toledo" vacationed at the inn. The King’s Daughters also used the facility for meetings and recreation. Escalating maintenance costs and staffing difficulties plagued the facility. However, greater support from state chapters and donations from individuals helped renovate the inn during the late forties and the fifties.
The circle’s charitable activities became increasingly diverse. From scholarships for Native Americans and missionary work in Kenya to clothes for newborns and shoes for indigent local women, circle members attempted to meet the specific needs of groups and individuals. Gradually, government organizations assumed more and more of the work of the organization. By the early 1980's, membership decline reached a critical point. Projects began to suffer. Only six members attended the February 1992 meeting, the last meeting at which attendance was recorded. Following the demise of the chapter, the remaining active members agreed to meet informally in their homes to pursue charitable sewing projects. The Mary Fitch Circle formally disbanded in 1993.
Scope and Content
Although incomplete, the records of the Mary Fitch Circle of the International Order of the Congenial Circle of the King’s Daughters and Sons, Inc. provide important information about the Fremont, Ohio, chapter and the Ohio branch of the King’s Daughters. The last deposit of records occurred in 2000, however, there is no information regarding the actual demise of the organization, which seems to have taken place in early 1992. The papers consist primarily of minutes, treasurer’s records, attendance records, miscellaneous correspondence, clothing store reports, and newsletters. The minutes are complete from 1914 to 1933 and from 1937 to 1983. In addition to meeting reports, the minutes offer information on individual donations, local projects, special charitable contributions, and cooperative efforts with the Ohio branch as well as other service organizations. Included in the minute books are news clippings about monthly meetings, monthly dues, and some treasury reports. Of special note, are the minutes of the Rock Ledge Inn Chapter (1926 to 1942). The records provide insight into the Ohio branch’s development, support, and management of a statewide project. The administrative records also include: historical and organizational documents, newsletters, awards, chapter program booklets, and programs for the 17th, 19th, 21st, and 56th conventions. The collection also includes a published copy of the History of the International Order of the Congenial Circle of the King’s Daughters and Sons, 1886 to 1930. This forty-five-year history explains the organization’s formation, its mission, its growth internationally, and the countless ways in which individual circles creatively met the needs of the indigent, the ill, and the helpless.
Ac. 1437, 1888, 5510, 5615
.5 linear ft.
1. Minutes: Oct. 14, 1914 - Dec. 17, 1918
2. Minutes: Jan. 10, 1919 - Apr. 13, 1923
3. Minutes: Apr. 30, 1923 - Oct. 4, 1927
4. Minutes: Oct. 4, 1927 - Sep. 28, 1933
5. Minutes: Sep. 17, 1937 - Dec. 19, 1945
6. Minutes: Jan. 9, 1946 - Jun. 14, 1961
1. Minutes: Oct. 11, 1961 - Nov. 12, 1980
2. Minutes: Sep. 7, 1965 - Mar. 2, 1983
3. Attendance Ledger: 1966 - 1991
4. Minutes: Rock Ledge Inn Chapter Minutes: Jly. 13, 1926 - Oct. 7, 1942
5. Minutes of Sunshine Meeting: Nov. 14, 1910
1. Correspondence: Jan. 20, 1941 - Feb. 14, 1989
2. Leader’s Book - agenda, etc; 1981 - 1991
3. Constitution and By-laws (Ohio Branch Revised 1954), Organizational History
4. Clothing Store Reports
5. Membership Reports and Miscellaneous Material
6. Membership Booklets: 1947-1950; 1983-1984; 1990- 991
7. Regional Meeting and State Convention Programs: 1910-1914; 1949-1965
8. Awards: 1974-1990
9. Newsletters: 1943-1987, "The Ohio Voice;" 1989, "The Clothes Line;" 1990, "Ohio Christian News."
10. Printed Materials; ca. 1930-1950
11. Miscellaneous, n.d.
12. Photo (of 3 members); ca. 1974
Treasurer’s Records: Nov. 12, 1915 - Sep. 21, 1950
Treasurer’s Records: Oct. 11, 1950 - Sep. 1, 1970
History of the International Order of The King’s Daughters and Sons: Year 1886 to 1930, by Sara F. Gugle,
13. Treasurer’s Records 1970-1993; Flower Fund Records, 1956-1993; Remittance Accounts, 1974- 1992;
Membership Reports, 1970-1993 [Ac. 5615]
Transferred to the Museum
Book Bag and wall plaque