The Thomas Jefferson Chapter is part of the California Society, Sons of the American Revolution (CASSAR), which is part of the National Society. We are the East Bay presence of our organization, serving Contra Costa and Alemda Counties.
The Thomas Jefferson Chapter was first organized as the Alameda County Chapter – CASSAR Chapter #10. The organizational meeting was held at the Wild Duck Inn on Lake Merritt in Oakland, California, on 6 October 1925, which was presided over by California Society President Howard C. Rowley. Compatriot Charles S. Greene was unanimously elected the first chapter president. State President Rowley set the annual chapter dues at $2.00. In 1929, the California Society held a fortieth anniversary party in the Ballroom of the Western Women’s Club, 609 Sutter Street, San Francisco. The guest of honor was His Excellency the Governor of California, Clement C. Young, a member of the Alameda Chapter. In 1933, the Alameda Chapter donated to the city of Oakland a “Washington Elm” – a direct lineal descendant of the elm that stood at Cambridge, Massachusetts, under which Washington assumed command of the Continental Army on 3 July 1775. The elm was planted on Lakeside Drive fronting Lake Merritt. Chapter Vice President Howard Seeley was a direct descendant of Robert Seeley, who owned the land in Cambridge where the original elm tree stood. In the June 1936, the chapter passed a resolution officially favoring the name “Constitution Bridge” for the new bridge being built across the bay linking Oakland and San Francisco. Sadly, this was rejected in favor of the “Bay Bridge.”
In response to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s message to Congress in which he revealed his intention to stack the Supreme Court by appointing additional justices, in February 1937 the chapter began a letter writing campaign to block this change to the Constitution. In 1939, a meeting was held to consider disbanding the Alameda County Chapter and joining the San Francisco Chapter, but the members rejected the idea and vowed to breathe new life into the chapter. In November 1944, the chapter passed a resolution stating the chapter’s opposition to the ratification of the Bretton Woods Agreements establishing an International Monetary Fund. In February 1947, the chapter voted unanimously to support legislation pending in Congress to limit the President of the United States to two terms in office. In the 1950’s, participation dwindled in the chapter. The final meeting of the Alameda County Chapter was held on 14 October 1954, at the home of Compatriot Edward S. Clark. There were no more meetings held.
After a hiatus of three years, the Alameda County Chapter of the California Society of the Sons of the American Revolution was de-activated and re-organized as the Oakland Chapter – CASSAR Chapter #14. On 11 September 1957, the charter-signing meeting was held at the Athens Athletic Club, with 14 charter members, including organizing president, Dr. Robert L. Thomas. The organizational meeting was held at the Athens Club, on 13 January 1958. The Northern California chapters of the California Society (San Francisco, Marin County, Palo Alto and Salinas) held a meeting on 19 February 1958, at the Piedmont Veterans Memorial Building, with State President Edward R. Polhemus presiding, to present the Charter for the Oakland Chapter. President General Tarbox spoke on the importance of preserving the American way of life, preserving our republican form of government, preserving the old traditions of education and encouraging more respect for the American Flag.
The first regular meeting of the Oakland Chapter was held at the Robin Hood Inn on 10 March 1958, with 15 Compatriots in attendance. In June 1963, the Board of Managers for the California State Society appointed an Executive Committee to carry on the work of the Board of Managers between their scheduled meetings. This committee began to usurp the powers that belonged to the Board of Managers, and acted in secret as a Star Chamber. In November 1963, the chapter voted to censure the members of the Executive Committee for their undemocratic actions and call for their resignations from the Executive Committee. After the May 1964 meeting, President Henry W. Austin stopped calling meetings of the Chapter. Finally, in 1968 Vice President Bob Swadley stepped in to remove him as president, and re-establish the chapter.
In May 1968, the first issue of the chapter newsletter, the Oakland Minuteman, was inaugurated. In September 1968, President General Walter Sterling bestowed the Gold Good Citizenship Medal upon chapter compatriot William F. Knowland (former US Senate Majority Leader, and publisher of the Oakland Tribune) for his efforts as a patriotic American. In September 1969, the chapter presented what is believed to be the first SAR Law Enforcement Award in California to Sheriff Walter F. Young of Contra Costa County. In early 1973, the Oakland Chapter helped to form the Contra Costa Chapter in Concord. In 1974, this chapter was folded back into the Oakland Chapter. In October 1973, the Oakland Chapter presented a bronze plaque to Holy Names College in Oakland, which commemorated the Old Redwood Road and the adobe Peralta Chapel, in ceremonies honoring Spanish California. The Old Redwood Road, which runs through the campus, was used from 1856 to 1867 to haul redwood logs from a sawmill in the hills down to San Francisco Bay. In the audience, there were several descendants of Luis Maria Peralta, the original owner of what is now Berkeley, Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro, who received the land from the King of Spain in 1820. At the CASSAR Meeting held in Concord in 1992, there was a discussion about changing the name of the “Oakland” Chapter, as the chapter also represented Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
On 1 September 1992, the Oakland Chapter board of managers voted unanimously to change the name of the chapter to the Thomas Jefferson Chapter. On 23 January 1993, at the Concord Hilton, State President Arthur Ogilvie presented the charter of the Thomas Jefferson Chapter to be signed by the charter members. In 2001, CASSAR President Clarence Lucas restored CASSAR Chapter #10 to the Thomas Jefferson Chapter (the number that was held by the original Alameda County Chapter). On 17-19 April 2008, the Thomas Jefferson Chapter hosted the 133rd Annual CASSAR Meeting at the Concord Hilton Hotel, and chapter Past President Stephen Renouf was installed as CASSAR President. In June 2011, the Marie Callender’s Restaurant in Concord closed, and the chapter moved their regular meeting place to the Old Spaghetti Factory in Concord. On 19-21 April 2018, the Thomas Jefferson Chapter hosted the 143rd Annual CASSAR Meeting at the Concord Hilton Hotel, and chapter Past President Derek Brown was installed as CASSAR President.