John Austin Stevens, Founder, First President

John Austin Stevens, founder of the Sons of the Revolution, was the grandson of Ebenezer Stevens, who participated in the Boston Tea Party as a young man and rose through the ranks to lieutenant colonel in the artillery. He fought in many battles and witnessed both major British surrenders, at Saratoga and Yorktown. Col. Stevens was one of the Military escorts of General Washington on his triumphal entry into New York City on the day of the British Evacuation, Nov. 25, 1783. The colonel was one of the founders of the Society of Cincinnati, an organization of Washington's Continental officers, and also served in 1799 as a "pall bearer" during the New York memorial service following Washington's death and burial in Virginia.

Grandson John Austin Stevens was born Jan. 21, 1827. In 1842, at the age of fifteen, he entered Harvard and graduated in 1846 with a proficiency in mathematics, logic and literary composition and thoroughly versed in English and Spanish literature. While attending college, Stevens went with his class to hear an impassioned speech by Daniel Webster at the site of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Stevens was deeply moved and considered honoring our patriot ancestors a duty that he pursued all his life.

John Austin Stevens was the founder
of the Sons of the Revolution.

Arriving in New York, he worked as a cashier before setting up a trading operation with Cuba. He married Margaret Morris of a prominent New York family, and took an active role in civic and business life while building up a private library and studying the history of the Revolution.

Through his father, a prominent banker, John Austin Stevens met Salmon P. Chase, the future Treasury Secretary, and many other prominent people form New York, Philadelphia and Washington. He helped his father organize a large rally in New York to support the election of Abraham Lincoln.

During the Civil War, John Austin Stevens served his country in many capacities, helping to organize logistics for the Union Army, managing an expedition to Texas and arranging for the government to receive a $150 million loan to finance the war. He also raised a regiment of volunteers, then worked with others to organize a Corps for the conquest of the Carolina coast.

Stevens, who was offered the positions of Consul General to Paris, Commissioner of Internal Revenue and Registrar of the Treasury, was with Lincoln on the morning before his assassination, having visited Washington to urge the president to name a day of national rejoicing over the peace.

In 1868, Stevens joined his family for a five-year tour of Europe, witnessing the downfall of the French Empire, fleeing Paris during the Franco-Russian War and then helping to organize American aid to the French after the siege of Paris.

Stevens returned to New York to take an active role in business, government, writing of U.S. history, and the founding of the Sons of the Revolution.

After serving as the organization's first president, he lived the last 20 years of his life in Newport, R.I., writing history and cultivating roses. He died June 10, 1910 at his home. Funeral services were held on June 18th, at his residence, followed by services at St. Paul's Chapel in New York and a procession through the city by the Sons of the Revolution, Chamber of Commerce and Historical Society.

The funeral procession viewed by uncovered thousands, moved down Broadway on its way to Broad and Pearl where Fraunces Tavern was draped in black. The interment was in the family vault in Greenwood Cemetery, where his Revolutionary ancestor lies.

In September 1898, Stevens had been presented by the Society of the Sons of the Revolution with the Founder's badge, a beautiful medal artistically wrought and inscribed. The new society president, Frederick Tallmadge, wrote, "The noblest tribute that can be paid to your patriotism is the fact that the Society organized by you now numbers over two thousand members, that, of itself, is the proudest monument you could ask for to your energy and patriotism.

Tallmadge Was Second President Of Sons


The Signing of the  ConstitutionGeorge Washingtons Farewell at Fraunces Tavern Museum

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