The first American patriotic order, the Society of the Cincinnati, was created in 1783.
On May 13, 1783 at the end of the American Revolution, and shortly before the army disbanded, Continental army officers gathered at the Verplanck house (Baron Steuben’s headquarters) at Fishkill on the Hudson to form a society named after the Roman soldier-citizen Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus. It was organized by Major General Knox and others. Membership was to pass to the eldest male descendants of the founders, but allowed honorary members “whose views may be directed to the same laudable objects with those of the Cincinnati.” The first meeting ended and representatives of each state went home to organize their own branch of this society. Members were entitled to wear a badge that was an elaborate medal with an “eagle to be hung by a blue and white ribbon.”
The New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati was created November 18, 1783 at the Folsom Tavern in Exeter New Hampshire, by Major-General John Sullivan. According to “The American Register,” by Charles Henry Browning (page 174) Major-General John Stark, then the senior officer of the New Hampshire line in the army “was antagonistic to the Cincinnati, and refused to become a member of the Society.”
The officers who assembled Exeter to form the society included Maj-Gen. John Sullivan, Col. Joseph Cilley, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Dearborn, Capt. Jonathan Cass, Capt. Josiah Munro, Capt. Amos Emerson, Capt. Michael McClary, Capt. Ebenezer Sullivan, Lieut. Daniel Gookin, Lieut. Jonathan Cilley, Lieut. Joseph Mills, Lieut. Neal McCaffey, Lieut. Robert Wilkins, and Lieut. Samuel Adams. These became the founders of the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of New Hampshire.
The society met for the first few years in Exeter, and after that in other towns all in the seacoast area. After 1823 the Society ceased to hold meetings, and the society became extinct by the death of all the members. The book of records was presented to the New Hampshire Historical Society, as the most appropriate place of deposit, by John W. Gookin of North Yarmouth Maine. John Gookin’s father, Daniel Gookin was the last living of the original members.
This Society of Cincinnati revived as “The Society of the Cincinnati in the State of New Hampshire” seventy years later in 1896. The President of the revived society was John Gardiner Gilman. With the cooperation of the Perry family, Mr. Edward Tuck and others, the society purchased the Ladd-Gilman House and other properties, and initiated extensive reservations.
The Society now owns and operates (through a board of governors) the American Independence Museum in Exeter NH. Their collections includes two rare drafts of the U.S. Constitution, as well as an original “Purple Heart” awarded by George Washington to soldiers demonstrating extraordinary bravery. The “heart” in this collection was found on a coat in a barn in Deerfield NH (possibly it belonged to Sergeant William Brown of the 5th Connecticut Regiment of the Connecticut Line, a known recipient, or even more remotely to an unknown awardee from New Hampshire).
President Franklin Pierce, a New Hampshire native, was an honorary member, as his father was a lieutenant in a Massachusetts regiment, and an original member of the Massachusetts Society. At his death, his membership passed to his eldest son, and from him to his younger brother Franklin. Alan B. Shepard Jr. of Derry New Hampshire, the American astronaut, was also a member. In general a member in the society remains in the Society in which it originated, so that one normally belongs where one’s ancestor belonged, regardless of one’s place of residence.
The NH Society of Cincinnati’s mailing address is 1 Governors Lane, Exeter New Hampshire, and it is one of fourteen constituent societies, representing the original 13 colonies plus the society in France.
.LIST of ORIGINAL and EARLY MEMBERS of the NH SOCIETY OF CINCINNATI.
Name / Rank/ Time of Service / Time of resignation, or resolution of Congress by which they were deranged / Place of Residence
1. John Sullivan / Major General / 4y 6m. / Nov 19, 1779 / Durham NH
2. Joseph Cilley / Colonel / 5y 6m 3d / Deranged 21 Oct 1780 / Nottingham NH
3. Henry Dearborn / Lieut Col. Commandant / 7y 10m / — / Exeter NH
4. Jonathan Cass / Captain / 6y 4m / 1 March 1783 / Exeter NH
5. Ebenezer Sullivan / Captain / 7y 9m / Deranged / Durham NH
6. Joseph Mills / Lieut. / 6y, A soldier 1y / End of War / Nottingham NH
7. Samuel Adams / Lieut./
8. Josiah Munro / Capt/
9. Jonathan Cilley / Lieut./
10. Neal McGaffrey / Lieut /
11. Michael McClary / Capt./ 4y Signed Feb 5 1784 / Oct 1779 / Epsom NH
12. William Parker / Surgeon / 3y 4m / Nov 1778 / Exeter NH
13. Nicholas Gilman / Capt. / 6y 3m / Deranged / Exeter NH
14. Joshua Merrow / Lieut.
15. Amos Emerson / Capt./ 5y / Resigned March 1780 / Chester NH
16. James Harvey McClary [son of the late Major McClary, killed at the battle of Bunker Hill] / Epsom NH
17. John Adams / Lieut. / End of War / Stratham NH
18. Joseph Boynton / Lieut / 7y / Deranged / Stratham NH
19. Samuel Cheney / Capt. / 8y / End of War / Londonderry NH
20. Francis Frye / Capt./ 9y / End of War / Wilton NH
21. Z. Rowell / Capt. / 8y / End of War / Epping NH
22. Jonathan Perkins / Lieut / 6y / End of War / Epping NH
23. Adna Penniman / Capt / 4y / Deranged / Moultonboro NH
24. John Harvey / Lieut. / 4y / End of War / Northwood NH
25. Jere. [Jeremiah] Fogg / Capt. / 4y / End of War / Kensington NH
26. Jeremiah Richard / Lieut. / 3y 8m / July 1780 / Hollis NH
27. James Reed / Brig. Gen./ 8y / End of War / Keene NH
28. John Sullivan, son of the late Capt Ebenezer Sullivan, deceased.
29. Joseph Mills, son to the late Lieut Joseph Mills, deceased.
30. John W. Gookin, son of Lieut. Daniel Gookin, deceased; a Capt in United States Army, from 1812 to 1815, during last war.
In the 1970s the national society had about 2,500 members worldwide, growing today to about 3,500 members. THE NEHGS maintains an online database of biographical sketches of members of the Massachusetts Order of Cincinnati.