St. Paul’s Lutheran Church is nationally significant as the site where the first chapter of the American Red Cross was formed in 1881. Clara Barton, who had been a summer resident of the Village of Dansville since 1876, addressed an audience gathered in the church sanctuary about the important work of the international organization and her efforts to have the federal government endorse the 1884 Treaty of Geneva (also known as the Geneva Convention). As a result of this meeting, the Dansville community endorsed her draft of a constitution for a local chapter and enrolled 57 charter members from the assembled audience. (Excerpted from St. Paul’s Church National Register nomination, 2013.)
Clara Barton and the American Red Cross
Clarissa Harlowe Barton, or Clara, as she wished to be called, is one of the most esteemed women in American history.
When the Civil War broke out, Barton secured permission to go wherever her services were needed. Visits to the battlefields revealed to her the urgent need for provisions to feed and care for the wounded soldiers. Her unwavering devotion earned her the title of Angel of the Battlefield.
Barton later established the Office of Correspondence with Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army. She identified over 22,000 missing men and helped establish a national cemetery for Union soldiers who died in the Andersonville Prison in Georgia.
After the war, while recuperating in Europe, Barton went to the war zone with the International Red Cross when the Franco-Prussian War broke out in 1870. To protect herself, she fashioned a cross out of red ribbon, the newly accepted symbol of the organization.
Upon her return to the United States, Barton came to Dansville seeking respite at the Jackson Sanitarium. Finding her stay beneficial in body and spirit, she maintained a residence here for many years while continuing to lobby for the creation of an American Red Cross.
In 1881, the people of Dansville joined in support of Barton’s efforts and organized a meeting at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church where the first Chapter of the American Red Cross was formed. Clara Barton led the American Red Cross as president the next 23 years.
Clara Barton Chapter #1 House is nearby at 57 Elizabeth St., Dansville. Call ahead to confirm hours or to make an appointment.