By Derek M. Otto
The Grand Army of the Republic, or G.A.R., was formed in 1866 as a way to support the veterans of the Civil War. According to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War web site, the Civil War was different than other wars in that units were more diverse— soldiers had made more diverse friendships than in the past. Furthering this was the advances of care of wounded soldiers, many of those who would have died, who came home as amputees. The war-stuck communities didn’t have the resources to handle the new stress that returning veterans brought to the community. In 1866, Benjamin F. Stephenson of Decatur Ill created the G.A.R. to help resolve those issues. Membership was limited to honorably discharged veterans of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Revenue Cutter Service.
The fraternal organization for veterans was a great way to keep old friendships, but ever further, it became a political powerhouse for veteran’s issues, civil rights and Republican Party ideals. It was the national first organization that was racially integrated. On the national level, the organization was broken into departments on the state level, and posts at the community level. Annually, the group held a national encampment, attracting hundreds of thousands of Civil War veterans. The last national encampment was in 1949; the group official disbanded in 1956 with the death of its last member, Albert Woolson.
In Springville, the G.A. R. Crary Post No. 87 was formed in 1881 with 18 charter members. The post was named after Charles Crary, who served as a First Lieutenant in the 116th NY.
The first elected officers were Harlan Spaulding, Commander, who served as a Captain in the Seventh Regular Colored Troops; John P. Meyers, Senior Vice Commander, served in the 104th NY and was imprisoned at Andersonville Prison; J. Oswald, Junior Vice Commander, service unknown; O. M. Morse Adj’t, service unknown; E.L. Hoops, Quarter Master, service unknown; George Barker , O. D. service unknown; Stephen Spaulding, O. G., served the 116th NY Company F; W H Agard, Chaplain, service unknown; Carlos Waite (Dr. Waite’s father), Surgeon, served 116th NY Company F; E. D. Bement, S. M., served 116th NY Company F; and William H. Warner (Pop’s father), Quarter Master Sergeant, served as a First Lieutenant 4th Regiment of the Arkansas Calvary Company I, later commissioned as a Captain in Company F (The Arkansas Calvary was a Union Regiment).
Of importance was the fact that the G. A. R. had a very active women’s auxiliary, made up of some of the most prominent women in Springville at the time. These very active women worked very hard to raise the funds for permanent post for the G. A.R. in the 1890s. In 1895, work was completed on the log cabin on South Buffalo Street. It is a rarity of its kind. There only two G. A. R. log cabins in New York State that still exist.
The local post disbanded in the late 1940s. In 1950, the log cabin became the home to the American Legion Post 431. They had met above the Carousel Shop since 1950. The American Legion remained there until the early 1990s, when they moved to their current home on Zoar Valley Road.
Photo: The G. A. R. Log Cabin and Fountain Hose Fire Company late 1890s. Note the power poles; the original power plant was located on South Buffalo Street near community pool.