By Jolene Hawkins
Looking back into our past, did our foremothers do anything in their spare time besides cook, clean, raise a family, plant and work the garden or flower beds and preserve her food from the garden?
Well, I went on a search through our local newspapers and found out why yes, indeed they did!
Our foremothers started to work outside the house and we had several shopkeepers in our town — photographers, bakeries, hatmakers, dressmakers and telephone operators — who were women. And, of course, we cannot forget all the groups that were around then.
In 1914, Springville had seven churches: Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Universalist. Each one of these churches had committees and groups for the ladies to join, and we can not forget the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, as they boasted a large membership of 100 in 1907 here in Springville.
As you read through these newspapers, you will see all of the acronyms and scratch your head and try to understand what they were. They included:
KOTM: Knights of the Maccabees; females were the Ladies of the Maccabees;
IOOF: Independent Order of Odd Fellows; females were the Rebekahs;
• American Red Cross;
• Free and Accepted Masons; females were the Eastern Star;
• Woman’s Club;
• Flower Clubs;
• Book Clubs; and
• GAR: Grand Army of the Republic; Females were the WRC, Woman’s Relief Corps.
Each organization was active and did a lot of work, from establishing homes for the seniors and children to helping get hot meals into schools to helping make and send items to soldiers and raising money for books and medical care. And, of course, they helped beautify the town with plants and cleanups. Women from our past usually belonged to more than one of these groups.
The local unit of the WRC founded in 1890 in Springville was a very active and largely attended group. It was established to specially aid and assist the GAR (Carey Post #87) and to perpetuate the memory of the heroic dead, to assist veterans as they need help and to assist their widows and children, and to promote patriotism and love of our country among the communities we live. Mrs. W.S. Webber, Mrs. George Conger, Mrs. T.B. Norris, Cora Conger, Dora Norris, Mrs. J.M. Vedder and Mrs. J.J. Warren were the first officers elected that year.
They would hold suppers that were open to the public, sugar festivals, teas and socials to help raise money for the building of the log cabin that was home to the GAR and WRC. They also raised money to buy a large American flag to be presented to the Griffith Institute School. The group was also responsible for helping organize Memorial Day events and the flowers that were used on Memorial Day, from the collection of flowers from people in the village who donated them to making wreaths and bouquets of flowers for the parades and the cemetery, where they were laid down on the veteran’s graves.
By 1927, the WRC was now meeting with the Legion Auxiliary and the Sons of the Veterans, Legion and the few GAR members that were still around, when planning Memorial Day events. In 1949, The WRC #152 of Springville deeded the log cabin to the Concord Post #431 American Legion.
On Memorial Day in 1950, they added a new event to the program: the WRC giving a program at the log cabin. Mrs. Marilla Hyde gave the history of the WRC and Maurice F. Quinn gave the history of the GAR. That same year, the WRC placed flowers on the Springville Pond in memory of the Unknown Soldier. Throughout the long history of the WRC, they stayed active and involved in the community. Every week there were articles in the paper showing where they met and what they were doing.
If you would like to learn more about this group or any of the other many, many social organizations, stop down at the Lucy Bensley Center, 23 N. Buffalo St. in Springville on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and enjoy reading our local newspapers online! For more information, call (716) 592-0094.