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A Look Back: The Grand Army of the Republic

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Looking back to the year 1881, that was when the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Crary Post #87 — named for Captain Charles Crary — was organized as a Fraternal Organization for the Veterans of the Civil War.

Officers included H.P. Spaulding, Commander; John P. Myers, Senior Vice Commander; James Oswald, Junior Vice Commander; E.L. Hoopes, Quartermaster; George Barker, Officer of the Day; S.E. Spaulding, Officer of the Guard; Dr. C Waite, Surgeon; William Agard, Chaplain; O.M. Morse, Adjutant; E.D. Bement, Sergeant-Major; William Warner, Quartermaster Sergeant along with 40 other members.

In 1866 the group was first started and membership was limited to Honorably discharged Veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine or Revenue Cutter Service, who had served between April 12, 1861, and April 9, 1865. The cost was two dollars a year.

The first GAR post that was established in New York state was the O’Rorke #1 Post in Rochester, which was started on October 9, 1866. By 1890, Buffalo had seven posts that all meet at the same place on the corner of Virginia Street and Elmwood Avenue, known as the GAR Hall. In 1897, Buffalo hosted a national encampment of the GAR.

Up until the Civil War, the only National holiday that was celebrated was the Fourth of July. On Memorial Day of 1890, the GAR members would decorate the graves of Civil War veterans in the local cemeteries and lead ceremonies with bands and parades. Meals were prepared by the Women’s Relief Corp. and shared to all.

Another motivation for the GAR was the establishment of a pension plan for Union Veterans.  There was no social security back then and it was felt that it was needed to help the veterans in their old age. The GAR also started the Patriotic Mission with the idea to teach patriotism to the public, especially to children.

They also wanted it required to teach the Civil War in schools. They campaigned to place flags in front of school buildings, in classrooms and all government buildings and gave American flags to the schools. The GAR did not like to see the mailmen wearing gray uniforms, so a campaign was started to require the mailmen to wear blue uniforms. The GAR was successful and even to this day, the employees of the U.S. Postal Service wear blue uniforms.

In 1892, the logs that would be used to build the log cabin, that would be used by the GAR, Women’s Relief Corp. and the Sons of the Veterans are being cut.  It will measure 24-by-30 feet with a basement. The main floor will be used for meetings and the kitchen was located in the basement.

The Women’s Relief Corp, had dinners, ice cream socials and other events to raise money. We have a photograph that shows Mrs. Febbie Jackson, Mrs. George Hess, Mrs. Nicholas Rassel, Mrs. Fred Smith, Mrs. Jane Ashley, Mrs. Marilla Hyde, Francis Smith, Mrs. Caroline Bury, Mrs. Eugene Shippy, Mrs. J Gramps, Mrs. Martin Zimmerman, Mrs. Frank Bristol and Mrs. Inez Weaver, standing proudly in front of the Log Cabin.

The WRC was mainly instrumental in the success with which the Memorial Day exercises are carried out, gathering and creating the flower wreaths that they laid on the graves of the fallen comrades and also in paying for the erection of the Log Cabin in which all the groups meet. The WRC was organized in 1890.

In 1891, the Soldier’s monument, through the endeavors of the GAR was erected in memory of the deceased Civil War comrades. David S. Ingalls, who lived near the village, came forward with a gift of $10,000 for the monument. The handsome monument of Quincy granite is 27 feet high and 18 feet across the base.

J.P. Myers secured cheaper rates on the train for any of the living comrades and family to travel Springville where it was erected at Fiddler Green Park. A large ceremony with speeches, music, parades, bands and the Women’s Relief Corp. fixed an excellent meal for all to enjoy.

In 1933, we still had three living Civil War Veterans in Springville, J. Duane Fuller, Philo Woodward and Francis Smith.

You can come down and read from the handwritten journal for the GAR or the transcribed version, and all of the other social groups we had in Springville at the Lucy Bensley Center on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., email us at lucybensleycenter@gmail.com or call us at 592-0094.

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