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A Look Back: Memorial Day

05-24-look-back

By Jolene Hawkins

Looking back to when we gathered flowers to lay on the graves of our loved ones who had died during a battle.
From the Revolutionary War, Civil War and Spanish American War to the two World Wars, the Korean War, Vietnam War and beyond, we lay flowers on their graves to remember them.
Memorial Day is for those who died while in Military Service. But how did it all get started? General John A. Logan called for a nationwide day of remembrance.
“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.
The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle. We want to remember them, he said. Not a man is to be forgotten, the officers have been written about and statues of them put up so that the succeeding generations will be able to look backward in gratitude to those who gave their lives in the defense of the liberties and privileges which they are enjoying now.
In 1883, here in Springville, the GAR auxiliary, the Women’s Relief Corp requested flowers from ladies in the village so they could make arrangements and wreaths to be laid on the graves of the fallen veterans and nurses who died during and since the Civil War. The Women’s Relief Corp is still active and still makes wreaths to be laid on the graves of the veterans.
By 1901, the parade route had grown to include the Soldier’s Monument, which was put up in 1891. A beautiful statue of Quincy granite, that was 27 feet high and 8 feet across with a Union Soldier on top, stopping there first to decorate the monument.
They then headed up Main Street to Maplewood Cemetery where a ceremony, with a speaker, happened before they laid the wreaths and flowers on the graves, then to processed to the GAR log cabin for a meal put on by the Women’s Relief Corp.
In 1919, The American Legion was formed, with the Auxiliary being formed the following year in 1920. The American Legion is 100 years old this year. In 1919, 54 soldiers wearing their khakis were in the parade, having just returned home from the war.
In 1950, the Women’s Relief Corp strewed flowers on the Springville Pond for the unknown soldiers that had died and for those that lost their life at sea. In 1971, Memorial Day became an official holiday. The name was changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day in 1967.
We remember all of those that have died in the service and those that are with us still. The sacrifices that they made and the sacrifices that the families of the soldiers made, so we can have our freedoms and rights.
Let us honor them by remembering them and placing flowers on the graves and passing the stories on to the next generation. You can learn more by coming down to the Lucy Bensley Center located at 23 North Buffalo St., Springville, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on the second and fourth Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.  You can go through our books we have on the shelves as well as books from the Echoes Through Time Civil War museum that are being stored here at the Lucy Bensley.
War of the Rebellion Official Records of the Union and Confederate — all 127 volumes — and the supplements to them — all 100 of them — along with the maps and other books to be researched for that time period. We also have books for all the wars that can be researched. Talk to someone from the VFW or American Legion here in town. There are so many ways to remember what was.
I recently found out that the Women’s Relief Corp is still active and raises money as well as makes wreaths for the soldiers’ graves. I joined and if anyone else out there is interested, please stop by to visit with me or send us an email at lucybensleycenter@gmail.com. You can even call us at 592-0094.
Memorial Day is more than just the start of summer. Post your flags proudly. If you need to retire a flag, you can take them to the Concord American Post 431, 109 Honorary Legion Drive, or the VFW at 650 Main St. or give them to any Boy Scout troop. They all have a retirement ceremony to deposit of the used, tattered and faded flags.

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