May 25, 2011

First Decoration/Memorial Day in Valley Falls - 1884

— Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president.

"Last Friday was a beautiful day in Valley Falls," reported Editor R.E. Van Meter, in the June 5, 1884, issue of the Valley Falls New Era —

Continuing: "One calculated to inspire the loftiest patriotism in the breast of those who participated in the solemn ceremony honoring soldier dead in a manner that has come to be an universal custom. Especially interesting was this event here because it is the first time in the history of this town that Decoration Day has been observed!

"Early in the morning, people began to gather in town from all parts of the surrounding country and by 1 o'clock as many as could crowd in gathered in the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) Hall where special services took place, including the presentation of a United States flag to the local Lewis Stafford G.A.R. Post No. 225 by ladies of the city, many of whom were mothers, wives, sisters, or daughters of many of the post members.

"After some preliminary military maneuvers, those congregated in hall marched down Broadway to Sycamore where the parade was to begin with the following route to the cemetery: from the corner of Broadway and Sycamore, west to Elm Street, south to Mary, west to Frazier Avenue, south to the cemetery to a large floral cross at the top of which was a large card bearing the following inscription, 'In memory of Capt. Lewis Stafford, Lt. T.F. Jolly, Joseph Catt, Henry O. Griffin, Wm. Grigsby, Jonathan Myers, Calvin Turner, Joseph Hilty, Ernest Benedix,' all of whom had the honor to enlist from this neighborhood — only two rest in the cemetery here.

"This is the order of exercises: Prayer by Chaplain W.C. Rose; singing of a patriotic air by a choir composed of seven or eight of our best singers; address by (the) Rev. A.M. Petty; a long poem recited by Miss Kate Goodrich; H.C. Spurlock, adjutant, paid tribute to the noble dead; then followed the ceremony of floral decoration participated in by the G.A.R. Post and the sabbath schools.

"At the conclusion of the ceremony, the assembly dispersed, The G.A.R. returned to their hall where a short session was held and Capt. Schaeffer thanked the ladies for their generous gift, thus terminating one of the most auspicious events in the history of Valley Falls — The first Decoration/Memorial Day!"

The society's museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 28, and Sunday, May 29, immediately following the high school reunion dinner at the Delaware Township Hall, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, May 30.

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