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Feature Article on Memorial Day. TOPIC: EVENTS & CIVIL WAR
Compiled by Jim Sayre in May, 1999

FIRST FORMAL DECORATION DAY FOR SHELBY COUNTY, OHIO WAS 1874

From the Sidney Journal, June 1, 1877

Decoration Day and its Observance.  Wednesday will be a day long remembered by the citizens of Sidney. It was the first time Decoration Day was formally recognized and celebrated in Sidney and to say the exercises of the day were a success would be as weak as it would be useless.

Although the early part of Wednesday threatened rain, the work of decorating was pursued, and as the day grew older the clouds in the heavens began chasing one another, until old Sol reigned supreme in the great cerulean vault. The day was very warm, and with scarcely a breath of air stirring, rendered pedestrianism somewhat laborious.

At an early hour people began arriving from the country, and kept on so doing until the streets were crowded with vehicles of every kind and description, and with the sidewalks thronged with a seething multitude, rendered the scene animated, and gave to the streets the appearance of a circus day or a Fourth of July celebration.

The streets were made gay with the display of bunting, flags, cedar and evergreens. The Monumental Building was handsomely and tastefully decorated with flags in profusion, flowers, streamers of red, white and blue, and long festoons of cedar hung in graceful folds front window to window. The structure was a model of beauty. From the comb of the building fronting on Ohio street, and also from the dome, floated the glorious stars and stripes.

 

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Decoration Day planning from
"Sidney Journal," May 25, 1877

Among the public houses decorated the most noticeable were the Burnett House, Thedieck & Ratermann, Moerhing Bros. and the Valley City House. The private residences of W. D. Hughes, Mrs. John Mathers, General Murray and Col. Zinn were beautified with flags, cedar and flowers. Many others were also decorated in a beautiful and pretty manner.

At about 1 o’clock the line began forming in front of the Monumental Building and after some delay, took up the line of march according to the programme. Marshal of the day, Captain E. E. Nutt, led the van. After him came the veterans. William Fielding and William Van Fossen marched at the head of the veterans, and carried the war scarred colors of the old 99th Ohio Regiment. The flag Mr. Van Fossen carried was the same one he so gallantly and triumphantly bore through the war. Both of the flags bore unmistakable evidence of having seen service. They were faded, rent and soiled, yet the red, white and blue—the colors all true Americans hold dear—still gleamed forth.

Then came the little girls, innocent in their youth, giving to the procession a pleasing effect, and making a beautiful picture. The Fire Department followed, and a finer looking set of men never formed in procession stalwart, strong, and noble in their bearing. The hose reels of the fire companies Tawawa, No. 1, Valley City, No. 2, Niagara, No. 3, and the Pioneer Hook and Ladder Wagon, were all neat and clean as could be, and trimmed, as they were, with evergreens, flags and flowers, looked quite pretty and attractive. The men were well drilled, and marched with the precision and correctness of trained soldiers.

The bands discoursing their finest music, followed in the wake of the Fire Department. Tappe’s band in their handsome and showy uniforms, with their new drum major Adam Miller, with his tall bear skin hat, gorgeous uniform and glistening bright staff, which he twirled with a practiced and skilled hand, were the cynosure of all eyes. The Fire Department was followed by the Odd Fellows and Knights of Pythias. The carriages brought up rear and formed a long line. The vehicle that led was profusely decked with flowers and evergreens. It had three mottoes bearing the inscriptions, "Peace and Good Will to All," "Honor the Dead," and "God Bless our Country."

Having marched through the principal streets according to the programme, the procession wended its way to the different cemeteries, where the touching and commendable rites of strewing flowers upon the resting places of our sleeping heroes were gone through with. Little girls dressed in white spread the flowers. After all the graves had been decorated, the immense concourse of people came back to town and repaired to the court house square to listen to the orator of the day, Hon. Durbin Ward.

Rev. R. McCaslin opened with prayer, and was followed with an appropriate song by a selected choir. W. D. Davies, at the close of the song, arose and introduced Hon. Durbin Ward who spoke in an eloquent and interesting manner.

He said the deepest emotions of the human hearts are evident by the ceremonies of this day. In the springtime of the year when all nature is bursting into new life and bloom, we come here to honor the dead. We strew on the ashes of the departed the final mementos of the passing hour and while we, in token of affection, spread flowers on the soldiers graves all over the broad land, loving hearts are performing kindred rites.

Federal and Confederate, alike, are clasping in friendly grasped hands once raised in deadly combat, and vying with each other in honors to the fallen on either side. God bless the reconciliation! The storms of civil war are over, and these touching ceremonies, blending the affections and warming the patriotism of all sections and races, are binding us all, let us hope, in the silken bonds of peace and perpetual union.

On this Memorial Day, when thousands are decorating these sacred little mounds of earth, how many a pulseless heart lies mouldering in the shady groves of the South! Side by side the hardy son of the North and the chivalrous Southern lie in repose, covered by the same green award, decked by nature with the fragrant wild flower, blooming in impartial love, while the woodlark is caroling a requiem to the memory of both.

When we honor the memory of our fallen brethren, let us in a Christian spirit banish every feeling of animosity and every barrier to National brotherhood. Our work on this occasion is no idle ceremony. It is a heart worship of the survivor for the departed. These dead are the buried children of the nation. They gave their lives to the Republic and it is fitting that the people for whom they died should signalize by these public demonstrations their appreciation of the gift. Private affection rears monuments to mark the resting-place of loved ones who are gone, and shall the people grudge a few hours annually to the memories of their heroic dead.

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To 1899
To 1949
To 1974

No people can be progressive or strong without a stern and vigorous patriotism. Cold philosophy may be cosmopolitan, but a nation, truly, is in a peculiar sense a family, and is most powerful when this feeling of brotherhood is strongest. It was this very patriotism which saved our Union in the late struggle. Our past glories, our future hopes, nerved the young soldier, who could little reason of the principles of our constitutional system, and the consciousness that he was breaking away from the land of Washington and Hancock shook the faith and weakened the courage of the Rebel. In spite of his new born allegiance, he wept at the sight of the old flag, and felt he had got home once more when he saw it floating again over his head.

Patriotism is national strength. Without it forts, arsenals, war ships and armies turn to ashes at the touch of disaster. With it the feeblest people are invincibly armed, impregnably fortified. But the patriotism of sentiment is not enough to give that robust vigor which American patriotism deserves to have. Our intellectual conception of the duties of citizenship, and of the obligations of the people to constitutional government, must supplement the more feminine influence of devotion to country as the home of our people. The speaker said that all growing countries had their revolutions, and no country could reach harmony without a struggle for existence or mastery. He thought no people ever returned to tranquility so soon after a fierce conflict as the North and South. He hoped the defeated Southerners would be welcomed back to the Union as Brethren, and not as aliens.

He closed by saying that he hoped the day was not far distant in the future when the North and South would resume the brotherly love and relations that they had before the storm of war burst upon them. The meeting was dismissed by singing the doxology and the invoking of divine blessing by Rev. O. Kennedy. And so closed a day that will be remembered with pleasure by the citizens of Sidney.

1899, The Tradition Continues

Memorial ceremonies in Sidney 100 years ago continued the reverent honor paid to Shelby County fallen soldiers. References to the Civil War still predominated, but the fallen of another conflict, the Spanish-American War, received their due. And, there was another difference from the first ceremony in 1877: Decoration Day was now known as Memorial Day, as it had been since 1882.

From the Shelby County Democrat, June 2, 1899

Memorial Day was observed here Tuesday in the usual manner. Flags and bunting were displayed in profusion about the city. At 8 o’clock committees visited the old Presbyterian and Starrett graveyards and the Catholic cemetery and decorated the graves of soldiers buried there.

The procession formed on the Monumental corner at 9 o’clock and at 9:30 o’clock moved to Graceland cemetery, marching around the north side of the public square and south on Main avenue. The procession was formed in the following order: Dr. J. A. Throckmorton, chief marshal, Charles Goode, Ben Sharp and Walter Pfefferle, assistant marshals, the Reed band, Company L, Third Infantry, the Drum Corps, Neal Post, G.A.R., and old soldiers, little girls carrying flowers, the floral wagon, the Women’s Relief Corps in a tally–ho, the fire department and a great many citizens in carriages.

At the cemetery brief Memorial services were held and the graves of all old soldiers decorated with flowers. The procession returned on Ohio avenue and disbanded at the Monumental corner.

The annual Memorial oration was delivered at the armory in the afternoon by Rev. J. A. Patterson, pastor of the Presbyterian church. The armory was crowded and many persons were compelled to stand during the entire exercises. It had been decorated with flags and a stage erected on the west side of the hall. Klute’s band furnished music and played several patriotic selections. The meeting was called to order by Col. Eli Davis who acted as chairman. After a selection by the male quartette Rev. F. M. Myers offered prayer and Col. Davis read President Lincoln’s address delivered at Gettysburg November 10, 1863.

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Sidney Presbyterian pastor J.A. Patterson delivered the 1899 Memorial Day oration at the Armory.

The oration by Rev. Patterson was an able one, being one of the best that has been delivered here in many years. In brief he said: There are days into which is crowded the memories of conquests and the achievements of centuries, and we come today with expressions of gratitude to the members of the G. A. R. for their deeds of bravery and valor.

One year ago the United States was in the midst of a heated war with a foreign country. At that time many minds imagined that their (the G.A.R.) deeds of bravery would be forgotten for new heroes. Their deeds were never so bright as now. Suppose the stars and stripes had been trampled by secessionists, what could suppressed humanity now look for. The United States said to Spain, take your heel from off that dusky child and give him the freedom that belongs to humanity: do this or by the spirit of Appomattox you shall be compelled to do so.

There comes to us new glories on this 30th day of May. It brings a closer reunion of the sections of the country. Northern and Southern soldiers have been marching shoulder to shoulder and fighting for the right. We present today a united country under one flag. Freedom of mind and soul was gained before freedom was a universal fact. When the republic was established our forefathers were guided by the experiences of the past. The revolution gave to us a free land, the war of 1812 a free sea, and the war of 1861-1865 gave us free men. For centuries the clouds had been gathering, which broke forth for humanity’s sake at the firing of Steven’s guns. History fails to record any value or achievement that characterized the bravery and valor of these men. Nothing but the shedding of blood could wipe out this slavery. The price paid to keep this country under one flag can never be estimated and never will be known.

When this war began the European nations said that the Americans can’t fight, and when the war was over they said you can’t stop them, the country will be governed by anarchy. But as the army left Appomattox it melted away as merits the mist before the rising sun. The fires of patriotism in the hearts of those men was the cause of this. Today we stand in almost universal peace with exception of a small revolution in the Philippines. The last battle of any war leaves a nation as it stood before. We stand today with new and great problems confronting us. No man can formulate any plan by which these problems can be solved. When the American fleet, under the command of Admiral Dewey, went into Manila bay it was to carry out the command of the United States and dissolve the Spanish navy. This hero has stood the test and there is not a discord in an American heart. By the directing hand of Dewey, McKinley and Almighty God, these new problems will be solved. Our flag now floats over two hemispheres. There are some who may want to tear it down. The star spangled banner is the flag of the free and long let it wave over the lands of the free which were homes of the slaves. American patriotism cannot be melted. England and America are to be in the future the heart and brains of the evangelized world. Today we pledge to the grand army that this day shall be kept sacred. Their lines are growing thinner and thinner as the years go by. The sectionalism of the blue and gray is melting away. The grand army of the Republic and the Confederacy are united under one flag and the leadership of the Young Man of Galilee.  The oration was loudly applauded at different points throughout. After a song by the choir the benediction was pronounced by Rev. Patterson.

Memorial Day Program, 1899

A detailed committee will start from Monumental corner to decorate the graves of soldiers in the Presbyterian and Starrett graveyards and Catholic cemetery. The procession will form on the Monumental corner at 9 a.m. and will be formed in the following order:

Band.
Company L, Third Inft., O.N.G.
The Different Orders.
The Fire Department.
The Floral Wagon.
A Detail of School Girls to Decorate the Graves.
Bands.
Drum Corps.
Neal Post, G.A.R., - and Old Soldiers.
Women’s Relief Corps.
City Officials.
Citizens in Carriages.

The line of march will be north on Ohio avenue to Poplar street, east to Main avenue and south to Graceland Cemetery.

Arriving there details of school girls, escorted by veterans, will place flowers on the graves. Brief Memorial services will then be held by the comrades and their auxiliaries, and the procession will then return by way of Ohio avenue and pass in review at Monumental corner and disband.

At 2 p.m. the oration will be delivered at the armory, commencing with song by the choir, led by Dr. Milholland.

Prayer by Rev. R. McCaslin.
Reading of President Lincoln’s Address at Gettysburg.
Oration—Rev. J. A. Patterson.

Song.
Benediction.

1949, World War II Dead Remembered

From the Sidney Daily News, May 31, 1949

Once again we have assembled as a nation of free people to observe the day set aside to honor those who have made it possible for us to be free. This past year we have seen many of them from World War II brought home for a final resting place. May the memory of the sacrifices of all our honored dead be indelibly written on the pages of history. Let us strive mentally and physically as individuals and as a nation, to build for them a lasting memorial. Not a monument of stone, or metal, or of some material substance, but rather the greatest memorial of all time, a structure of world peace.
By Emerson Setsor, World War II veteran, Memorial Day Address, Sidney, Ohio

Sidney people of World War II age might remember the wooden monument shown at right, approximately 25-30 feet high, that once stood in the courtsquare. Names of those in service were imprinted on the four sides; those who had made the supreme sacrifice were listed on the front in gold lettering. Planning for the structure began in about 1943. It was dedicated on August 15, 1945, at Sidney’s Victory in Japan (V-J) celebrations.

According to the Sidney Daily News: "Bearing the names of over 3,000 Shelby county men and women who have seen service in the United States armed forces and, in gold lettering, the names of 71 men who have given the last full measure of devotion by making the supreme sacrifice, Shelby county’s famous Roll of Honor, located on the northwest corner of the court house square, has become a symbol of sacrifice in World War II. The dedication of this memorial will be an important part of Shelby country’s V-J Day ceremonies." The cenotaph stood until about 1950.

A similar picture appears in a book by Doris Eggleston titled We Can’t Forget! Part Two. More Memories of World War II Veterans. Books may be purchased from Eggleston by calling 937-498-8096 or by writing her at 204 Charles Ave., Sidney, OH 45365. The Sidney News Stand and Bookstore also carries the book.

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Photo from Richard Neer

1974, Booming Holiday Spirit

From the Sidney Daily News, May 28, 1974

More than a few local residents were nursing sunburns and sore muscles today in the wake of the summer season’s first real invitation for play— the Memorial Day weekend.

And what a weekend it was. From Friday through Monday, the sun disappeared only when it set and while the mercury didn’t attain record heights, the air was crystal clear, the sun was pleasantly warm. High temperatures Sunday and Monday hovered near 70, with morning lows at the 40-degree mark.

Sidney’s Tawawa Park attracted near capacity crowds of outdoor chefs, badminton players and those just content to spread their Sunday newspaper on the warm grass. The sounds of happy human voices and smells of charcoal and barbecue sauce created a distinct "joi de vie" atmosphere. The weekend opening of Sidney’s municipal pool lured a surprisingly large number of swimmers, despite the often chilly breeze. Local state parks experienced a similar eagerness.

Officials at Lake Loramie Park reported the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday attendance there was an estimated 17,665 including 2,700 campers. Judy Siegel, a secretary at the park office, said it was the biggest Memorial Day weekend of the past three years.

In keeping with the true meaning of Memorial Day a parade organized by Sidney’s American Legion moved down Ohio Avenue from Shelby County Courthouse square to Graceland Cemetery. It included the Gold Star and Navy Mothers, the American Legion Singing Soldiers and Sidney and Lehman High School bands.

Ceremonies at the court square and Graceland Cemetery included songs, prayers, a speech by State Commander David Copper and the reading of the Gettysburg Address by Robert Locker.  Most of the area’s villages had similar parades and other ceremonies to honor the war dead.

 

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