I grew up knowing the day as Decoration
Day, but the official name of the day is Memorial Day is observed
in every state of the union, it is not a national holiday as such
nor is it observed on the same day in all of the states. Nearly
all of the states observe Memorial Day May 30, but eight states
of the Confederacy observe it on another day.
Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi observe Confederate Memorial Day April 26, North and South Carolina on May 10 and Louisiana and Tennessee on June 3. Virginia observes the day May 30 but calls it Confederate Memorial Day.
Memorial Day was originally set aside to honor those who died during those who died during the Civil War. The idea was born when some women in Columbus, Mississippi, placed some flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers in the spring of 1863.
In May 1865, Adjutant General Chipman of the Grand Army of the Republic, the organization of Union veterans, suggested to General John Logan, commander in chief, that arrangements be made for the organization to decorate graves of Union soldiers on a uniform date throughout the country.
General Logan issued an order that beginning in 1868 May 30 would be designated as the date when GAR posts would decorate graves of comrades who had died in defense of their country during the Civil War. The first formal and official observance of the day was at the National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
Memorial Day was not recognized as a legal holiday in any state until 1873 when the New York legislature declared it as such. Gradually the states began to legalize the day until it became a legal holiday in all of the Northern states.
In the Confederate states, the Daughters of the Confederacy sponsored legalization of Confederate Memorial Day.
Provision for observance of Memorial Day is a part of both Army and Navy Regulations.
No longer is Memorial Day the day to memorialize only Civil War veterans who died in defense of the Union but now is a day we memorialize veterans of all wars.
The pictures which accompany this article are of the memorial which stands alongside the east drive in Grant City Cemetery. It was placed there in the spring of 1896 under the sponsorship of the Ellsworth Post of the G.A.R. It is a stone sculpture done by the late Dell Eighmy Sr. Let me share with you some of the information from issues of the Worth County Times of that era.
The rough stone from which Mr. Eighmy would sculpt the memorial came on the train from Bedford, Indiana, the last week of April in 1896. The load of stone was the heaviest that had ever been hauled on the Grant City branch up to that time, and getting the huge stone from the railroad yard to the marble works was no small task.
Moving the stone was described in the April 30, 1896, edition of the Worth County Times.
"The work of moving the stone for the soldiers monument from the cars to Dell Eighmy's shop was undertaken and accomplished by J.D. Brinkerhoff and son. The stone weighs 8 tons in the rough and the work in getting it off the car was a task that required considerable ingenuity, but "Brink" was equal to it. John Graham invented a wagon for hauling this immense piece of granite and will, in all likelihood, have it patented and placed on exhibition at the next world's centennial. The wheels are made of logs about 15 inches in diameter. Oak bearings 6x8 inches were placed on them and these again were crossed with similar timbers--the whole making a wagon of formidable proportions. After the stone was placed on the wagon, two horses pulled it by the aid of block and tackle. It was the heaviest load ever taken off the cars at this place and hauled out of the railroad yard. "Brink" can move anything that is loose at both ends."
The May 14, 1896, edition of the Times carried an article about laying the cornerstone for the monument.
"The corner stone of the soldiers' monument was laid last Saturday, under the management of the Ellsworth Post. The exercises lasted about an hour and a half. Capt. Will P. Sparks made a few introductory remarks. Charles E. Phipps delivered the oration in which he did himself great credit. All present pronounced it an excellent address. After the address Mr. Ben Prugh sealed the tin box containing a copy of each of Worth County's newspapers, G.A.R. badge and a list containing the names of all members who donated to the monument fund. The monument will be in place according to contract and will be unveiled on Memorial Day, 1896. The June 4, 1896, Times carried a detailed story about the Memorial Day ceremonies. The festivities began with a parade in the morning beginning at the courthouse and going to the cemetery. It was estimated that there were 6,000 people at the event.
"The monument is of rustic pattern and represents a huge stump with branches lopped off from six to ten inches from the main body. The material is armodite and was shipped here from Bedford, Indiana. In the rough the monument squared 3 feet 3 inches and was 11 feet 5 inches high. The weight was 8 tones. After shaping it into the desired form it measured 10 feet and 5 inches in height and weighed 6 1/2 tons. The following symbols of war are cut in what is called relief work on the monument: On the east face, a musket, cartridge-box, belt, bayonet, and canteen hanging over the limb; on the south side, a potted callalily; on the west side, a poison-ivy vine; on the north side, a knapsack and blanket, with the United States flag draped over a limb. The following inscription adorns the east side where a piece of bark is peeled down to receive it: 'In memory of all comrades who sleep in unknown Graves. Ellsworth Post No. 12, G.A.R., and friends.'
The monument rests on a rock foundation put down into the ground deep enough not to be affected by freezing weather and will endure as long as the memory of the unknown dead shall be revered.
"To Dell Eighmy of this city belongs the credit of shaping the rough piece of armodite taken from the bosom of Mother Earth into a thing of lasting beauty. It is a masterpiece of workmanship, and we do not believe that a finer monument of its kind graces any cemetery in the state. When the short time in which the work was done is taken into account, completeness of the job is very short of marvelous. Dell Eighmy is more than a good workman--he is a genius in his line and has adaptability that would command admiration from the masters of the art. The monument is a credit to Dell Eighmy's genius, a noble tribute from the G.A.R. boys to the memory of their unknown dead comrades, and an exalted honor to our town."
Until I began working on this article in earnest, I did not realize the sheer magnitude of the memorial. I did not realize that a man using a hammer and a chisel had literally created such a work of art from a huge raw stone in less than a month's time. I have spent literally hours studying details of that fantastic work of art.
As you stand and look at the memorial, you can imagine some Civil War soldier coming to what shells had left of a tree and taking off his equipment to rest. If you study the memorial, you will find the details to be almost unbelieveable.
Had I realized the artistic and historic importance of the memorial when I was teaching some 20 years ago, every one of my students would have been taught about it.