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Grand Army of the Republic

Founded in Decatur, Illinois on April 6, 1866 by Benjamin F. Stephenson, who had served a two-year enlistment period as surgeon of the Fourteenth Illinois Infantry during the Civil War. Membership was limited to honorably discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps or the Revenue Cutter Service who had served between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865.

The first post, numbering twelve members, was organized and chartered in Decatur, Illinois, on April 6, 1866. By July 12, 1866, when a state convention was held to form the Department of Illinois, thirty-nine posts had been chartered. Interest spread rapidly to adjoining states. Ten states and the District of Columbia were represented at the first national encampment held at Indianapolis on November 20, 1866.

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) quickly became the preeminent veterans' organization formed at the close of the Civil War. Membership reached its peak in 1890, when over 400,000 members were reported. By then the GAR had well over seven thousand posts, ranging in size from fewer than two dozen members in small towns, to more than a thousand in some cities. Almost every prominent veteran was enrolled, including five presidents: Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Harrison, and McKinley.

The GAR's principal legacy to the nation, however, is the annual observance of May 30 as Decoration Day, or more recently, Memorial Day. General John A. Logan, Commander-in-Chief of the GAR, requested members of all posts to decorate the graves of their fallen comrades with flowers on May 30, 1868. This idea came from his wife, who had seen Confederate graves decorated by Southern women in Virginia. By the next year the observance became well established. Members of local posts in communities throughout the nation visited veterans' graves and decorated them with flowers, and honored the dead with eulogies. The pattern thus set is still followed to the present day. It was only after the first World War, when the aged veterans could no longer conduct observances, that the Civil War character of Decoration Day was replaced by ceremonies for the more recent war dead.

Source: The National Tribune, January 18, 1900.
Transcribed for Genealogy Trails by: Diane Lamoureux Ciba

Mrs. Julia P. Shade, National President, has appointed the following National Committee on Patriotic Teaching; Mrs. Mary E. Reynolds, Superior, Wis.; Josephine C. Crane, Central Village, Conn.; Hattie B. Knolenberg, St. Louis, Mo.; Sarah A. Meteald, San Francisco, Cal.
The resignation of Flora M. Davey, Past National President, as National Inspector has been tendered and accepted, and Mrs. Julia E.F. Lobdel, Minneapolis, appointed to fill the vacancy.
Mrs. Della Rawling, Department President of Kansas, has had the honor of instituting three strong Circles - Columbia Circle, 91, Howard, Kan.; Sunflower Circle, 92, Geanette, Kan.; Quenemo Circle, 93, Quenemo, Kan.
Capt. J.V. Wren Circle, 135, Plymouth, Pa., was recently instituted by Mrs. Cassie Reach, of Scranton, Pa.
Capt. John J. Belstering Circle, 136, Philadelphia, Pa., has been instituted by Dr. Julia P. Shade, National President.
Gen. U.S. Grant Circle, or Mobile, Ala., organized by Past national President Agnes J. Winslow, has been instituted by Commander Walter Brazier.
Abraham Lincoln Circle, Minneapolis, Minn., cleared $30 on a turkey dinner held Thanksgiving Day.
Col. Shaw Circle, Minneapolis, Minn., entertained the Union of Circles at the home of Mrs. Lucas one afternoon recently. The chief business of the meeting was the annual election of officers, which resulted as follows: Pres., Jennie Varney; V.P. Jane Trowbridge; Treas., Sadie Sample; Chap., Catherine Hoyt; Sec., Minnie McAllister; Delegates to Woman's Council, Zoe Clark; Alternate, Maude Williams; Press Correspondent, Edythe Clark. After the officers were elected a quilt made by Grandma Farnsworth was raffled, the proceeds going to the Ladies of the G.A.R. at Anoka. Mrs. Preston, of St. Louis, gave a number of fine readings, Col. Trowbridge an interesting address, this being followed by music and refreshments by Col Shaw Circle.
At a recent meeting of Admiral Farragut Circle, 37, Minneapolis, Minn., the comrades of the Circle presented the ladies with a beautiful five-foot silk flag. Admiral J.F. R. Foss, on behalf of the comrades of the Circle, made the presentation speech, and Sister Carrie B. Donald, President of the Circle, responded, thanking the comrades for their beautiful gift. Department President Helen M. Irish and Capt. Range, of the Naval Veteran Association, also spoke. The name-quilt, which the ladies had made, was drawn by Mrs. S.D. Orr, of Chicago.

"Only Seven G.A.R. Veterans Alive on Anniversary"
April 6, 1951
Chicago Tribune

Today is the 85th anniversary of the Grand Army of the Republic. There are only seven veterans living - none from Illinois.

Survivors are....
Douglas T. Story, 106 and William A. Magee, 104 - both of Los Angeles
Joseph Clovese, 106 - Pontiac, Mich.
James A. Hard, 109 - Rochester, N.Y.
Lansing A. Wilcox, 105, Cadott, Wis
Israel Broadsword, 104, Samuels, Ida
Albert Wooslon, 104 - Duluth, Minn

The group was formed April 6, 1866, in Decatur (Illinois) and by 1890 boasted 409,489 members. The annual banquet in commemoration of the founding will be held at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Hamilton hotel by approximately 400 sons and daughters of Civil War veterans from Illinois.



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