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8. Memorial Day traditions have evolved over the years.
Despite the increasing celebration of the holiday as a summer rite of passage, there are some formal rituals still on the books: The American flag should be hung at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day, then raised to the top of the staff. And since 2000, when the U.S. Congress passed legislation, all Americans are encouraged to pause for a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time. The federal government has also used the holiday to honor non-veterans—the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day 1922. And, while its origins have little to do with fallen soldiers, the Indianapolis 500 has certainly become a Memorial Day tradition of its own–this year marks the 102nd time the race will be run to coincide with the holiday.
6. It was a long road from Decoration Day to an official Memorial Day.
Although the term Memorial Day was used beginning in the 1880s, the holiday was officially known as Decoration Day for more than a century, when it was changed by federal law. Four years later, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 finally went into effect, moving Memorial Day from its traditional observance on May 30 (regardless of the day of the week), to a set day—the last Monday in May. The move has not been without controversy, though. Veterans groups, concerned that more Americans associate the holiday with first long weekend of the summer and not its intended purpose to honor the nation’s war dead, continue to lobby for a return to the May 30 observances. For more than 20 years, their cause was championed by Hawaiian Senator—and decorated World War II veteran—Daniel Inouye, who until his 2012 death reintroduced legislation in support of the change at the start of every Congressional term.
7. More than 20 towns claim to be the holiday’s “birthplace”—but only one has federal recognition.
For almost as long as there’s been a holiday, there’s been a rivalry about who celebrated it first. Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, bases its claim on an 1864 gathering of women to mourn those recently killed at Gettysburg. In Carbondale, Illinois, they’re certain that they were first, thanks to an 1866 parade led, in part, by John Logan who two years later would lead the charge for an official holiday. There are even two dueling Columbus challengers (one in Mississippi, the other in Georgia) who have battled it out for Memorial Day supremacy for decades. Only one town, however, has received the official seal of approval from the U.S. government. In 1966, 100 years after the town of Waterloo, New York, shuttered its businesses and took to the streets for the first of many continuous, community-wide celebrations, President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation, recently passed by the U.S. Congress, declaring the tiny upstate village the “official” birthplace of Memorial Day.
4. Logan probably adapted the idea from earlier events in the South. Even before the war ended, women’s groups across much of the South were gathering informally to decorate the graves of Confederate dead. In April 1886, the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia resolved to commemorate the fallen once a year—a decision that seems to have influenced John Logan to follow suit, according to his own wife. However, southern commemorations were rarely held on one standard day, with observations differing by state and spread out across much of the spring and early summer. It’s a tradition that continues today: Nine southern states officially recognize a Confederate Memorial Day, with events held on Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ birthday, the day on which General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was killed, or to commemorate other symbolic events. Read more…
2. The holiday’s “founder” had a long and distinguished career. In May 1868, General John A. Logan, the commander-in-chief of the Union veterans’ group known as the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a decree that May 30 should become a nationwide day of commemoration for the more than 620,000 soldiers killed in the recently ended Civil War. On Decoration Day, as Logan dubbed it, Americans should lay flowers and decorate the graves of the war dead “whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” According to legend, Logan chose May 30 because it was a rare day that didn’t fall on the anniversary of a Civil War battle, though some historians believe the date was selected to ensure that flowers across the country would be in full bloom. After the war Logan, who had served as a U.S. congressman before resigning to rejoin the army, returned to his political career, eventually serving in both the House and Senate and was the unsuccessful Republican candidate for vice president in 1884. When he died two years later, Logan’s body laid in state in the rotunda of the United States Capitol, making him one of just 33 people to have received the honor. Today, Washington, D.C.’s Logan Circle and several townships across the country are named in honor of this champion of veterans and those killed in battle.
A massive wagon train, made up of 1,000 settlers and 1,000 head of cattle, sets off down the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri. Known as the “Great Emigration,” the expedition came two years after the first modest party of settlers made the long, overland journey to Oregon.
Follow us over the Memorial Holidays to learn 8 things you may not have known about Memorial Day….
For nearly 150 years, Americans have gathered in late spring to honor the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in service to their country. What began with dozens of informal commemorations of those killed in the Civil War has grown to become one of the nation’s most solemn and hallowed holidays. From its earliest incarnation as “Decoration Day” to its modern-day observances, check out some surprising facts about the history of Memorial Day.
Hello Fellow Historians ,
Wakulla county Historical Society is developing a collection of historic photos on Pinterest. Visit our site and send us any photos to Facebook of local history or anything you might consider of value to add to our collection. Hope to see your ideas soon! Cathy Frank
Drop by the Museum today for our Open House to see a fantastic exhibit. Read more about it…
By Sandra Vidak
We are pleased to officially open the Forbes Purchase-Hartfield Survey exhibit in the Betty Oaks Green Room at the Museum.
Did you know that WCHS now has published a quarterly entitled “Wakulla County Historical Society, Historic News in Review”. To get a copy, call the museum at 926-1110. There is no charge to members, non-members will pay a copy fee.
Good News, the books are now in at the Museum. Come get yours!
THE GREENS AND CORNBREAD OF WAKULLA COUNTY: Historical Stories Told by the People
This delightful book is a collection of stories depicting the history of Wakulla County. The stories were written and submitted by different authors and families. The text includes a wide variety of topics and time periods. Many of the stories contain photos that were included by the author.
The subject matter is divided into several categories that include:
The first chapter on The Heritage Village Project describes the Historical Society’s vision of this project for the people of the county. It presents photos of homes that are actively being preserved and some history of each home is given to illustrate why it should be saved.
The reader can find tales that describe Wakulla County as families learned to live in the wilds of northwest Florida, as well as learn information about some family genealogies. Some stories chronicle the individual life of a unique person in the history of the county.
Wakulla County’s development has always been influenced by the ocean and the many rivers, streams, and other bodies of water found there in abundance. The water stories chapter shows how the people used these bodies of water to support their families in addition to anecdotal accounts about unique events that occurred. Of course, this section would not be complete without a few fishing tales.
The reader can also find information about some of the unique sites and landmarks in Wakulla County, including Wakulla Springs and other historical places of significance.
Overall this book is a wonderful mixture of the old, the new, and the hopes for the future of Wakulla County and the people.
Place Your Order Today! Click here for order blank…
©”Wakulla County” Art work by Allison Green, JoAnn Palmer, and Cathy Frank
Did you know that Wakulla Historical Society’s website has many important historic projects posted. Have you been trying to find a relative in the local cemeteries? Take a look at our “Cemeteries” link.
Thank you to John E. Roberts and his family for the work they have put into this project.
Cal Jamison, Museum Director, would like to invite you to visit the museum in July when we have our new exhibits in place. They will consist of:
Quilts listed in order of winners 1st, 2nd, and 3rd followed by the Opportunity Quilt (drawing June 30th) All others listed randomly – thank you to all the quilters for the beautiful quilts!
The Wakulla County Historical Society announces The Wakulla Quilters Guild “People’s Choice Award” winners: 1st Place – Wynter Harvey “Just Look At The Cat’s in My Garden”; 2nd Place – Jill Harvey “Stepping Stones”, and 3rd Place Anna Lopez “Running Buffalos”. This award was the result of the visitors that came to see the quilts. Each person picked their favorite quilt and cast a vote.
Congratulations to each person that participated! Each quilt was a work of art.
You will not want to miss all the beautiful quilts on display created by the Quilters Guild of Wakulla County. Various styles of quilts including native American designs will continue to be displayed through June 30th. The silent auction and the drawing for an “Opportunity Quilt” will be held on the 30th. Along with this we will have an antique model car display provided by Jim Calhoun and a collection of earlier dish wares provided by Terri Gerrell.
Welcome to a site developed by Wakulla County Historical Society for history lovers like you. You can share your history with us. Watch for all the latest happenings.
Don’t forget that our local Musuem and Archives are opened Thursday, Friday, 10:00 – 4:00 p.m. and Sat. from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Check out the gift shop and the genealogy research suite located at 24 High Drive, Crawfordville, FL, in the Courthouse Square. It is one of Wakulla’s greatest treasures. Call 850-926-1110.
By Betty Green
You don’t want to miss the last meeting for the year: May 8, 7PM, Wakulla County Public Library.
The program, to be presented by Florida Folk Festival performers, Joan and Amy Alderman from Blountstown, the home of the wonderful Panhandle Pioneer ettlement. Often funny, occasionally unexpected, always entertaining, these colorful ladies proudly show off their Florida Panhandle roots with their collection of tales and tunes. Called “Journey Stories,” these are tales of how we, and our ancestors, came to America, and are a central element of our personal heritage. From Native Americans to new American citizens and regardless of ethnic or racial background, everyone has a story to tell.
Visit the Wakulla Museum and Archives to see our first pre-historic exhibit. Open Thursday, Friday 10 – 4 and Sat. 10 – 2 and by appointment 850-926-1110.
In Washington, D.C., humanitarians Clara Barton and Adolphus Solomons found the American National Red Cross, an organization established to provide humanitarian aid to victims of wars and natural disasters in congruence with the International Red Cross.
Barton, born in Massachusetts in 1821, worked with the sick and wounded during the American Civil War and became known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” for her tireless dedication. In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln commissioned her to search for lost prisoners of war, and with the extensive records she had compiled during the war she succeeded in identifying thousands of the Union dead at the Andersonville prisoner-of-war camp. Read more…
On this day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signs the Homestead Act, which opens government-owned land to small family farmers (“homesteaders”). The act gave “any person” who was the head of a family 160 acres to try his hand at farming for five years. The individual had to be at least 21 years old and was required to build a house on the property. Farmers were also offered an alternative to the five-year homesteading plan. They could opt to buy the 160 acres after only 6 months at the reasonable rate of $1.25 an acre. Many homesteaders could not handle the hardships of frontier life and gave up before completing five years of farming. If a homesteader quit or failed to make a go of farming, his or her land reverted back to the government and was offered to the public again. Ultimately, these lands often ended up as government property or in the hands of land speculators. If, after five years, the farmer could prove his (or her) homestead successful, then he paid an $18 filing fee for a “proved” certificate and received a deed to the land.