Monday, May 30, 2011

Decoration Day, May 30, 1870

Decoration Day was established by the Grand Army of the Republic on May 5, 1868, as a day set aside for decorating the graves of the war dead. For many years May 30 was the day on which Decoration Day was observed, later becoming known as Memorial Day, and celebrated on the last Monday in May. The May 31, 1870 issue of the Sandusky Register reported that May 30, 1870 was the first celebration of a national Memorial Day in Sandusky. At 2 p.m. the procession began, including the Great Western Band, the widows of soldiers riding in carriages, speakers of the day, and elected officials and committee members. Dozens of wagons, carriages, and citizens on foot also participated in the procession. Forming at Wayne Street, the procession went past Sandusky High School (now Adams Junior High) and traveled south on Columbus Avenue to Oakland Cemetery. Several Civil War veterans who had been injured in the war marched the entire distance.

On the platform with the speakers of the day were the Honorable Walter F. Stone, Mayor Philander Gregg, Ferdinand Geiersdorf, Dr. A. H. Agard, C.J. Parsons and the Honorable Oran Follett. Chaplain L. Allinger and Rev. George B. Sturgess said prayers. Speakers for the day included F. W. Cogswell, J.M. Root, Rev. Babcock, Rev. W.W. Farr, General John G. Mitchell and Judge A.W. Hendry. The Glee Club sang hymns and “America,” accompanied by the Great Western Band. The closing benediction was given by Rev. H. N. Burton. While the addresses were being given, several ladies marked the graves of over eighty soldiers with small flags. The Sandusky Register articled concluded by stating that the Decoration Day “was in all its features a worthy demonstration, impressive, and patriotic.”

Oran Follett was one of the men on the platform along with the Decoration Day speakers in 1870. You can tour his former home in Sandusky, now the Follett House Museum, and see a variety of photographs and artifacts from Sandusky and Erie County.

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