Americans came to the custom much later, during and immediately after the Civil War. In the South, women's groups decorated the graves of Confederate soldiers even before the end of the war. This was not a official day and was held on different days in the different locations.
The club house at the race course where
Union officers were confined.
(Photo from the Library of Congress.)
At the very end of the Civil War, members of the U.S. Colored Troops, 1,000 recently feed slaves, and
white citizens gathered to create a new burial ground for 250 Union prisoners of war who had died at a camp near a Charleston, S.C. race track. On May 1, 1865, they came together to sing hymns and distribute flowers upon the new graves.
These activities might have been the inspiration for General John A. Logan, the head of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Union veterans' group, to declare in 1868, that May 30 should be a day of commemoration for the over half million soldiers lost in the conflict.
In 1870, Logan wrote a 1,000+ page tome titled, The National Memorial Day: a Record of Ceremonies Over the Graves of the Union Soldiers, May 29th and 30th, 1869. Pages 866-869 cover Medina's Celebration.
For over a century the unofficial holiday was called Decoration Day, as flowers and banners were used to decorate the graves. Logan himself preferred the term "Memorial Day." In 1964, the name was officially changed to Memorial Day and in 1968, the date was changed to the last Monday in May. It wasn't until 1971 that it became an official federal holiday.
As noted above, Medina has participated in the commemoration from the start. The 1869 holiday brought close to 3,000 people to the square of the small, sleepy, rural village.The G.A.R led the procession, followed by the ladies, arms full of wreaths and flowers, from the hall to the (Ole Town) cemetery. Soldiers that were buried elsewhere were remembered with wreaths that hung on a large cross in the center. On top of the cross a large circular wreath was placed to honor "him who had charity for all and malice toward none, the Nation's martyred president," Abraham Lincoln. The speeches were long and patriotic and somber.
|Excerpt from The Medina Gazette 4 June 1869 article that described|
Medina's first Memorial Day.
The following year, no Decoration Day or Memorial Day was planned, as Medina was still recovering from the fire that devastated the square in April of that year. However...
|Medina Gazette 3 June 1870, p.3.|
|Medina Memorial Day Parade circa 1880's|
Photo sold on Pinterest
|Photo from the 1880's, possibly 1888 when the Soldier's Monument was erected and dedicated.|
Friends of the Cemetery newsletter May 2006
|This photo from 1887 shows part of the Memorial Day festivities. Until at least 1931, part of the schedule was always|
conducted in the Park before heading over to the cemetery.
Photo owner Melanie Robinson.
|1889 photo from Bob Hyde's Beyond the Storefront web site.|
|Memorial Day Parade 1890, from Friends of the Cemetery newsletter, May 2013.|
Photo provided by David Kellogg.
|The Memorial Day procession entering the gates of Spring Grove Cemetery, circa 1892.|
Friends of the Cemetery newsletter, May 2004.
|This undated photo shows the parade on the south side of the Park, circa 1897-1906.|
Friends of the Cemetery newsletter, May 2015.
|Also, circa 1897-1906. Dan Wells died in 1916.|
Note the dirt street and compare it to the street in the next photo dated, 1907.
|This photo is clearly dated May 30 1907 and features the band leading the procession.|
Note the brick paved street.
|The plans for the 1917 Memorial Day Parade were laid out right below|
a picture of four Medina "doughboys" on their way to fight in World War I.
|Horses led the parade in the 1938 Memorial Day Parade.|
|Miss Ella Canavan escorts her students in this 1945 Memorial Day photo.|
Friends of the Cemetery newsletter, May 2012.
|Medina Gazette 4 June 1946|
Twenty years later, American was engaged in another war and the ceremony again was very poignant.
|Medina Gazette, 31 May 1968, page 1.|
|Medina Gazette, 31 May 1968, page 1.|
|The U.S. Marine truck often features a re-enactment of the flag raising|
on Iwo Jima as in this photo from the May 1987 Memorial Day Parade.
|While this post has focused on the city of Medina's commemorations for brevity, every village and town in|
the county hosts Memorial Day Celebrations, as evidenced in the photos from this 30 May 2017 Medina
|Memorial Day Parade 2012|
- Maranzani, Barbara, "8 things You May Not Know About Memorial Day", History, http://www.history.com/news/8-things-you-may-not-know-about-memorial-day , A&E Television Network, accessed 8 May 2019.
- Kerr, Amanda, "Memorial Day Uncovered; Charleston's 'Martyrs of the Race Course'", The College Today, College of Charleston, 29 May 2017, accessed 10 May 2019.
- Logan, John L. Gen., The National Memorial Day: a Record of Ceremonies Over the Graves of the Union Soldiers, May 29th and 30th, 1869, Washington, D.C. , 1870.
- "Decoration Day", Medina Gazette, 4 June 1869, page 4.
- "Decoration Day", Medina Gazette, 3 June 1870, page 3.
- "In Memoriam" , Medina Gazette, 6 June 1884, page 4.
- "Memorial Day Celebration to be Medina's Greatest", Medina Sentinel, 25 May 1917.
- Medina Gazette, 3 June 1938, page 1.
- Medina Gazette, 31 May 1968, page 1.
- Medina Gazette, 26 May 1987, page 1.
- Medina Gazette, 30 May 2017, page 1.
- Beyond the Storefront web site, http://www.medinasquare.org/about-the-project, accessed 8 May 2019.
- Friends of the Cemetery Newsletter, May 2004.
- Friends of the Cemetery Newsletter, May 2007.
- Friends of the Cemetery Newsletter, May 2009.
- Friends of the Cemetery Newsletter, May 2012.
- Friends of the Cemetery Newsletter, May 2013.
- Friends of the Cemetery Newsletter, May 2015.