… not there.
It all began with a lovely young teen-age girl named Emma Hunter and her friend Sophie Keller on a pleasant Sunday in October, 1864. The girls gathered some garden flowers to place them on the grave of her father, Dr. Reuben Hunter, a surgeon in the Union Army. That very same day an older woman, Mrs. Elizabeth Meyer, chose to scatter flowers on the grave of her son Amos, who was a private in the Battle at Gettysburg.
This is some of the text found on the website Boalsburg Heritage Museum … not far from here in Pennsylvania.
Yes, I know if you look up Memorial Day origins on Google, or in Wikipedia, you will see the date as far different, and that it officially was recognized by LBJ as starting in New York.
A claim was made in 1906 that the first Civil War soldier’s grave ever decorated was in Warrenton, Virginia on June 3, 1861, implying the first Memorial Day occurred there. There is authentic documentation that women in Savannah, Georgia decorated soldiers’ graves in 1862. In 1863, the cemetery dedication at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was a ceremony of commemoration at the graves of dead soldiers. Local historians in Boalsburg, PA, claim that ladies there decorated soldiers’ graves on July 4, 1864. As a result, Boalsburg promotes itself as the birthplace of Memorial Day.
Warrenton, Virginia? I think I have a cousin who lives there. But I digress.
Recently I went to Boalsburg in search of some Civil War real names. The whole idea was to get a name that I could use in the stories I am writing about young people in the Civil War. You know … lend authenticity to the whole thing.
And sure enough I found a great name among the headstones. Dr. Reuben Hunter. Good dates, good name, bingo.
Until I walked further and saw … the same name on the big monument of women placing flowers on a grave. The grave of Dr. Reuben Hunter. Oh well.
I didn’t want a name that everyone knew, so I went looking further into the cemetery. And so many of the headstones had markers from wars going all the way back to the Revolutionary War.
And it was humbling. All these people … men, mostly … who had given their lives in wars … or who had fought in wars … for us.
And suddenly the cool day in the quiet cemetery took on a new meaning … a new sense … of dedication, of devotion, and of gratitude. I took a few more shots of the headstones.
I’m not sure which, if any, of the names I might use in any story I might write now or in the future. But one thing is certain.
I am grateful for each and every one of them.