May 25, 2018
This is “Our Past Is Present” from the Geary County Historical Society.
Although the practice of decorating the graves of fallen soldiers really began the spring before the end of the Civil War, the observance of a Memorial or Decoration Day did not take place in Junction City until 1883.
On April 30, 1883, a general order was issued through the state headquarters of the G.A.R. urging all local posts to observe Memorial Day. It was reported in the June 2, 1883 “Union” newspaper that on “Sunday evening the Opera House was packed to listen to Dr. Reynolds who delivered a patriot sermon.
On Wednesday, which was Memorial Day, the crowd in town was large and equal to a circus day. The services began at Centennial Hall and 500 people sat in their wagons under the sun for two solid hours listening to speeches.
The procession to the cemetery was a mile long. The 9th Cavalry Band played music on the march and afterward gave an open air concert from the balcony of the Bartell Hotel. We believe this was the first observance of Decoration (or Memorial) Day.
In 1919, Memorial Day took on increased significance as names of Geary County soldiers and sailors who had fallen during WWI were now a part of the honor roll. In 1945 the toll of WW II brought new meaning to the solemn and patriotic occasion.
There will be Memorial Day services in Junction City and at Fort Riley this year. We hope you will take time to attend and show your support for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we might enjoy the freedom and quality of life we have in our country.
And… thanks for reading today to “Our Past Is Present” from the Geary County Historical Society.