Memorial Day Weather for "Founding" Towns

May 28, 2012; 7:35 PM
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A photograph of graves decorated with flowers and flag is courtesy of Craig Tuttle/Design Pics/Corbis.

Officially, Waterloo, N.Y., is the birthplace of Memorial Day, however, many towns in the U.S. claim the honor of being the first.

Boalsburg, Pa.

A chance encounter by two women mourning the loss of their loved ones in a local cemetery led the the towns first observance of Memorial Day, according to rootsweb.ancestry.com.

On a Sunday in October 1864, a teenage girl was putting flowers on the grave of her father who was a surgeon in the Union Army. Nearby, the mother of a fallen Union Army private was also placing flowers on her son's grave. The women exchanged their stories and both women decided to place some of the freshly picked flowers on the grave of each others relatives.

When it was time to leave, the women agreed to meet again on July 4, 1865 to place flowers on the graves of all soldiers who had no one to visit them. Word of their meeting spread throughout the area and on that July day, numerous members of the community joined the women in placing flowers and flags on all the graves.

"On Memorial Day, the weather in Boalsburg will be hot and humid. The high of 88 degrees F will be close to the record high temperature of 89 degrees F set in 1931. There is a chance for spotty afternoon or evening thunderstorms," said AccuWeather meteorologist Andy Mussoline.

Carbondale, Ill.

April 16, 1866, a group of Civil War veterans waiting on the steps of the Crab Orchard Christian Church watched as a widow and her children placed flowers on the unmarked grave of their loved one, according to loganmuseum.org. After the family left, the men decided to pick wildflowers and place them on the graves of other war veterans.

The war veterans planned a community-wide memorial service to be held at Carbondale's Woodlawn Cemetery on April 29, 1866. On the day of the service, 212 veterans arrived at the cemetery. A resident of Carbondale, Major General John A. Logan, was asked to be the keynote speaker.

Logan issued General Order No. 11. The order deemed May 30 as the annual day that the graves of soldiers who died to defend their country would be decorated with flowers and flags.

"It will be hot and humid in Carbondale with a high temperature of 92 degrees F. Spotty afternoon thunderstorms may dampen any Memorial Day events, " Mussoline said.

Richmond, Va.

Robert Willis Allen, author of Marching On! : John Brown's Ghost from the Civil War to Civil Rights, reconstructed an early Decoration Day (later known as Memorial Day) event from the memoir of Annie Pierpont. In her memoir, Pierpont wrote about the civil war and the early days of Reconstruction.

Mrs. Pierpont, one May day, noticed that while all the graves of the Confederate soldiers in the Hollywood Cemetery were decorated with blooming flowers, the graves of the Union soldiers were bare.

Pierpont decided to enlist the help of a Freedmen's school teacher to organize the school children to make floral decorations for the graves of the Union soldiers.

Together Pierpont, the teacher and the children gathered red, white and blue flowers and arranged them then solemnly placed them on the graves.

Mussoline said, "While it will be warm and humid with a high of 88 degrees F in Richmond, it should stay dry. Expect sun and clouds throughout the day."

Columbus and Macon, Ga.

On April 26, 1866, at Saint Luke Methodist Church in Columbus, Ga., under the direction of the Ladies' Memorial Association, the first Memorial day service was held, according to georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu. The purpose of the ceremony was to honor the soldiers of the Confederate Army. In a letter to the press, the Secretary of the Ladies' Memorial Association of Columbus proposed that all the southern states hold the Confederate memorial services on April 26 each year. The custom was adopted in the South and Columbus, Ga., continues to honor the Confederate soldiers on that day.

West of Columbus; Macon, Ga., also held a memorial service for the soldiers of the Confederate Army killed in service.

According to georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu, the Ladies' Memorial Association, 56 men and some children decorated the graves of the soldiers with flowers. The soldiers graves in both the Rose Hill Cemetery and the 7th and Cherry Street cemetery were all decorated.

Prior to the Memorial Day services, Jane Lumsden, the first president of the Ladies' Memorial Association, arranged to have all the soldier's remains moved to the two cemeteries from grave locations scattered at various hospitals in the county.

Each soldier's grave was marked with a wooden headboard that contained the names, company, regiment and date of death of deceased. A list of the names of 575 soldiers killed in the Civil War was published in the Macon Daily Telegraph April 26, 1866.

"Both Columbus and Macon will experience heavy showers and thunderstorms due to Subtropical Storm Beryl this Memorial Day, Mussoline said. The high temperature will be about 85 degrees F."

Columbus, Miss.

Columbus, Miss., celebrated their first Memorial Day on April 25, 1866, according to va.gov. (http://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/history.asp) While placing flowers on the graves of Confederate soldiers, a group of women noticed the bare graves of the Union soldiers. In an act of kindness, the women placed flowers on the graves of the Union soldiers also.

"It will be hot and humid in Columbus, Miss.," said Mussoline. "There will be sun and clouds throughout the day and a high temperature of about 91 degrees F, but it should remain dry."

Waterloo, N.Y.

President Lyndon Johnson and Congress declared Waterloo, N.Y., the official birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966, according to va.gov.

At a ceremony held May 5, 1866, business in the town of Waterloo were closed and flags were flown at half-staff. The town held the event to honor the local veterans who served in the Civil War.

"It will be hot in Waterloo with a daytime high of 90 degrees F. There will be sun and clouds throughout the day with a chance of an afternoon thunderstorm," Mussoline said.

After WWI, the day was expanded to include all soldiers killed while fighting in any American war.

Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress in 1971. At that time, it was decided that the official day to celebrate would be the last Monday in May.

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