The origins of the holiday celebrated on the last Monday in May go back to a time just after the Civil War. Until 1970, the holiday was observed on May 30.
Maj. Gen. John A. Logan was the second commander of the Grand Army of the Republic GAR an organization of Civil War veterans who had fought on the Union side. He encouraged GAR members to decorate the graves of fallen comrades on May 30. The first major celebration of Memorial Day was held at Arlington Cemetery in 1868, although some places had held their own memorials beginning in 1866.
Logan said, “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
At its heyday, the GAR comprised 519 posts. As the veterans grew old and died, posts would be disbanded when there were not enough members to maintain them. The last GAR member was Albert Woolson, who died in 1956.
Fort Donelson Post No. 236 was organized in Fort Dodge in 1883. This was also when the city began to observe Memorial Day.
In 1900, the Fort Donelson Post advocated for a monument in Oakland Cemetery that would be dedicated to unknown Civil War soldiers. A local sculptor, William Pollock, was commissioned to design and create the monument.
Pollock served in Co. I, 32nd Iowa Volunteer Infantry, out of Fort Dodge. He is buried in Oakland Cemetery.
April 13, 1900
Fort Dodge Messenger
Honor the Unknown Dead
“Commander Joe Donald of the local G.A.R. post is at the head of a movement to provide a suitable monument for the unknown soldiers of the Civil War now buried in Oakland Cemetery. For a number of years a large dry goods box has served the purpose of a monument and homage has been paid to it in lieu of something more appropriate. The movement was first inaugurated in the G.A.R. post, where the matter was thoroughly discussed and plans entered in to provide something more substantial.
“The sum of $100 has been raised by the members which is one-third of the required amount necessary for the project. The necessary stone has been purchased, and Thomas Pollock, the well-known sculptor, is at work on the monument and expects to have it completed by Decoration Day. Mr. Donald is now arranging to raise the balance of $200 necessary by having the school children of Webster County contribute the sum and due credit shall be given them by making them conspicuous in the exercises that shall dedicate it. He will ask each scholar to contribute 5 cents to the fund.
“A register will be kept of all those who contribute and their names published. The cause is a noble one and will no doubt meet with a liberal donation.”
Memorial Day events
A Memorial Day ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. May 27 at Veterans Memorial Park, located at 1386 National Ave. near Badger Lake.
A concert of patriotic music performed by the Karl King Municipal Band will start the service.
The band will perform several march selections composed by King, including ”Herald of Progress,” ”The Lone Crusader,” ”140th Infantry,” and ”True Blue.”
Other selections will include ”Amazing Grace,” ”Beautiful America,” ”When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” ”God of Our Fathers,” ”Tribute to America,” and ”A Patriotic Salute.” ”Salute to America’s Finest” will recognize all five branches of the military. There will also be a narrated salute to the troops entitled ”How Will You Remember a Soldier?”
Navy veteran Tommy Kramer, of Fort Dodge, will be the keynote speaker. He will seek to answer the question ”Was it worth it?”
Ray Crouse will be honored as the Veteran of the Year.
Rich Lennon, a retired Army colonel from Fort Dodge, will honor the surviving veterans of World War II still living in Webster County.
Due to the limited parking at Veterans Memorial Park, Dodger Area Rapid Transit buses will shuttle people from Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex to the park. The shuttle service will begin at 9 a.m.
If there is bad weather, the event will be moved to St. Edmond High School, 501 N. 22nd St.
Other Memorial Day observances
Duncombe — 9 a.m. May 27 at American Legion flag site
Lehigh — 11 a.m. May 27 at the west end of the bridge
Sac City — 10 a.m. May 27 at VFW Post on North Fifth Street
Webster City — 8:45 a.m. May 27 at the bridge on North Des Moines Street, ceremony for those lost at sea; 9:15 a.m. ceremony at Cass Center Cemetery; 10:25 a.m. parade starts; 11 a.m. ceremony at Graceland Cemetery. In case of bad weather or extreme heat, the event will be moved to the Webster City Middle School gym.