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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Decoration Day

Facsimile of US Flag
In the Rush family, I have observed that Decoration Day is practiced religiously. I don't know how it came to be such an important tradition in the life of this family, but it has been practiced every year by both David's grandparents and continuing the custom, his parents. 


 Right after I met David, I was invited to come down to meet his grandparents and to their Decoration Day commemoration picnic at the Rush Chapel Cemetery. I was unfamiliar with this ritual of eating together at a cemetery, because my immediate family did not observe it nor did any in my circle of friends. Most of our family members were scattered across Kansas and Oklahoma and we only saw them twice a year -- during Christmas and mid-summer holidays from school. Only after I had become a member of the Rush family, did I learn there had been a pioneer Methodist church on the spot where their picnic was held that had been torn down sometime in the 1960s. Family came from near and far to decorate the graves of their loved ones with flowers and it was almost a family reunion of sorts. Since the cemetery is located in hilly terrain between Mary's Home and Tuscumbia, Mo., when driving between all the parked cars on the downhill slope of the gravel road became somewhat of a problem, someone suggested moving the family reunion to Eldon where it has been held every year since then at the Air Park, however, decorating the graves is still practiced. 

Recently I learned about how Decoration Day came to be. It seems that on May 5, 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Commander-in-Chief, John A. Logan, Jr. of Illinois, by General Order No. 11, had assigned May 30, 1868, as a memorial day which was to be devoted to the strewing of flowers on the graves of deceased comrades who had died in the defense of the country during the Civil War. The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a national organization begun in Decatur, Illinois on April 6, 1866 for former Civil War Union soldiers and sailors who served between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865. It was organized to preserve brotherly feelings between veterans and to provide for those in need of assistance -- orphans, widows, and disabled servicemen.

Ironically, John A. Logan, Jr. was the son of Dr. John Logan, Sr. whom Logan county, Illinois was honorably named for as suggested by his friend, Abraham Lincoln. My third-great Grandfather, Elder Martin White, was the first elected representative of Logan and (Dane) Christian Counties in the Illinois State House of Representatives (1840-42) after both counties were divided from Sangamon County, IL. in 1839. The surveyor, friend of Lincoln's, John Calhoun, began a petition to have them split off.  

Decoration or Memorial Day has come to be a national holiday, not only for decorating soldier's graves but also for decorating the graves of family members who have passed on. To David's knowledge, there were no GAR members in the Rush or allied families, however there were several who fought on the Union side, namely Jacob Bittle, Granville Carrinder, Wm. S. Golden, Levi Morgan, Rufus B. Roberts, James M. Rush, John Wm. Rush, and Alexander Sullens. 

 More to Read:
1.)
How Rush Chapel Came to Be
2) The Photographic History of the Civil War: Armies & Leaders. Edited by Robert S. Lanier. Fairfax Press, New York, 1983.
3.)
Elder Martin White biography