“Memorial Day in 1895”

Carroll County Times article for 28 May 1995

By Jay A. Graybeal

One of Carroll County’s longest traditions is the annual Memorial Day Parade begun by 16 year old Mary B. Shellman in 1868. Originally known as Decoration Day, this community event has been held each year. A century ago the June 1, 1895 issue of the Westminster American Sentinel carried a lengthy description of the event. At that time the event was organized by the local Grand Army of the Republic post with assistance from the Patriotic Order of the Sons of America and the Junior Order United American Mechanics, three organizations that ceased to exist in this century.

Memorial Day was fittingly observed in this city. The exercises of the occasion were in charge of Burns Post, G. A. R., and were largely attended by soldiers and citizens. At one o’clock P.M., the Post formed at their place of meeting and headed by Westminster Drum Corps, marched to P.O.S. of A. hall, in the Orndorff building, from which they escorted the councils of the Jr. O.U.A.M. of Westminster and New Windsor to Odd Fellows’ Hall, where the indoor exercises were held. The hall was densely crowded with people, many persons standing during the two hours consumed in the rendition of the program, which was announced by Commander Jas. S. Baer.The services were opened with singing, by a select choir composed as follows: Organist, Miss Annie E. Shriver; cornetist, Mr. Arthur Stonesifer; sopranos, Mrs. Jesse Higgins, Misses Alice Bixler, Bessie Herr, Testie Buckingham, Cerulia Dumm; altos, Misses Mary B. Shellman, Bettie Shriver, Mollie Shriver; first bass, Messrs. W. R. Revelle, W. Mather; second bass, Prof. H. G. Watson, A. B. Crockett, G. H. Revelle; first tenor, A. G. Woodfield, J. C. Freeney; second Tenor, E. J. Nelson. During the Exercises several fine selections were beautifully rendered by the choir, Mrs. Higgins sang a solo, “Salute the Flag,” with fine effect, and the College Glee Club, which furnished the male voices for the choir, sang a beautiful selection in their usual admirable style. Mr. Edwin H. Manning recited “An Incident of the War” in an earnest and effective manner, and Miss Janie B. Thomas touched all hearts with her rendition of the late Harry J. Shellman’s poem, “Comrades.”

The orator of the occasion was Dr. Wm. H. Purnell, president of New Windsor College, who was introduced by his life-long friend, the editor of the SENTINEL, in a few complimentary remarks which but faintly portrayed his worth. Dr. Purnell delivered an exceedingly interesting and well timed address, in which he discussed, briefly, the question of secession, forcibly pointing out its fallacy. He paid a glowing tribute to the valor of the soldiery and the generalship of their commanders, and justly accorded the honor due in this respect to the men who fought against the Union, of which all are now citizens. He spoke briefly of his personal knowledge of the devoted loyalty of that true patriot, the late Governor Thomas Holiday Hicks, whose services in preserving Maryland from secession and its fearful consequences are not appreciated as they should be.

Dr. Purnett’s address received marked attention and was heartily enjoyed by the audience. After the choir sang the Star-Spangled Banner, all united in the ever appropriate doxology and the exercises, which had been opened with prayer by Rev. Joel Brown, were closed with the benediction by Rev. Dr. James W. Reese.

A procession was then formed, consisting of about 100 school children, boys and girls, and the “Boys Meeting,” led by Ray Smith and Earl Baumgartner, as drummers, and followed by the Westminster Drums Corps, Burns Post and the orders heretofore mentioned. When the procession arrived at the cemetery gate the children opened ranks and saluted the members of the post, as they passed through, with flowers. They then passed in review before the post and halting, were introduced to the G.A. R., by Miss Mary B. Shellman in a beautiful little speech, to which Commander Baer replied. They then sang, “America,” saluted the flag and gave the pledge: “We pledge our heads and our hearts to our country-one country, one language, one flag.”

The decoration of the graves of deceased soldiers with flowers, in accordance with the ritual of the G. A. R., was then performed and the choir sang “Sleep, O, Sleep.” At the conclusion of the exercises at Westminster Cemetery the post marched to the Episcopal and Catholic Cemeteries and decorated the graves of their comrades interred therein.

The part borne by the children in the event deserves more than the brief notice we have given it, but time and space both prevent elaboration. It is proper to say, however, that the school children were instructed in their parts by Mr. Simon P. Weaver and Miss Carrie Mourer, and the “Boys’ Meeting” by Miss Lizzie Herr.

Photo caption: Members of Burns Post No. 13, Grand Army of the Republic, Westminster, Md., in 1897. The Westminster post of the G.A.R. was organized in 1880 and coordinated the Memorial Day Parade until the founding of American Legion Post 31 after World War I. Historical Society of Carroll County Collection, J. Leland Jordan Collection.