First observance of Memorial Day in Falls City remembered

The first observance of Memorial Day in Falls City was held June 3, l869, and  the following account appeared in the Falls City Journal:

Last Sabbath, the 30th, was observed throughout the land by decorating the graves of deceased (Civil War) soldiers with flowers. The beautiful Sabbath morning was illuminated by the presence of the glorious sun, as he approached the zenith and shone brilliantly upon the graves of five hundred thousand Heroic Defenders who rest beneath the sod of their country.

Programs Rained Out

The Memorial Day programs at the Rulo Cemetery and Steele Cemetery were canceled because of the adverse weather conditions—deluges of rain. Both programs were put together, as they have been for many years, by Larry Clancy.
Dr. Chick James, a retired Army colonel and Vietnam War veteran, was to have spoken at Rulo and Brian Daake, of Dorr & Clark Funeral Home, was to have been the speaker at Steele. A feature story by Journal Editor Jason Schock on Dr. James’ war experience will appear in next week’s paper. It’s been 40 years since U.S. forces withdrew from Vietnam.

Early in the morning the surviving soldiers of Falls City and vicinity assembled on the court house square and formed in line under charge of Capt. Gust R. Summers. Each soldier was presented with garlands by the ladies, while crepe encircled each left arm. The company was marched down the street in front of the Journal office, where it was joined by the entire M. E. school and citizens of the town and country. The procession then moved off to the cemetery west of town where a few Veteran graves were then strewn with flowers after which an able and sympathetic address was made by R. A. Fulton Esq.

The company then returned to the M. E. church which with galleries was filled, where services were opened by solemn anthems of the choir and an able and feeling prayer by Rev. Isaac Martin. Rev. M. Pritchard then delivered an appropriate sermon for the occasion from the text, “How are the mighty fallen in the midst  of battle.” The address was full of sympathy for the mothers and sisters, the widows and the orphans whose nearest and dearest friends had fallen in defense of their country. It also referred to the cause for which they died and to the mission of the many survivors.

At the close of these services the Soldiers and entire congregation retired to the courthouse square and assembled around the decorated monument erected to the memory of the fallen comrades of Co’s G and L, 2nd Neb. Cav. Here services were conducted by Rev. Thomas Betts, Rector of the Episcopal church. At the close of these services an oration was delivered by J . J. Marvin, Esq. prepared for the occasion. The oration was able and eloquent, while the careful delivery and touching appeals of the speaker showed upon the countenances of those assembled around him that they were in sympathy of the occasion, while the soldiers, in line, were refreshed in memory of the days of the great rebellion when their fallen comrades stood at their sides, but now they were called to join in Holy Consecration of the day, by paying tribute to the remains of their fallen comrades and noble dead.

A poem prepared by a worthy soldier present was also read by Mr. Marvin, after which the ceremonies were concluded by the Benediction of Rev. Betts.

This is a day that will never be forgotten and the sacred remains of our fallen soldiers will remain unsullied under the protection of a grateful people and free government.

Story researched by Bill Rowan, historian for the Richardson County Historical Society.

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