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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The "Boalsburg, PA - The Birthplace of Memorial Day: Part II" Story

Sign leading into the village of Boalsburg.
It was an ordinary day.  Heading back in time for a few hours during a visit to a small village known as Boalsburg, Pennsyl- vania.  Carol and I, along with friends Jerry and Just Sue, just turned off PA  RT322 onto Church Road next to the Old Boalsburg Cemetery.  As we made the turn we passed the large sign that proclaims "An American Village On The National Historic Register".  Directly under this proclamation states the simple fact: Birthplace Of Memorial Day.  
Sculpture titled "The Birthplace of Memorial Day",
Boalsburg, PA - October 1864, Lorann Jacobs, Sculptor.
This is at the entrance into the old Boalsburg Cemetery.
Yep, Memorial Day began one early Fall day in 1864 when Emma Hunter and her friend, Sophia Keller, picked flowers and headed to the old cemetery to place them on the grave of Emma's father, Reuben Hunter.  Dr. Reuben Hunter was a young Boalsburg doctor when the Civil War broke out.  He decided to volunteer for the North and was assigned to a hospital in Baltimore.  While there he attended to the wounded soldiers as well as those who had contracted Yellow Fever while fighting in the southern swamplands.  
The tombstones of Dr. Reuben Hunter and his family.
He became ill and died of Yellow Fever and his body was returned to Boalsburg where he was buried in the old Boalsburg Cemetery.  Along the way Emma and Sophie met Mrs. Elizabeth Myers whose son, Amos, had been killed on the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg.  His remains also were buried in the Boalsburg Cemetery.  
Tombstones of Mr. Amos Myers and family.
The two girls gave Mrs. Myers some of their flowers and the three of them placed the flowers on the two graves.  At that time they decided to meet the following year with flowers for all who had died in the Civil War.  Within a short time the word had spread of the trip to the cemetery and the following year most of the villagers joined them at that time to decorate the graves with flowers.  From that day forward, Memorial Day had been born.  Every year after, the people of Boalsburg met on the Diamond (village square) where they were led by the village band the couple of blocks to the old Boalsburg Cemetery to lay flowers on the graves of all dead soldiers.  
The corner of the Memorial behind
the Zion Lutheran Church can be seen
to the right in this photograph.
Exactly what year Memorial Day was changed to the Spring, I could not determine.  In 1974 the Community Day festival began to celebrate those who gave of themsleves while serving in the Armed Forces.  Today the celebration draws over 25,000 to the Memorial Day daytime festival and the traditional evening service in the cemetery next to the life-sized sculpture of the three ladies who began the entire event over 150 years ago.  Today we paid homage while standing in front of the bronze statues and then making a visit to the gravesites of Dr. Hunter and Mr. Myers.  We also walked the hundred yards to the Boalsburg Zion Lutheran Church to view the Memorial to the men who gave their lives during World I and II as well as other wars our country has fought for freedom.  The trip to the cemetery was moving as well as interesting.  Jerry and Sue visit Boalsburg every Memorial Day for the town festivities.  Some year Carol and I will make the trip with them to see just how inspiring a day in the Birthplace of Memorial Day can be.  It was another day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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