Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was once called, has been observed nationwide to commemorate the members of the U.S. Armed Forces who gave their lives in service to their country.
The practice began in 1868, only three years after the end of the Civil War, when General John A. Logan, then commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, designated May 30 as a day for decorating with flowers the graves of men who had fallen in the Civil War. The ceremonies were sponsored by the men of the G.A.R., a Union veterans group, until after World War I, when the old veterans urged the newly formed American Legion to take over the task of sponsoring programs on that important day. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and other veteran groups have also become sponsors.
In Lowell, soon after World War I, Burnham Post of the Grand Army of the Republic turned over their sponsorship of the Memorial Day Program to Lowell American Legion Post 101, which faithfully carried on the tradition of honoring their fallen buddies. Soon after World War II, the newly formed Lowell Veterans of Foreign Wars Post also began taking part in the ceremonies each year.
Lowell's last surviving Civil War veteran was John R. Taylor, who in 1940 was also Lake County's oldest native-born citizen. He celebrated his 97th birthday that year by telling stories about his boyhood home at Tinkerville, the early settlement which is now Creston.
John Randall Taylor was the son of Sylvester (1825-1909) and Lydia L. (O'dell) Taylor (1824-1893), born Mar. 12, 1943, at the time Lake County was six years old. He experienced the hardships and the adventures of the pioneers and early settlers of the area. [Note -- Although John Randall Taylor is not listed on the Three Creeks Monument, the following comes from the History of Lake County, Vol. XI,, page 198, published in 1934: "Enlisted men of Company G, 12th Cavalry, 127th Regiment, all from Lake County, showing name and rank, date of muster, and remarks. . . . Taylor, John, December 15, 1863, Mustered out May 18, 1865."]
He was nearly 30 years of age when he enlisted in the Indiana Volunteers at the time of the Civil War. He passed away in 1941, at the age of 98, at the home of his daughter, Lydia Pixley, on West Main St. in Lowell. His two sons were Hamlet and John A. Taylor, and his three daughters were Pixley, Maud Wheeler and Cora Schofield. Victor Taylor, a current Cedar Creek farmer, is a grandson of John R. Taylor.
In 1955 there were only four living veterans of the Civil War, one from the North and three from the South, the last of some two million men who fought in the war of 1861-1865.
The four veterans, the final survivors of the Blue and the Gray, were: (in 1955) Albert Woolson, 107, of Duluth, Minn. was the last of the Union veterans; Walter Williams, 108, of Franklin, Tx; William A. Lundy, 107, of Laurel Hills, Fla.; and John Salling, 109 years, of Slant, Va.
These last remaining veterans of a bygone era were colorful characters, and each enjoyed to the full their final years. Lundy went hunting at the age of 106 and claimed that he could hear the chatter of a squirrel as well then as he could fifty years earlier. Salling, with bad eyesight and no teeth, claimed that his fine head of hair was due to his not washing it, ever! He said that he used only a fine comb.
Albert Woolson, the only one who saw combat, joined Company C of the First Minnesota Heavy Artillery on Oct. 10, 1864, at the age of 17, and went on to Chattanooga, where he was placed in charge of some captured Confederate cannons. In 1955 he was receiving a pension of $135.45 from the U.S. Government. On his 97th birthday, he tapped out a snappy roll on a snare drum, recited part of the 'Battle Hymn of the Republic,' and then proceeded to kiss all the ladies present.
In 1959 "General" John Salling, 112, one of the last two surviving veterans of the war betweent he states, passed away near Slant, Va., where he spent most of his life. He had been in good health until his 110th birthday.
The last survivor of the Civil War was Walter W. Williams, still brave enough at 107 to take his first plane ride, who was 116 in 1959, bedridden and totally blind. He lived in Houston with his daughter and claimed correctly for many years that he would be the last one.
The last veterans of the North and the South were buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, where again this Memorial Day they will be remembered during ceremonies.
The Battle of Gettysburg will be re-enacted this year on the 125th anniversary of the actual battle, and many Lake County Re-enactors, including some who took part in the television movie "North and South," will journey to Pennsylvania to join 10,000 troops, several hundred cavalry and over two thousand civilians and 'sutlers' in costume. The event is scheduled for June 24, 25 and 26 and is expected to draw thousands of Civil War buffs and spectators from all parts of the United States. Many of the Re-enactors who marched in the Three Creeks Memorial Dedication Parade in Lowell on May 1 are planning to attend.
Some of the area men who lost their lives at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 were: Col. John Wheeler of Crown Point and George W. Edgerton, both of the 20th Indiana, Company B, and J. Richmond, also of Co. B. John F. Tarr of West Creek died at Washington, D.C., in 1862.
Many veterans and survivors organize each year to make sure those who gave their lives for their country will never be forgotten.
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