The Beginnings of Memorial Day

Even while Sherman's troops were still occupying Kingston, the ladies of the community requested permission to decorate the graves of the fallen soldiers buried in Kingston City Cemetery. The first Decoration Day, or Memorial Day, was observed in Kingston in late April 1865, and has been a continuous observance here since that day, the only such record held by any community in this nation.

Approximately 25 places have been named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, many of them in the South where most of the war dead were buried. Following the war many other communities tried to lay claim to the idea - particularly Columbus, MS, but the facts of history show that the ladies of Kingston were first.

Both Macon and Columbus, Ga., claim the title, as well as Richmond, Va. A stone in a Carbondale, Ill., cemetery carries the statement that the first Decoration Day ceremony took place there on April 29, 1866. Carbondale was the wartime home of Gen. Logan. In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War.

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

If you're interested in researching this further, there is a comprehensive article on Note that NONE who make the claim predate Kingston, and NONE can lay claim to never missing a Memorial Service in more than 150 years.