Monday, May 25, 2015

Waterloo, NY: Birthplace of Memorial Day

Memorial Day
 Historical Marker and Monument
Waterloo, NY

N 42° 54.259 W 076° 52.021

Short Description: 

A New York State historical marker describing the history of Memorial Day is located on Rts. 5 and 20 in Waterloo, NY

Long Description:

An historical marker erected by the State Education Department is inscribed:

Historic New York

Memorial Day

On May 5, 1866, the residents of Waterloo held the first complete, community-wide observance of Memorial Day. They dedicated the entire day to honoring the Civil War dead in a solemn and patriotic manner. Throughout the village, flags, draped in mourning, flew at half mast. Ladies prepared wreaths and bouquets for each veteran's grave. Businesses closed, and veterans, civil organizations and townspeople marched to the strains of martial music to the village cemeteries. There, with reverent prayers and patriotic ceremonies, the tradition of Memorial Day was born.

Henry C. Welles, a prominent citizen, first proposed the idea for a day completely devoted to honoring the Civil War dead. General John B. Murray, the Seneca County Clerk, who had commanded the 148th New York Infantry Regiment in the war, quicky advanced the thought and marshalled community support. Since that year, Waterloo has annually observed Memorial Day. New York, in 1873, became the first state to proclaim Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, as it was originally called, a public holiday.

In May 1966, a joint resolution by the United States Congress and a proclamation by President Lyndon B. Johnson officially recognized Waterloo as the birthplace of Memorial Day.

The State Education Department

A nearby monument celebrates Waterloo New York as the Birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866

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