Column: Planting the seeds for another Memorial DayWORTHINGTON — There were people who feared their lilacs would bloom in February, or early March. Buds emerged, to be sure, but the lilacs held back. They know their time. It is only now that lilacs are really beginning to blossom.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — There were people who feared their lilacs would bloom in February, or early March. Buds emerged, to be sure, but the lilacs held back. They know their time. It is only now that lilacs are really beginning to blossom.
Peonies seem to have reached their full height and peony buds are beginning to form. I haven’t seen spirea in bloom, but it will be by the end of the month.
Lilacs. Peonies. Spirea. Through a long period of years area residents watched for these flowers rather anxiously. These were the blooms they took to the cemeteries for Memorial Day. Get a one-quart fruit jar, pour it half full with water and press in half-a-dozen peonies. You would find this display on many, many graves.
The middle of May is upon us. Memorial Day — the Memorial Day weekend — looms.
In the beginning, in 1868, Memorial Day was a day reserved unofficially for decorating graves of Union soldiers. Gen. John Logan, elected commander of the Grand Army of Republic, the GAR, the organization of Civil War veterans — Gen. Logan ordered every post in America to observe a Memorial Day:
“…The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion…” The general used that word “strewing,” which by now is nearly unknown.
There are several dozen Worthington High School alumni who have read or recited Gen. Logan’s order during services with the WHS band in the band shell at Chautauqua Park.
Long ago, Memorial Day (Decoration Day) was transitioned into being a day for decorating all graves, but it remains, in one phase, a day for honoring dead U.S. war veterans. This has become a challenge. There are battle dead from at least 10 wars at rest in every area county. There also are men fallen in conflicts that never were wars. Marine Pvt. Eisse Bromer, buried at Ellsworth, was killed in an action in the Dominican Republic in September 1921.
Nobles County’s first veteran of the Civil War was Nobles County’s third resident, Benjamin Woolstencroft. Ben Woolstencroft was 16 years old when he volunteered with an Iowa cavalry regiment.
Woolstencroft was with Gen. Alfred Sully’s command when (September 1863) the general ordered his cavalry to charge a village of 1,500 Yanktonai, Hunkpapa, Santee and Blackfeet families near Whitestone Hill in North Dakota. Between 300 and 400 villagers were killed. Ben Woolstencroft was discharged two years later from wounds in another encounter. He was a battle-tested, wounded Indian war veteran by the time he was 18.
The first military funeral at Worthington for a World War I veteran was Nov. 23, 1918, a dozen days after the armistice was signed. The body of Pvt. Arthur Calvin was returned to Worthington for rites that were conducted with the Sunday morning worship service at First Methodist Church.
The most glamorous of the war veterans were perhaps those “magnificent men in the flying machines” of World War I.
Lt. Ray C. Smith of Kinbrae wrote home to tell of his first aerial triumph:
“I saw a biplane Fokker with wings painted red coming up and trying to get under the tail of our plane. Just as he was ready to shoot I caught him with a long burst and I saw my tracer bullets enter the fuselage of his plane. He dropped over on his wing and fell on his back and went down in the Boche lines at 12,000 feet…”
“Flying is fascinating in spite of the danger,” Lt. Smith reported. “…It is really great sport as long as you get away with it…”
Then, almost inevitably:
“I am in the hospital and have been here about a week. Got in here as a result of an air fight. I tried to shoot down two Boches at once and got one of them but the other one shot away part of my controls.
“As a result I dropped down a little too fast and as a result raised the devil with my left ear … the doctor says I won’t fly for quite a while and maybe not any more…”
Sketches for Memorial Day.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.