Memorial Day, 1891

The U.S. Civil War ended in 1865. Although it dates back to 1865 and was first called Decoration Day, it wasn't until twenty-six years later, on May 30th, 1891, that the village of Morristown, in Belmont County, Ohio, held its first Memorial Day celebration to honor the Union soldiers who died in that war.

This yellowed article appeared June 1st, 1891, in a newspaper called the REPUBLICAN, and is part of the family history archive assembled by my generation's maternal uncle, DeRand Jones. (Click to enlarge it.)

The reason this article is part of DeRand's archive is that, while the first part of the article describes the events of that Memorial Day in Morristown, the latter part of it references my generation's maternal great, great, grandfather, W.G. Cash. In Belmont County, Cash was a farmer, lay minister, teacher, and ultimately became superintendent of schools in the district. (Via his Cash line our family is reportedly distant cousins of James Cash Penney of JC Penney stores. Another person reports that this Cash line is also related to singer Johnny Cash, but that connection has been broken, subject to further evidence being found,) Here's the descendancy from W.G. to my mother's generation:

William Galen Cash

Leona Cash Jones

Carleton Duane Jones

Fleeta Claire Jones / Paul Wesley Jones / Virginia Lee Jones / DeRand Jones

Present on that Memorial Day were survivors of the Civil War, and it’s very interesting to read about the fervent patriotism of the townspeople in an era in small town America when people knew everyone else in town. They had experienced the horror of a war in which brothers sometimes fought on opposite sides.

Not incidentally, we've identified eleven members of our ancestral family who were soldiers who fought and/or died on both sides of this war. This includes four members of our Cash line.

The second part of the article, which deals with the writer's concerns about the management of the district's schools, refers to W.G. Cash being considered for the superintendency of the schools. It also mentions the fact that there was outrage on the part of some that the compensation of a teacher in the schools had been gradually increased from $25 per month to $50 per month over a seven year period. To put that in perspective, here's a look at some 1891 prices:
Bread: 2¢ / loaf
Milk: 17¢ / gallon
House: $5,500
Average annual income: $650

Below I have transcribed the article.



A Letter Descriptive of Morristown’s First Memorial Day; And Comments Touching the Management of District Schools

Morristown, O, June 1, 1891

Morristown was full of people May 30th who came to witness or take part in the first Memorial services ever held in this place. The Belmont delegation, including quite a number of the G A R and several spring wagons loaded with young ladies arrived about 2 o’clock, headed by the Belmont Cornet band. Drummond Post, No 203 of St, Clairesville was well represented and the decoration services were performed by them assisted by a firing party from Belmont commanded by Comrade Dave Pangle. About half past 2 o’clock the church bells were rang [sic] and the Sabbath schools of the Disciples, Methodist and Presbyterian churches assembled.

[Editor’s comment: For interesting info about G A R, click here. G A R is an acronym for Grand Amy of the Republic. Founded in Decatur, Illinois, membership was limited to honorably discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Revenue Cutter Service who served between April, 12, 1861 and April, 9, 1865. The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861, and most historians reportdly consider Lee's surrender on April 9, 1865, the end of the war.]

The comrades of the G A R fell in line at the town hall at the command of comrades Baldwin and Landers, after which, headed by the band, they headed to the west end of town, halting at Landers’ grocery where each comrade was presented with a beautiful bouquet and a wreath of evergreens or a pot of flowers for decoration purposes.

The procession then marched down Main Street to Steger’s corner, turning to the left they halted at the Disciples’ church where a neat stand had been erected for the speakers. After the different Sabbath schools had arrived and filed into the church, the services were opened with prayer by Rev. Gaily followed by music by the choir. A recitation, “Mother’s Songs”, was beautifully rendered by Mrs. Geo. McConnaughy. After the song Tenting on the Old Camp Ground, Dr. Hogue, who presided at the meeting, introduced our State Senator, J. W. Nichols, who delivered a stirring address during which he gave a graphic history of the military career of Gen. Sherman, who died since last Memorial day.

After another song by the choir Mr. A. M. Major favored the audience with an appropriate recitation delivered in his best style. Rev. Morton closed the exercises with prayer. The impressive Memorial services of the Grand Army of the Republic were then begun, during which eighteen soldiers’ graves were decorated with flowers.

After firing a salute the boys marched to the hall and broke ranks. The delegation from Belmont kept its organization intact from first to last, and was universally admired, especially the young ladies, who fully sustained the reputation Belmont has always had for being the home of more pretty girls than any other town of its size in the county.

Many dwellings and nearly all the business houses in town, including the mill, displayed the stars and stripes, Mr. Steger’s store leading in that respect. Loydsville and vicinity were the most intensely loyal neighborhood in Belmont County during the [Civil] war. Nearly all the able-bodied men were in the army, and the survivors still remember and like to talk over the days that tried men’s souls.

Many thanks for your attendance and assistance. Come again. Most of the “boys” are gray-haired and none of them as young as they used to be. Soldier William Nichols, who was a good Quaker but a better patriot, and, like Putnam, left his plow in the furrow to defend his country, looks like he could stand another campaign.

Comrades Baldwin, of Loydsville, and Humphrey each wore an empty sleeve, [meaning they’d lost an arm in the war] and J. Michner wore his arm in a sling caused by a recent injury to his shoulder. Harry Nichols looks better than he did twenty-five years ago when he quit boarding at the hotel Wirtz, Andersonville, Ga. [This is a reference to the Confederates' notoriously horrible prisoner of war stockade in Andersonville, Georgia, and its superintendent, Henry Wirtz, who was tried and hanged by a military court after the war. Click
here for more about Andersonville and Wirtz.]

There is some talk of establishing a post of the G A R at Morristown.


The toll gate school house will be torn down at the close of the spring term, and replaced by a larger and more convenient house.

The friends of our public school are anxiously awaiting the actions of our board in the employment of a superintendent for the coming year. Mr. W. G. Cash who has had charge of our schools the past year is an experienced teacher and has certainly raised the standard of our schools. He taught his home school, the Essex in Flushing Township, about eight years in succession and left it by long odds the best school in the township.

Our schools have gotten down to such a low grade that a few boys that came from country district schools, were our best scholars, and there has been some complaint about having advanced classes for pupils from other districts. Gentlemen, this ought not to be the case. A graded school should be better than any district school, and the way to make it better and keep it better is to employ a good teacher and keep him by paying him a liberal salary, and assuring him of the permanence of his position by employing him promptly at the close of one year’s school to teach the next year.

We have a good example of the advantages of permanence, in sub-district No. 5, Union township. The school is known as Spring Grove. Seven years ago when the present teacher, Mr. Brown, was first employed the school enjoyed a reputation second to none for low scholarship and bad government. A teacher was seldom kept more than one term, and he was lucky if he did not have a case of assault to settle before a justice of the peace, Of course some of the brightest pupils learned fairly well but the influence of the school was bad on all alike.

The first year Mr. Brown was engaged at the end of each term to teach the next. After that he has been engaged by the year, nearly always contracting before his school was closed, to teach the next year, so there has been no time within the last seven years that he has not been engaged as teacher of Spring Grove school.

This gives him ample time to develop a system of teaching and government best adapted to the changing condition of the school. He has encouraged literary exercises, and the pupils under his direction have given entertainments each winter, charging an admission fee, and after paying all expenses they have bought nearly two hundred well-bound volumes, selected from the best authors and embracing nearly every subject that is interesting and instructive to young or old.

This library has been incorporated under the laws of the State of Ohio as The Spring Grove Library Association and they own a thirty dollar book case to keep their books in, being bought and paid for by the school, and kept for free circulation among the families of the district.

This library is used to a much greater extent than would be possible under any other circumstances. This has been accomplished by the high character of the entertainments given, the patrons always feeling well repaid for the admission fee, and anxious to come again. Of course all this required a great amount of extra work by the teacher, and it is simple justice to him to say that his working hours were only limited by the amount of work to be done. Frequently this extra work required more time and labor than the regular school work, but he has done it all with an energy of purpose equaled only by the talent and tact that has transformed the Spring Grove school, described above, into the school of to-day, where each pupil when called upon performs the part assigned to him without fear or hesitation.

No one can reasonably claim that Mr. Brown could have attained such great success as a teacher, had he taught one year in each of seven schools. Equally unreasonable would be the assertion that seven teachers with equal qualifications as Mr. Brown could have taken the school, the worst in the township, and taught one year and left it confessedly the best.

Of course the readers of the REPUBLICAN will say it’s easy to have a good school when you have a popular teacher who satisfies everybody and there are no kickers. I suppose it would be, but Spring Grove is not that kind of a district. It is as full of kickers as a Prohibitionist is full of hatred for the Republican Party, and for the same reason they have tried to run it and failed, and now they would like to ruin it.

Mr. Brown’s first year’s salary was twenty-five dollars monthly and was raised yearly until the year just finished when he was paid fifty dollars per month. This raised such a wail of indignation among a class of men, who have never had any tax and never will until they find a better way to collect the dog tax, that the township board of education passed a resolution limiting the sub district to three hundred dollars for tuition each, which so clearly exceeded their authority that neither Mr. Brown nor the directors paid any attention to it.

The last kick was at the school election where the kickers turned out en masse and elected one of their number director. It is presumed that he was elected to reform the school. The fact that some of the voters could not write their own tickets or read them only proves that they ought to have had a good school long before they got one.

The great question before our village board is, will they pay a reasonable salary to Mr. Cash, who comes to us with a reputation for good work, and who has already raised the grade of our school, or will they attempt to save a few dollars in the teacher’s salary and get another teacher who will only be another experiment. It is time for parents who send children to school to demand that they quit experimenting, and have a school.
X. Y.

Last updated 7/4/2010

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