Originally posted 6 December 2007.
The following excerpt comes from a book called Years Ago by Rudolf Priepke. Mr. Priepke was an unofficial town historian of Clarksville, Butler County, Iowa, an area in which some of my ancestors were for about 50 years. Rudolph (spelled both ways in the book) Priepke was born in Butler County but went away to a private high school in Chicago for his last two years. He continued on to college and graduated with a Ph.D from Duke University. He eventually went back to teach chemistry at the college where he'd received his undergraduate degree in Chicago. When he retired he returned to Clarksville where he lived a life that was the epitome of one of service to others. He wrote a column based on his research of the area's history through its newspaper The Clarksville Star, and the book Years Ago is a compilation of those columns. Before I insert the quote, and as a heads-up to family and others who might be interested, Hugh F.L. (or Lucky) Burton was my ancestor. He's now buried in the mentioned Lynwood Cemetery, and his father Clement Nance Burton is buried in the mentioned Old Town Cemetery. This column was written May 26, 1977. When he refers to dates and the "STAR", he is talking about information he has gathered from old editions of the newspaper.
These days, Memorial Day or Decoration Day, is regarded as a day off, a day to get away from it all, the opening day of the vacation season, a holidy to be celebrated rather than an observance of respect for fallen heroes. When the vacation aspect was made official, by making it a mobile holiday attached to a Sunday to make a long weekend, it was regarded by many sensitive people as an insult to our soldier dead. We can take pride in the fact that the day is still observed here in the traditional manner, but, when compared with the services of an earlier day, obviously something has been lost. In 1884, only 20 years after the close of the Civil War, not many veterans were buried in the cemeteries. Lynwood had only been in use about five years. The June 5 STAR reported on the day's activities. The Clarksville Cornet Band led the march of the James Butler Post (GAR) and young ladies with flowers and wreaths, followed by citizens on foot and in carriages. They marched first to the Old Cemetery, then to Lynwood, and then back to the school grounds. The cornet band opened ranks at the gate of each cemetery an[sic] the Post marched to each grave where they halted and two young ladies placed a wreath and bouquet while all stood with uncovered heads. Eight veterans were buried in the Old Cemetery: C.A. Bannon, William Poisal, Ed Sutcliffe, Hamilton Brown, Oliver Hanna, Leroy Baxton, Uriah Farlow, and John Spawr. The five in th Lynwood were: C.C. Lewis, Japhet Curtis, James Butler, John MacLain, and W.W. Dunham. 'Before leaving each cemetery, a squad of the Post fired a salute of three charges in honor of the dead soldiers' At the school grounds, after the prayer of invocation, 'Miss Ella Mullarky recited Will Carleton's poem, Cover Them Over With Flowers.' Rev. J.J. McIntyre, pastor of the Shell Rock Baptist Church, gave the memorial address, dully recorded in two and a half columns of fine print. The Memorial Day exercises were reported every year and seemed to be always the same. However, there were gradual changes as shown in the following report eight years later, written for the June 2, 1892, STAR by a Women's Relief Corps member. 'Decoration Day was observed by the best element of the people of Clarksville and vicinity...by the largest attendance we have ever had here on a like occasion. Early in the morning, loads of flowers began pouring into the WRC hall with an army of little boys and girls radiant with joy as well as importance of adding their mite to the principle of loyalty. The black and whit of the girls' apparel were sad reminders of a funeral day; while the red, white and blue scarfs of the boys magnified the dear old flag. 'At 10:00 a.m., the procession began to form on the public square where the band was waiting as the Post filed out of the GAR hall and formed in response to the bugle call, the Corps and children filling the decorated vehicles. The band marched in advance, followed by solders...Halting at the cemetery gate, they all formed in line, marched to the graves..decorated by the children. Band and Post returned in carriages through town to the Old Cemetery where comrades' graves were strewn with flowers...We thn returned to town and sibanded for dinner.' 'The Willing Workers of the Methodist Church served warm meals and were well patronized...At 1:30 p.m., the people reassembled on the school grounds. After a song by the Glee Club, H.F.L. Burton, president of the day, made the opening address...He spoke of the ground where he stood as the place where Clarksville's first company was drilled as soldiers, with other reminders of '61 to '65...Hon. D.W. Dow of Hampton delivered the annual address...Much credit is due Mr. R.R. Cook ...and to those who had charge of the children, for the successful carrying out of the program without a break or friction. 'We with all Christian people, deplore the ending of the national funeral day in dancing. We heard such universal condemnation of it that we appeal to that class to respect, for the future, the one day of the year at least, sacred to the memory of the dead.' Apparently the 'best elements' observed the day properly whereas the others had incurred the displeasure of the patriotic groups by treating it as a holiday. In July, 1905, the J.R. Jones Camp No. 5, Sons of Veterans was organized. Its stated purpose was to 'maintain a proper observance of Decoration Day when the fathers have been called to their reward.' They were active in the programs for a few years but I [Rudolf Priepke] do not remember them when I was in school and taking part. In 1907, the veterans groups attended a special church service in the Christian Church on the Sunday before Memorial Day. The march to Lynwood (services at the Old Cemetery were omitted and grave decoration by children in the morning followed the former pattern. In the afternoon a program with music and an address was carried out in the Auditorium. Today we put it all together in a morning program and the custom of placing flowers on all graves tends to reduce the special character of the day with respect to veterans.