We Remember: Those Lost and the Origins of Memorial Day

Memorial Day began as a national celebration as “Decoration Day,” in 1868, with May 30 designated as the date.  People decorated the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers.  A century later, it became “Memorial Day,” and it had expanded to honor those felled in all wars.  In 1971, the date was moved to the last Monday in May.

The 43rd Annual Statewide encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), hosted by Aurora Post 20 of the GAR.  Aged Union veterans of the Civil War poured in from all corners of the state.   The encampment was held May 18-20, 1909.

The downtown was decorated in red, white, and blue bunting, and a special temporary arch was constructed for the event, spanning the street adjacent to the GAR (and the future Pierce Center) with hundreds of electric light bulbs for nighttime illumination.

The newspapers reported that 45,000 people lined the thoroughfares of Aurora to view the parade on May 19.  The downtown parade image shows the newly-completed Fox Street (East Downer) bridge, and in this and the other downtown image, the current Pierce center can be seen.