I grew up with my grandmother referring to Memorial Day as Decoration Day. The first national observance of Memorial Day occurred on May 30, 1868 and was originally known as Decoration Day. The holiday was proclaimed by General John A. Logan, referred to as General Logan’s Orders. General Logan was also the Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic and declared that the graves of all union soldiers be decorated every May 30th. Last year (2022) the National Cemetery Administration credited Mary Ann Williams with originating the “idea of strewing the graves of Civil War soldiers – Union and Confederate” with flowers.
Official recognition as a holiday spread among the states, beginning with New York in 1873. By 1890, every Union state had adopted it. The two World Wars turned it into a day of remembrance for all members of the U.S. military who fought and died in service. In 1971, Congress standardized the holiday as “Memorial Day” and changed its observance to the last Monday in May.
James M. Brown was one of Jamestown’s Civil War Heroes. James Brown was born in Dundee Scotland November 24, 1825. He began as the Captain of Company B, 72nd Regiment New York Volunteers, the first company that left Chautauqua County for the war. Captain Brown was promoted to Colonel of the 100th New York Volunteers. Colonel Brown was killed at the battle of Seven Pines, also known as the Battle of Fair Oaks in Virginia on May 31, 1862.
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was the earliest veteran organization to form in Jamestown, originating in 1882. The GAR post was named the James M. Brown Post #285 after Colonel James M. Brown. In 1923 the James M. Brown Post #285 moved into the Drawing Room at the Fenton Mansion. Please come visit the Fenton History Center and see our tribute to the GAR in the Drawing Room at the mansion.
I hope that you will all remember why we celebrate Memorial Day and remember to give thanks to all of our men and women who have given their lives to protect this Democracy.