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Mike Watson: Decoration Day was big event in early 1900s

Decoration Day... Mike Watson gleaned items from an Adair County News of over 100 years ago, with entries from all parts of the county, giving accounts of the observances in all parts of Adair County. Addresses at Decoration Day were often included. In 1901, Lt. Governor J.R. Hindman spoke at Mt. Carmel. M. Rey Yarberry, Judge H.C. Baker, and Elder Z.T. Williams were among many other noteworthies who spoke at these events.

By Mike Watson
Adair County Historian

We never hear the term today, but for a very long time Memorial Day was known as Decoration Day. It was a day set aside to honor those who had served their country with service in the Armed Forces. With the passing of time, all dearly departed ones have gained the respect of grave adornment on this special day by those who remain behind. It is a sign of respect.

The Mt. Carmel community were quite active at the turn of the last century. There were those who worked tirelessly to organize annual Decoration Day activities, as evidenced by the following:

"Decoration Day at Mt. Carmel on the 30th day of May was largely attended. [Lt.] Gov. J.R. Hindman delivered the oration, and there were short talks by other gentlemen. There was dinner on the ground." [5 June 1901, Adair County News]

"The following is the program for Decoration Day at Carmel Church, May 30: 9 a.m., devotional exercises, Rev. W.S. Dudgeon; 11 a.m., sermon, Rev. C.R. Payne; song; Afternoon: 1 o'clock, speaking by Judge H.C. Baker, Gov. J.R. Hindman, Hon. M. Rey Yarberry, and Mr. W.D. Jones; Miss Nannie Mat Dudgeon will be organist and Rev. W.S. Dudgeon will lead the singing. Everybody invited to come and bring dinner. --A.R. Pike, G.W. Pile, P.S. Monroe, com[mittee]." [18 May 1904, Adair County News]

"The following program will be observed at Carmel on the 30th of May. Devotional Exercises at 9 o'clock a.m., Rev. W.S. Dudgeon; Decoration of Graves at 10 o'clock; Sermon at 11 o'clock, Rev. C.R. Payne. Noon: Speaking at 1 o'clock p.m. by Judge H.C. Baker, Judge T.A. Murrell, Dr. [John Henry] Grady, W.D. Jones, and others. All Confederate soldiers are especially invited to be present and take part in the exercises; as also are the Mexican and Spanish-American soldiers. Everybody invited to come and bring dinner. Miss Nannie Mat Dudgeon and Mrs. Betty Henson, organists. (signed) --J.E. Pike, J.J. Hubbard, J.P. Harden, Committee." [17 & 24 May 1905, Adair County News]

"Decoration Day was observed at Mt. Carmel. Governor J.R. Hindman was one of the speakers. Quite a number were present and dinner was served on the grounds. It is fitting that these exercises be held once a year. The resting places of men who battled for what they conceived to be right, should be kept green." [31 May 1905, Adair County News]

"Quite a large crowd from this place observed Decoration Day at Mt. Carmel. A nice time and a large crowd were reported." [Cane Valley letter, 7 June 1905, Adair County News]

"Decoration Day was observed at Mt. Carmel. A large crowd was present, but the threatening condition of the weather prevented many from attending. The program was well carried out, an elegant dinner being served on the ground. A few soldiers of the Spanish-American war were present. The surviving soldiers meet occasionally to do honor to their dead comrades. Speeches were made by Gov. Hindman, Judge Baker, Dr. Grady and others." [Watson letter, 7 June 1905, Adair County News]

"Decoration Day--At Carmel, May 30th, 1906. Devotional exercises by Rev. W.S. Dudgeon, 9 o'clock a.m., Decoration of graves at 10 o'clock a.m. Sermon by Rev. C.R. Payne at 11 o'clock. Dinner on the ground. Speech by Hon. T.A. Murrell, at 1 o'clock p.m. Address by Rev. W.C. Clemens at 2 o'clock p.m. Address by Rev. B.H. Henderson, 2:30 o'clock. The Spanish-American soldiers are invited to come and take part. The Ex-Confederate soldiers are especially invited to come and take part. Everybody invited to come and bring baskets well-filled. Prof. J.S. Stapp will conduct the singing. Mrs. Bettie Henson and Blaine Russell will be organists. (singed) --P.S. Monroe, J.B. Beard, G.W. Pike, Committee." [9 May 1906, Adair County News]

"Decoration Day services at Carmel, May 30. Devotional exercises by F.M. Hubbard at 8 o'clock a.m. Decorating graves at 10 o'clock. Sermon at 11 o'clock by Rev. Henderson. Dinner. Speaking beginning at 1 p.m. by Hon. James Garnett, Judge H.C. Baker, Gov. J.R. Hindman and J.H. Grady and othes. Everybody invited, especially ex-Confederate soldiers. All bring well filled baskets. Singing at 9 a.m. Wolford and G.W. Pike, and music by the Columbia Band. (signed) n--A.R. Pike, R.A. Hubbard, J.F. Pike, Committee." [13, 20 May 1908, Adair County News]

"At Carmel--A great many old soldiers and a large number of civilians and many ladies attended decoration day at Carmel last Saturday. There were several patriotic speeches made and flowers were strewn, by loving hands over the graves of departed heroes. In the forenoon a Presbyterian preacher delivered an appropriate sermon. In the afternoon Mr. Jas. Garnett and Gov. J.R. Hindman paid tributes to the dead. The Columbia Brass Band rendered a number of national airs during the day, and there was an abundance of dinner on the ground for everybody. Decoration Day wa also observed in a very appropriate manner at Stone's Grave Yard, South of Columbia." [3 June 1908, Adair County News]

"Decoration Day at Carmel was well attended from this vicinity, and all report an interesting day with plenty of dinner on the ground." [Mt. Pleasant letter, 10 June 1908, Adair County News]

Stone Grave Yard -"A large crowd attended the Decoration services at the Stone Grave yard the 30th, and had good singing and plenty of dinner." [Gadberry letter, 10 June 1908, Adair County News]

Bearwallow -"Decoration Day, May 30th, will be observed at Bearwallow. A sermon will be preached at 9 o'clock in the forenoon. In the afternoon Capt. W.W. Bradshaw is invited to make a memorial speech. The singing will be conducted by Foster & Foster, W.B. Morris and B.H. Burton. All old soldiers are especially invited. Dinner on the ground. Everybody bring well filled baskets. Committee on arrangements, W.B. Morris, J.K.P. Dixon, J.D. Burton and H.P. Redman." [6 May 1908, Adair County News]

Tabernacle -"Decoration Day will be properly observed at Tabernacle, at Neatsville. The people of that section are requested to bring full baskets and spend the day in appropriate exercises. There will be plenty of music and several speeches. Hon. M. Rey Yarberry and others will address the ppoeple on suitable topics appropriate to the occasion." [19 May 1909, Adair County News]

"A more hospitable people than those who reside in the neighborhood of Tabernacle Church do not live in Adair County. Saturday was Decoration Day and about four hundred persons gathered. There were the aged, many handsome young girls and beautiful children and gallant young men present. Orations were made by Hon. Frank Neat, Waller Sinclair, and Hon. M. Rey Yarberry. The dinner could not have been surpassed and as many more people could have been bountifully fed. --J.S.B. [2 June 1909, Adair County News]

"Decoration services at Mt. Carmel, Sunday the 30th. The date at Bearwallow is fixed for the 29th." [19 May 1909, Adair County News]

"Decoration Day will be observed at Mt. Carmel next Sunday. Everybody invited. Rev. R.L. Tally will preach at 10 a.m., and also at 3 p.m. Dinner on the ground." [26 May 1909, Adair County News]

"Decoration Program--The following is the program for the decoration service, Columbia, Ky., Sunday, May 30, 1909. 4 p.m. Decoration of the graves; 4:30, song; prayer, Eld. Z.T. Williams; address, H.C. Baker; song; benediction, J.R. Crawford; committee on music, Misses Martha Hancock, Julia Eubank." [26 May 1909, Adair County News]

"The Rev. James D. Burton, of Purdy, informs us that decoration services at Bear Wallow Saturday was largely attended. In the forenoon an able sermon was delivered by Rev. Joe Turner. The Rev. C. Dixon also delivered an address appropriate to the occasion. An abundance of dinner was on the ground. In the afternoon two fine speeches were made, one by Plato Wade that demonstrated the fact that heis an orator with no mean ability. The other by Paul Smythe, of Columbia, who handled his subject in a manner that pleased his hearers. Good order prevailed throughout the day, not a single disturbance being reported." [2 June 1909, Adair County News]

Antioch--"Several from this place attended Decoration Day at Antioch last Sunday." [Gadberry letter, 16 June 1909, Adair County News]

Compiled by Mike Watson. If you'd like to meet Mike Watson, he'll be at the 2nd Annual Adair Co. Genealogy/History Book Fair, 10am-3pmCT/11am-4pmET
at Historic Adair County Courthouse, 500 Public Square, Columbia, KY.

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