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Monday, May 31, 2010

Origins of Memorial Day and a Masonic Connection

Despite the fact that President Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1966, declared the birthplace and birth date of Memorial Day to be Waterloo, New York, on 5 May 1866 – there remains much mystery and variety of opinions concerning the actual first observance of what is now known as Memorial Day. It may come as a shock to some to learn that the origins of the day may have actually been of primarily Southern and Confederate invention. There are recorded observances of some sort of days of remembrance in such places as Columbus, Mississippi; Macon, Georgia; and Richmond, Virginia – all taking place in 1866. The one in Columbus, Mississippi, was recorded as taking place on 25 April 1866 when women decorated the graves of Confederate – and later – Union soldiers.

In all likelihood, Memorial Day was probably born from several events that took place in the North and South. Several Southern states still observe Memorial Days specifically set aside to honor their Confederate dead.

John A. Logan gets primary credit for institutionalizing Memorial Day. A Union Major General – Logan, as national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed a day of remembrance for 30 May 1868. Logan was a Master Mason from Illinois, having been raised in Mitchell Lodge No. 85 in Pinckneyville, Illinois, well before the beginning of the War Between the States.

Regardless of the origins of this day – let us all pause, reflect, and honor the memories of those that have made the ultimate sacrifice.


1. Denslow, William R. with foreword by Truman, Harry S., 10,000 Famous Freemasons from K to Z, Part Two, Reprinted from the Transactions of the Missouri Lodge of Research, pp. 99-100.
2. SUVCW and Merchant, David, Memorial Day History. http://www.usmemorialday.org/backgrnd.html (Accessed May 31, 2010)
3. United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Memorial Day History. http://www1.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/history.asp (Accessed May 31, 2010)

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