Birthplace of Memorial DayAlthough twenty-four communities nationwide lay claim to being the birthplace of the first Memorial Day celebration, Pres.
Lyndon Johnson on behalf of the U.S. government sanctioned Waterloo, New York, as the "official" birthplace of Memorial Day in May of 1866 because that community's earliest observance 100 years earlier in 1866 was considered so well planned and complete. However, Boalsburg still strongly defends its claim to be the first, with stories of a remembrance that first took place in 1864, followed by a larger community observance in 1865 and succeeding years.
The Boalsburg Memorial Day story begins in October 1864 when three residents -- Emma Hunter, Sophie Keller and Elizabeth Myers -- met at the cemetery adjacent to the Zion Lutheran Church. Emma Hunter was there to place flowers on the grave of her father, Dr. Reuben Hunter, who had died of yellow fever while treating wounded soldiers while Elizabeth Meyer brought posies to put on the grave of her son, Amos, killed at Gettysburg. [blockquote shade="no"]For the story goes that before the two women [Emma Hunter & Elizabeth Meyer] left each other that Sunday in October, 1864, they had agreed to meet again on the same day the following year in order to honor not only their own two loved ones, but others who now might have no one left to kneel at their lonely graves.
During the weeks and months that followed, the two women discussed their little plan with friends and neighbors and all heard it with enthusiasm. The report was that on July 4, 1865 -- the appointed day -- what had been planned as a little informal meeting of two women turned into a community service. All Boalsburg was gathered there, a clergyman -- Dr. George Hall -- preached a sermon, and every grave in the little cemetery was decorated with flowers and flags; not a single one was neglected.
-- Excerpt of an article written by Herbert G. Moore for the National Republic Magazine in May 1948. The annual Memorial Day celebration in Boalsburg is known as "A Day in Towne" and includes a parade, races, special exhibits, a street fair and living history demonstrations. The event culminates with a traditional walk to the very same cemetery that "the three ladies" visited back in 1864, where a monument in the graveyard portrays the three mourning women.