Historic Boalsburg, PA

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The quaint little village of Boalsburg, located in Centre County, Pennsylvania, is a characteristic traditional American community with a central public square surrounded by sidewalk-lined streets. A place where many of the 20,000 local residents still meet up on their front porches to chat, but with a history stretching back more than 200 years.

Birthplace of Memorial Day

Although 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.

Columbus Chapel & Boal Mansion Museum

Although Christopher Columbus never made it to Boalsburg, the Columbus family chapel, which dates from the 16th century, was shipped from Spain to Boalsburg in 1909 after a descendant of Columbus married a member of the town's founding Boal family. Items on display at the Columbus Chapel and Boal Mansion Museum include an Admiral's Desk which belonged to Christopher Columbus, fifteenth century religious items, sixteenth century Renaissance paintings, and 150,000 pages of Columbus family documents dating back to the 1450s. The 200-year-old Boal Mansion is filled with the original furnishings, papers, portraits, tools and weapons of nine generations of the Boal family.

Boalsburg Heritage Museum

The quaint little Boalsburg Heritage Museum preserves and showcases items of historical significance from the Boalsburg and Harris Township community. The museum is housed in a restored 1825 house, giving visitors a glimpse into life from a long-ago era.
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