Eastern Panhandle historian recalls origins of Memorial Day

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The fourth Monday of May is set aside as a day of remembrance.

What is also commonly known as a kick off to summer summer was, at its founding, a very solemn occasion. It started to honor the war dead from the Civil War.

“It came about from the Civil War. Folks would have a thing called ‘Decoration Day.’ And it didn’t matter whether it was the North or the South. It had to do with when the flowers were available.”

Elaine Mauck is a Berkeley County historian and council member. She said it was Women’s Relief Corps and the United Daughters of the Confederacy who arranged memorials and parades to honor their soldiers’ sacrifice. As years passed, Decoration Day became a traditional day to honor a family’s dead.

“My grandfather – he died in 1963, so that was a long time ago,” Mauck said. “But I can remember on Memorial Day, he would get a basket, and he would fill it with flowers, and he would walk. It was a day activity, and he would deliver all the flowers and he would walk. But I remember him doing that every year.”

She said she’s concerned about efforts by some to pull some monuments down, especially given the sacrifice they represent.

“Lest we forget. They were regular folks like you and me fighting over an issue and they lost their lives. As time goes by, we keep forgetting that. Our military has saved our behinds from so many things. We can’t forget.”

Mauck was a guest on Panhandle Live, heard on MetroNews affiliates WEPM Martinsburg and WCST Berkeley Springs.


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