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Memorial Day

The following was delivered by Brian Partridge at the Annandale Memorial Day Ceremony in Woodlawn Cemetery on May 30, 2016. Brian's great-great-grandfather, Thomas Corrollo Partridge, was one of seven pioneers who came in 1856 to the area we now know as Fair Haven. Thomas platted the town of Fair Haven on part of his claim with street names, lots for a church, a school house, a town square, and even a cemetery. His son, Florous Partridge, purchased a farm in Southside Township in 1888 where Brian now lives, the fourth generation in the old home place.

I want to welcome everyone here this morning; as we come together to remember those who have fought and died in the service of our country.  Growing up I remember getting these little poppies from some local store or a found a veteran. Then as a family coming to Annandale on Memorial Day morning and follow the veterans marching in formation with rifles and flags to the lake and then here to Woodlawn Cemetery just as we did today.  I have to admit, to my embarrassment, I really didn’t fully comprehend what we were doing.  I heard what was being said but it never really sunk in.  I do not remember ever learning much about Memorial Day in school either, it was just another a national holiday.  It wasn’t until after high school that I really understood the significance of this event and the history of where it came from.

Let me take you back before any of us here were born.  A time before Memorial Day existed.  After the Civil War ended, scattered communities around the country would randomly decorate Civil War graves to give some honor to them.  It was three years after the Civil War ended, that on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic, otherwise known as the (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan; the commander of the GAR, declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30 each year. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

The first large observance was held that same year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.  This is a quote from one of the speakers at this event, our President; James Garfield also a civil War Vet.

And I quote:

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

After the speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphans Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

GAR Posts were already in communities all around the country but it was from that point the local GAR Posts began holding Decoration Day services in their communities. 

Annandale had one of these Posts, the J. L. Buzzell Post. [list of members of Buzzell Post #24]

Now they were first organized in Fair Haven in 1883 because Annandale did not exist as of yet.  But this post was strongly dedicated to the ideals of the GAR and reaching out to their community.

It was made up of 11 men from the area who were the charter members.  If you are familiar with Annandale and the surrounding area, some of these names will sound familiar. These men died a long time ago, yet we still know their names.

They were: 

Buster Furwell - 4th Minnesota

William Stinchfield - 8th Minnesota

Mack Kennedy -1st Minnesota

Charles Neil - 4th Minnesota

Marion Johnston - 116th New York

R. Sargent -7th Vermont

Jotham Buzzell -1st Maine Artillery

Alonzo Spaulding - 2nd Minnesota Battery 

Pvt F. Teitjen - 68th Pennsylvania

Thomas Cadwell - 4th Minnesota

John Bliler -104th (?)   

Now these men were not originally from around here prior to their service, but after the war they eventually moved to the big woods area and made this their home.

It was in 1896 that the Buzzell Post moved to Annandale as their home base.  Holding Decoration Day services in Annandale and then again in Fair Haven.

From these first 11 men 108 passed through the ranks of the Post during their 47 years existence.  There are 24 Civil War veterans buried right here in Woodlawn Cemetery and many more in surrounding cemeteries.

As the town grew so did the presence of the Civil war veteran.  Here are just a few more familiar names of our Boys in Blue:

Phineas Rudolph - Pvt. Co. A, 105th Pensylvania Vol. Inf. (a local farmer)

William H. Towle – Co. A, 4th Ohio Vol. Inf. (Postmaster of Annandale’s First Post office)

Albert Thayer - Musician Co. H, 7th Minnesota (Ran a stage coach line between Fair Haven and St. Cloud & built the Thayer Hotel in town)

Alex Fashant – Served on a gun boat with Co. B 3rd Wis. (Ran a hotel in Smith Lake Village)

Andrew McDonald – Pvt. Co. C, 2nd Minnesota

Samuel Gordon – Pvt. Co. K, 11th Pennsylvania Inf. (a local farmer)

William Ponsford – Pvt. Co. E, 8th Minnesota Vol. Inf. (a farmer, clerk and constable)

You can find these names all through the local history of Annandale.  They were not all great men of note.  They were farmers, clerks, Postmasters.   Just regular citizens but living out their lives with a purpose.

These men were heavily involved in civic and community affairs.   Holding dances, magic lantern shows (An early form of a slide projector), dramatic plays and many other family events.   They held Camp Fires which that brought in great orators to speak a rousing patriotic message to the public.  Annandale even hosted a State GAR Encampment which brought over 3000 attendees to town for a week.  Setting up tent camps for them down by the lake.    

These men were always trying to keep the spirit alive of what they fought for so that we would never forget the sacrifices made by those who never came home.

They would go into local schools teaching the children about American History and why we fought the Civil War.  Regaling the children with patriotic fervor stories of their battles.  They would raise money to purchase the flags for the school house.  Also sending donations to the convalescent homes and the Old Soldiers Home in Minneapolis.  Which is still operating there today with many of their original buildings.

4th of July parades were always a big event in Annandale from the very beginning and the GAR was right there; deeply involved in celebrating our country’s independence with the community.  Marching and arranging great speakers for the day.

The crowning event for the Buzzell Post was Decoration Day or as we call it, Memorial Day.

Just as a side note, Decoration Day was changed to Memorial Day after more than a century.  It was by federal legislation in 1968 that it was changed to the last Monday in May and did not became a recognized federal holiday until 1970.

Anyway; back to the Buzzell Post;

They also had Memorial Sunday which was the Sunday prior to May 30th; where they had community services in one of the local churches or sometimes community buildings.  These buildings would be heavily decorated for the occasion.  Then on Decoration Day they would head up the parade by marching around town; followed by the Annandale Band; then by students and teachers; followed by the public.     

They would end up at the town hall for some great speeches then moved on to Woodlawn Cemetery and strewn flowers about all the graves of Civil War vets.

As these old boys of ‘61 continued to age they sought for a way to carry on their legacy when they were all gone.  They found it. Their lasting monument which stands just down the path from where we are was unveiled  on  November 12th of 1912 as a lasting legacy to the Grand Army of the Republic, the Buzzell Post and their Auxiliary  group: The Ladies of the GAR: as a testimony to the Community that our freedom is not free.

This monument was made of Minnesota granite from St. Cloud.

The monument itself, reaches to the sky with an eagle ready to take flight.

A sad day for Annandale came when on March 5th, 1930, William Ponsford, the last remaining member of the J. L. Buzzell Post; passed away.  Though the GAR Organization continued until 1956 when the last Union Civil War veteran died. The Buzzell Post legacy had come to an end. 

These men have long sense passed, but they are not forgotten for what sacrifices they made when their country called.   Their monument stands as a lasting testament to their sacrifice.  We are the generation to continue what they started.

A new generation to pick up the mantle and carry on their legacy.

Which brings us full circle, back to the present.  Where we find ourselves here today.  Those Boys in Blue are gone now but their memories live on in our hearts and minds with gratitude for what they did for our country and our community.

Today we remember those who have sacrificed their lives for our country.  As we live out our lives and see those men and women who have served and are serving our country today; remember to thank them for their service. 

May we never forget that the freedoms we have today; are not free. 

For all gave some but some gave all.

Rally around with me today and

Remember--Lest We Forget