Civil War veterans led the first "Decoration Days" with "Soldiers Grave's Decorations Committees."
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a fraternal organization of veterans, began the tradition of laying spring flowers and arrangements on fallen soldiers' graves.
The GAR's leader, General John Logan, a native Illinoisan, declared May 30th as Memorial Day and championed the cause as a national holiday.
On February 10, 1966, the United States House Concurrent Resolution 587 recognized Memorial Day as a national holiday and the holiday's centennial.
Highland Park organizations and clubs included Fort Sheridan's on Memorial Day, decorating soldiers' graves buried far from home.
The North Shore Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) traditionally places American flags on graves of war casualties, including those at Fort Sheridan.
Three years after the 1890 founding of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), the organization's Illinois regent appointed Laura Dayton Fessenden to organize a Highland Park chapter.
Twelve women met at the Fessenden home and chartered the North Shore Chapter on April 20, 1893. In 1899, Fessenden founded the Highland Park Women's Club. Both organizations remain active in 2014.
The organization emphasized "patriotic citizenship."
The women supplied young Fort Sheridan recruits with linens and foodstuffs.
They helped tend the wounded.
When the Highland Park city administration informed the local DAR that spring storms had damaged the flagpole on Central Avenue, preventing the display of the American flag, the chapter, led by charter member Sarah Chandler Egan, sprung into action.
The chapter raised $175 to fund a downtown flag.
On October 15, 1896, Egan's daughter, Eva unfurled a 25-foot long American flag on a 104-foot-tall wooden staff on Central Avenue in Highland Park.
Cement encased the flagpole to protect it from the weather.
Fort Sheridan and Northwestern military bands played and the mayor spoke.
Fessenden composed a poem about the flag with the penultimate stanza, "For this flag that has led us from Valley Forge to Manila Bay," as the United States entered the Philippine-American War. Both the "American Monthly Magazine" and "DAR Magazine" printed Fessenden's patriotic poem.
After World War I, the newly formed Dumaresq Spencer American Legion Post (145) enlisted the North Shore DAR to replace the wooden pole and frayed flag. The women went to work and Eva Egan Truax unfurled a new American Flag on Central Avenue on a steel staff.
In 2006, an American flag again unfurled on a new flagpole.
This time, the flag spread over the newly installed Veterans Memorial, a cooperative project of Post 145, the City of Highland Park and local citizens and businesses.
Webster is the archivist at the Highland Park Historical Society. This article was written using resources in the society's Archives and Research Collections funded in part by Henry X Arenberg Archives Preservation Fund. Visit highlandparkhistory.com for more information.