The History of Taylor County Chapter Two Hundred-Sixty-One

The 34th Annual Memorial Day Celebration

The people of the Methodist Protestant faith over in West Grafton gathered on Thayer street to witness the ceremony of laying the corner stone go their new temple of worship at which Dr. A.B. Riker, president of Mount Union college, Ohio, presided on May 30, 1902. Dr. Riker, a polished and fluent orator, gave an illuminating lecture on the history of this faith that was closely listened to by the great throng drawn to the scene of the ceremony.
Francis Phillips, who served as a member of Company M, 18th United States Infantry in the Philippines in Iloilo, the chief town on the island of Panay, and who received his honorable discharge May 19, returned to visit his parents, Mr. And Mrs. J.W. Phillips, of Grafton. He looked every inch like the American soldier, whose deeds in history made them the finest body of manhood who never lowered their colors in any war in which they participated.
Friday, Many 30, dawned smilingly on the 34th Annual Memorial Day, 1902. This annual celebration b brought the greatest number of people to the town of any observance in the past except the exercises held on May 30, 1886, at which time the observance took national aspect, when the Honorable Green B. Ratum, the collector of internal revenue for the United States, was the orator on that occasion and our own lieutenant James L. Wilson, then professor go military tactics at West Virginia University, brought the cadet corps of the institution to Grafton to participate in the memorial exercises, and with the Robinson Carnival company holding forth on Main Street, and the ceremony go laying the corner stone of the new St. Paul Methodist Protestant church on Thayer street, West Grafton, augmented the throng to unusual proportions on that day. It seems like the pages of history were turned back to watch the marchers parade down Latrobe street like they did as far back as the 70s and 80s, when the only approach to West Grafton for the marchers was the historic Baltimore and Ohio railroad bridge. The carnival having West Main Street blocked it was necessary to use Latrobe street to reach the Beech street bridge for passage to the National Cemetery.
The orators for this occasion were Dr. A.B. Riker, D.D., president of Mount Union college, Ohio, and Honorable F.B. Sutton, of Clarksburg. Dr. Riker was the first minister of record to deliver the memorial address to commemorate the memory of living and dead, who took part in the great Civil War, who said in part: “ The 30th of May, the day long ago chosen on which this nation should formally honor the memory of the dead, is here today and being observed as I am told, where it had its origin more than three decades before. It has come to be a day on which tributes are paid to both Union and Confederate soldiers. Man who fought each other in Civil War, who now march side by side to the graves of the departed and reverently do them honor. Each year the silent army becomes greater in number, but the memory pf them will live and Memorial Day will always find more loving hands to lay a loving tribute of tender, fragrant blossoms on the graves of our soldiers, but soldiers of the nation who have gone yo make up the great army of God. Out if conflict it pleased the Almighty God to bring, not only a free nation, but a united one, purified in the furnaces of bloody battles,  a nation that has come forth like gold purified, yes, a nation whose inhabitants believe thoroughly in the brotherhood of man. On this thirtieth day of May, veteran soldiers of north, south, east and west, American soldiers of all wars, will consecrate the day to the memory of our dead. It is a festival of remembrance, when a loving and happy people, enjoying the blessings of peace and prosperity, cease from their labors and with grateful hearts pay loving tribute to the memory of brave men, whom having finished their course with honor and crossed the star-lit line, now rest peacefully under the trees on the internal camping ground. Sweet be their sleep, unfading their glory undimmed and its power unbroken. Let trusting childhood weave garlands for them and at their graves receive inspiration that will keep them earnest in loyalty, pure in citizenship and faithful in duty.”
Hon. F.O. Sutton reviewed the events that led up to the agitation to start the bloody Civil War within a nation of one people and one blood who differed over a custom and practice that was for long a serious problem in a free nation in which one part was utterly opposed to holding human souls in bondage, which the other part of the nation had practiced since the nation was established, despite the Constitution, which declared “All men were born equal and of a right ought to be free.”


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