As you can probably imagine, Memorial Day is an especially big deal for cemeteries. Here at Laurel Hill, we have an even stronger connection with the day than most, as this was the site of the first Memorial Day observance in Philadelphia.
Back in 1868, Memorial Day as we know it did not yet exist. Instead, the observance was known as Decoration Day, and the public was invited out to decorate the final resting places of America’s veterans. The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) sponsored the first observance of Decoration Day in Philadelphia on May 30th, 1868.
Today, the tradition carries on, and each year on the Sunday before Memorial Day, the General Meade Society and American Legion Post 405 sponsor a re-creation of the original service followed by a parade and reception, right here in Laurel Hill Cemetery.
Volunteer Flag Placement
Last weekend, in preparation for the Memorial Day observance, a large group of volunteers helped to place flags on the graves of veterans. Flags which had become old and worn after a winter out in the elements were taken down, and will be disposed of respectfully by a local Boy Scouts troop.
New Headstones for Veterans
This year, the General Meade Society of Philadelphia and the Patriotic Order Sons of America #446 are sponsoring the placement of three new headstones for veteran’s graves which were previously unmarked.
Here are the veterans who will be honored this year:
- Theophilus Ambrosia – Sergeant, Company M. 13th regiment, Pennsylvania Cavalry. Veteran of the Civil War, and noted “pastor” of a Spiritualist congregation. He is buried in Section Q, Lot 91.
- William A. Leavitt – Acting First Assistant Engineer, Navy. Veteran of the Civil War. He is buried in Section Q, Lot 228-229.
- George P. Franklin – Private, Company A. 15th Regiment, Pennsylvania Cavalry. Veteran of the Civil War. He is buried in Section L, Lot 349.
There is also another veteran getting a headstone thanks to the efforts and research of one of his descendants:
- Thomas J. Bell – Corporal, Company B. 72nd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer. He is buried in Section Z, Lot 109.
Laurel Hill’s Veteran’s Flag Holder Fund
The Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery are also placing flag holders for 11 veterans from the Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, The Civil War, World War I, and World War II. These flag holders are made possible by donations to our Veteran’s Flag Holder’s Fund. If you are interested in sponsoring a flag holder for one of our veterans, you can find out more about the program here. Special thanks to Raymond Haupt and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War for their significant support of the fund thus far.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, and Laurel Hill will use donation funds to mark more graves of veterans from this conflict. For a list of Laurel Hill’s WWI veterans, please see the following document:
Info for This Weekend’s Event
Laurel Hill’s Memorial Day event is FREE and open to the public, though $5 donations to the cemetery are suggested, and very much appreciated. The event begins at 12 pm SHARP.
Visitors will process in a group to each newly marked gravesite for a special dedication, before finally moving on to the grave of General George Gordon Meade, the victor of Gettysburg. Here, a traditional service to honor all of America’s fallen heroes will commence with a wreath laying, and speech.
Following the ceremony, there will be a reception at the gatehouse with food and beverages provided by the Kearney Kommissary.
The weather forecast for this weekend looks a bit changeable right now, but this is a rain or shine event. We hope you’ll come join us for this important observance, regardless of what Mother Nature has in store.