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Memorial Day
Work started in the spring of 1867 on the Grafton National Cemetery. During 1867-1868, the bodies of more than 1,000 fallen soldiers were exhumed and reburied at the National Cemetery. The first Memorial Day observance was set for May 30, 1868, but rain forced a postponement until June 14, 1868.

While Waterloo, NY, is credited with having had the first Memorial Day observance, Grafton’s annual Memorial Day Parade is now the nation’s oldest ongoing annual parade.

Decorating the graves at the National Cemetery with flowers began in 1869 and was known as, “Flower Strewing Day.” In 1876, the federal government erected the stone wall that surrounds the Grafton National Cemetery.

By 1890, interest in an annual Memorial Day observance was declining. Maria Leads enlisted the children of the town schools to march in the parade and decorate the graves at the cemetery with a floral bouquet and a small American flag. That tradition took root and continues today. It is a unique part of the Grafton/Taylor County observance. County school children retain a lifelong pride from having marched in these annual Memorial Day Parades and from having decorated the graves at the National Cemetery.

It wasn’t until 1950 that Congress and the President started annual resolutions and proclamations calling upon the citizens to observe Memorial Day.

In 1984, land was given for a West Virginia National Cemetery at Pruntytown, just outside of Grafton. Today, a Sunday memorial observance is conducted at Pruntytown, followed by the parade and Grafton National Cemetery observance on Monday.

Memorial Day weekend has become a homecoming weekend for those with roots in Grafton and Taylor County.



School children have marched since 1890.

The Highlanders Band from Elkins, shown right, has been a regular participant in Memorial Day Parades for years. A military caisson is followed by the Riderless Horse in the Memorial Day Parade.

 

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