The Memorial Day traditions we commemorate today in Barrington had their beginnings on September 6, 1906, when the Soldiers and Sailors Monument was dedicated on the crest of the hill in Evergreen Cemetery. That was a festive and proud day recorded for us by an unknown photographer. It was the fundraising achievement of the Woman’s Relief Corps #85, a Civil War Veterans Auxiliary founded in 1887 by the General Thomas W. Sweeney Post #275 of the Grand Army of the Republic.
The Monument’s original inscription read: “In Memory of our Civil War Heroes, 1861-1865, Erected by Woman’s Relief Corps #85”.
Arnett C. Lines, writing of the W.R.C. said “No organization was more diligent or faithful to its cause. Patriotism was taught to our youth, its activities were always stimulating, and flags were presented to schoolrooms.” Their dedication to commemorating the heroes of a turbulent past was profound.
Throughout the 20th century, as wars convulsed our world and the nature and arms of war changed, so the Monument evolved to record the losses incurred by the new branches of the armed forces, undreamed of in the Civil War.
Since it was dedicated, the Monument and Evergreen Cemetery have become the destination of Barrington’s Memorial Day Parade. It begins on the east side of town, and continues along Main Street to Dundee Avenue, turning south to reach the cemetery. Hundreds of people line the roadway up the hill to the Monument. There is flag waving, cheering, and applause, especially for the oldest surviving veterans who march, or are driven, to remember their comrades in arms with barely contained tears and pride.
All the activities of the Woman’s Relief Corps #85 are recorded in the pages of Arnett C. Lines “History of Barrington”. But their most enduring public legacy is on the crest of the hill in Evergreen Cemetery.
Barbara L. Benson grew up in Kent, England, and later moved to New York. She settled in Barrington and has walked with our history ever since she first arrived here in 1980.
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