We've arrived at Memorial Day weekend, the "official" beginning of Summer. I still think of it as Decoration Day, for the holiday was called by that name until about 50 years ago. It was originally a day to decorate the graves of deceased veterans with spring flowers, especially those who had died in combat. For many years it has been a day to generally visit the cemetery and decorate the graves of friends and relatives buried there.
Waterloo, N.Y., claims to be the place of origin for Decoration/Memorial Day in 1866. In the summer of 1865 a Waterloo druggist suggested that while praising the returned veterans of the Civil War, it would be well to remember those who had died by placing flowers on their graves. Their first such ceremony took place May 5, 1866, and the second on the same date in 1867.
In 1868, Gen. John A. Logan was commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, which was the veterans' organization for Civil War veterans just as we have the American Legion and VFW in our time. Logan issued a general order to all veterans to observe a Decoration Day on May 30, 1868. Thus started the tradition in almost every community of visiting each cemetery and "strewing flowers and greenery" on the grave of each deceased veteran, especially those from the Civil War.
Norwalk's first remembrance consisted of assembling and marching first to the Episcopal Cemetery on West Main and then to the New Cemetery, now Woodlawn Cemetery. The Committee on Decorations consisted of young women carrying flowers, crosses and wreaths of evergreen. Half of these girls wore white and half wore black. It's interesting to note that officials' thanks were extended to the merchants who bothered to close their stores while the procession passed through the village on Main Street.
There soon developed a Mound Ceremony at the New Cemetery to honor the veterans who "sleep where they fell" as well as those buried locally. The decorating was extended to the Catholic cemeteries and the Axe Factory Cemetery on South Norwalk Road. Similar ceremonies took place in every community and were not limited to Norwalk or Waterloo, N.Y.
One of the graves decorated since 1868 at Woodlawn is that of Alpha Lowe, Jr., who died of illness in a hospital at Louisville, Ky., on June 11, 1864. He had served with the 101st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, which was recruited in northern Ohio and trained at Monroeville.
When Pvt. Lowe's parents (Alpha and Maria Van Houton Lowe) learned that he was critically ill, they left their farm about a mile east of Blue Fly in Townsend Township to go to Louisville. Unfortunately, they reached the hospital just after his death but they were able to bring him his remains home for burial in the New Cemetery (Woodlawn) where his marked grave can still be seen.
Alpha was one of five brothers who were then serving in the Union Army. His brothers John R. and Charles C. Lowe were with the 55th Ohio Infantry Regiment and were under Gen. William Sherman's command north of Atlanta at the time. Brother William H. Lowe was on active duty with a Minnesota Regiment, while brother Marshall Lowe was on active duty with the 166th Ohio Infantry, a local National Guard unit which was activated for 100 days on May 15, 1864.
Marshall Lowe returned to the family farm and eventually purchased it from his parents and made his home there for many years. The family also enjoyed the distinction of having the neighborhood one-room school named for them. The Lowe School stood across the road from the farm and just west of Lehigh Road on Ohio 18 (then known as the Medina Road).
The story of the Lowe family can be found in several local families wherein four and five sons were all on active military duty during war time.