Sunday, June 4, 2017

Memorial Day Tributes at Mt. Olive Cemetery, Southern Door County

Goetz Post at Mt. Olive Cemetery

It was called "the war to end all wars," but it wasn't. What came to be called World War l was followed by World War ll. Whether they were called wars, police actions, skirmishes or anything else, who can count the number of such actions since 1945? The Doomsday Clock is today at 2 1/2 minutes to midnight. One hundred years after the war to end all wars, the clock is ticking.

World War l led to the organization of the American Legion, a group serving veterans, those in service and communities. It was the Legion that encouraged patriotism, won benefits for veterans and supported then and their families. The Legion originated in Paris in 1919 with a few members of the American Expeditionary Force. Six months later it was chartered by Congress, and today the legion boasts between 2.4 and 2.5 million members in American Legion posts across the world. One of the thousands of posts is American Legion George Goetz Post 372 of Forestville.

Originally called Decoration Day, the traditions of decorating the graves of fallen soldiers that began with Southern women following the Civil War quickly spread to honoring all veterans. Ahnapee - now Algoma - residents celebrated early Decoration Days with ceremonies befitting the veterans both alive and dead. The celebration in 1871 was no exception when the graves of deceased soldiers were decorated with flowers and evergreens. About 200 people visited the cemeteries, a number limited only by the capacity of the conveyances. Chief Marshall Major William Henry was assisted by Michael McDonald. Both men had served in the 14th Wisconsin. Captain F.W. Borcherdt, 21st Wisconsin, commanded the firing party. Rev. Henry Overbeck gave a prayer and brief address at each grave. Flowers were scattered by 30 young ladies dressed in white, and Ahnapee's Liederkranz sang appropriate hymns. After it was all over, the Enterprise made the comment that "no village its size gave more to the soldiers than Ahnapee."

The following year was much the same. Major Henry again served as marshal but prayers and remarks were given in German only as Rev. S.H. Corich, who was to give prayers and remarks in English, was absent. Four hundred people and 37 teams were in the 1873 parade. At the services Michael McDonald commanded the column, J.H. Leonard was the Officer of the Day and Chauncey Thayer commanded the firing squad. Elder T. Wilson gave the address. Decoration Day continued and in 1884 Forestville’s Nelson Post took charge of the activities. Nelson Post 97 was established in Forestville during 1883, quickly growing in membership and sponsoring activities in Door and Kewaunee Counties.

As the Civil War faded into the past, so did the Nelson Post. Forestville today boasts the George W. Goetz Post 372, a group that works to ensure that the rest of us won’t forget. On Memorial Day the firing squad appeared at each of Southern Door County’s cemeteries. The gun salute followed the invocation. Taps was sounded and the echo was played. Most thought of those who served, those who were lost and the veterans buried at each cemetery.

Of the twenty-seven vets buried at Mt. Olive Lutheran Cemetery on Shiloh Rd. south of Sturgeon Bay, 16 served in World War 1 or ll.  

Mt. Olive Church & Cemetery

Sources: An-An-api-sebe: Where is the River? c. 2001; Ahnapee Record/Algoma Record Herald; Door County Advocate, Door County Democrat; Mt. Olive Cemetery.

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