Memorial Day in Sheridan’s Early Days

Conrad Namtvedt plays “Taps” over the graves.

Today, many people look forward to Memorial Day as the first day of summer, a day when families put on cook outs, people break out boats after a winter of frozen lakes, and on Lake DeSmet, it is the weekend of the annual fishing derby.

But, Memorial Day has a much more solemn meaning. To go back to beginning, Memorial Day begin after the Civil War, when veterans began getting together to rehash the war, and to visit and decorate the graves of fallen comrades. “Its the sober one,” said Conrad Namtvedt, who has been playing with the Drum and Bugle Corp for 44 years for many Memorial Day celebrations.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day. Started just after the civil war as a way to honor those who died in the war, after World War I, it came to be observed as a way of honoring those who died in all U.S. Wars.

Sheridan, at one time, had several activities for Memorial Day which was then called Decoration Day.

Decorating Graves is still a part of Memorial Day

According to the May 25, 1906 Enterprise various events were planned to celebrate the day in Sheridan.


Wednesday. May 30th, is Decoration day and the surviving Sheridan members of the historical and immortal Grand Army of the Republic will gather once more in veteran hand clasp to cheer the old flag, strew sorrowful but over-blossoming flowers upon the graves of those who have gone before and to look, with the gaze of old and yearning comradeship, into the eyes of fellow soldiers, each man realizing that with next Decoration day heal so may be numbered with the heroic and honored dead. The veterans of the blue and battle torn blouse of glorious memories will form in parade in front of the Cady opera house at 10 a. m., under command of J.W. Cubbison, officer of the day, and march to the cemetery, where the following exercises will be held: Song— America. Reading of Lincoln’s Gettysburg speech— Miss Mollie Adams. G. A.R. ritualistic services. Song— Battle Hymn of the Republic. Address— Rev. De Witt Long. Military salute.

Decorating the graves by a band of girls under the direction of the W. R.C. The Sheridan band will furnish the music. The Decoration day parade will include a generous reinforcement from the United States garrison at Fort Mackenzie,,the full strength of the superb Sheridan militia company and all of the Sheridan fraternal orders. The W. R.C. and the G. A.R. will give a reception at the city hall in the evening. Everyone interested In national affairs is invited. At 8 o’clock M. B. Camplin will deliver an address, which will be followed by a short program

From the May 13, 1912, Daily Enterprise: As the date for Decoration day, Thursday, May 30, Is fast approaching, the local patriotic societies are formulating their plans for one of the biggest demonstrations ever seen in Sheridan.

It is proposed to secure the entire eighth company of the 18th Infantry US Army stationed at Fort Mckenzie along with their officer, to participate in the exercises.

All patriotic organizations of the city are encouraged to participate in in the exercises of the day and special efforts will be make to secure a heavy enrollment of school children in the parade. Officials of the city and county will be given places in the procession and will follow the same route as last year.

Automobiles will be used in conveying the old soldiers, officials and others to Mount Hope cemetery, where graves of the veterans will be decorated. where the graves of the departed veterans will be properly decorated.

Mount Hope Cemetery and Sheridan Municipal Cemetery are now one in the same. The original name of the cemetery was Mount Hope. Later the city purchased the cemetery and it is now Sheridan Municipal Cemetery.

Through the years, Memorial Day has changed from a ceremony to honor the fallen to a time of family cookouts and outdoor activities. However, the Veteran’s Group still decorate graves on Memorial Day, and all of the community is urged to join in.

Today, Memorial Day is still celebrated in Sheridan, and According to the VFW Facebook page: Memorial Day is our community’s time to honor our men and women who died in service to our country. The Sheridan County Veterans Council, including VFW, American Legion and Auxiliary’s, Disabled Veterans, Boy and Girl Scouts, and Veterans Affairs, will continue their annual activities over the weekend.

Flags are placed on Veteran’s Graves

Activities include:

SUNDAY, MAY 30 @ 9 AM, flags will be placed on the graves of Veterans in the Sheridan Municipal Cemetery.

MONDAY, MAY 31 @ 9 AM, Memorial Day Ceremony will begin at the WYO Theater and on the WYO Theater YouTube channel.

MONDAY, MAY 31 @ 4 PM, flags and holders will be removed f rom Veterans’ graves at Sheridan Municipal Cemetery. Please help us close out the weekend by assisting us in removing these items from 1,000 graves.

The Sheridan Veteran’s Village hangs up banners along main street honoring those who have served. As a fund raiser for the Village, banners can be sponsored to be hung twice a year, on Memorial Day and Veterans day. See the Veteran’s Village website to see how you can sponsor a banner. “We would eventually like to see all of main street lined with banners,” said Kristen Marcus, Interim director of Veteran’s Village.

Banners Honoring Soldiers are hung on Main Street

Poppies are also worn on Memorial Day. These poppies, often made of fabric or crepe paper, are given out for a donation that goes to help veterans. Why the red poppy? The red poppy officially became the national emblem of remembrance in 1920, due to the fact that poppies often grow in unlikely places, especially the on the European battlefields after the battle was over and quiet reigned. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, who was a brigarde surgeon for an Allied unit, saw the poppies in Flanders Field in Belgium. In an attack shortly after the incident, 87,000 allied soldiers died, including one of McCrae’s closest friends.

McCrae wrote the poem, “In Flanders Field” to channel his grief.

Poppies grow in many places, This one was in the Big Horn Mountains near Story

So, on Memorial Day, remember it is no just about bbqs and summer fun. It is about honoring our heros.

A post from an unknown soldier that was reposted on the Sheridan Veteran’s Villiage facebook page says it best. “As we approach Memorial Day, I’d like to take a minute to remind everyone of a couple of things. Memorial Day is for those we’ve lost. It’s Not Veterans Day. As a veteran, I can tell you that we all will appreciate being told “thank you for your service” this coming weekend but it will hurt us on the inside. We know it’s not intentional, it’s just from those un-informed. Most people think of this weekend as a day off, the beginning of the summer, and a time to bbq! It is all of that, however, it is A LOT more! We remember those we’ve lost. Memorial Day is their day!” (Used by permission from Veteran’s Villiage)

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