Community

Rural cemetery marks 154th Decoration Day ceremony

Upper Bay ceremony, Civil War monument, among Iowa's oldest

DELHI — Two cannons boomed to mark the beginning of the 154th Memorial Day — Decoration Day — celebration Wednesday evening at the Upper Bay Settlement Cemetery southwest of Delhi in Delaware County.

The holiday has been commemorated at the rural cemetery — on May 30 every year — for more than 150 years. It is one of the oldest, longest running Memorial Day observances in Iowa and the nation, if not the oldest.

The Upper Bay community first met at the cemetery on Aug. 27, 1865, to dedicate a Civil War monument, one of the first in the state to honor those who died. That was three years before Memorial Day was established as a national holiday.

Dale Crosier, great-great-grandson of the first person buried in the cemetery, is president of the Upper Bay Decoration Day Committee. One of his relatives, Cassius Crosier, one of the community’s founders, served on the first Decoration Day Committee.

Crosier said he’s been attending the ceremony since he can remember.

“These young men volunteered to defend our country, and they gave their lives for it,” Crosier said. “How many of us would make that commitment?”

One of the young men whose name is on the Civil War monument died at the infamous Confederate prison camp at Andersonville when he was 19.

Even so, he was not the youngest man to die in the war.

“One of them was only 16 years old,” Crosier said.

On Wednesday evening, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, dressed as Union soldiers, manned the cannons.

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They watched as Grace Rider placed a wreath at the base of the Civil War monument in the center of the cemetery.

After the echoes of the cannons died away, Brooke Wilson read aloud the names of the 14 Upper Bay Settlement residents who died in the Civil War.

When she finished, Robert Sack of Delhi, one of the event’s organizers, spoke about the history of the monument, Memorial Day and the Civil War.

“Iowa had one of the largest death rates of any state of the Union,” Sack said.

As the celebrations began to wind down, Rick LaBarge, a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, fired a salute from a black powder rifle and both cannons sounded again.

As the plumes of smoke dissipated in the evening air, the first notes of taps drifted forth, performed by Cindy Freiburger of Delhi. Edgewood resident Christina Harbaugh answered with echo taps a few hundred feet away.

And with that, the 154th Decoration Day celebration at Upper Bay Church came to a close.

l Comments: (319) 368-8514; molly.hunter@thegazette.com

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