The GAR worked hard to for its membership and was instrumental in pushing through various pieces of legislation that favored veterans. In 1868, General Order #11 called for May 30th to be designated as a day of remembrance for Union veterans; originally called Decoration Day, it eventually evolved into the U.S. national Memorial Day holiday. Local Posts worked to care for Union widows and their children and wounded veterans who were unable to survive without help. The G.A.R. was also very active in pension legislation for veterans and worked tirelessly to establish retirement homes for soldiers. This led to the creation of the “Old Soldiers Homes” of the late 19th century, which evolved into the Department of Veterans Affairs. All of the local posts were very active in their communities, helping to fund schools, hospitals and other worthwhile projects. At its peak, the organization had over 400,000 members.
Abraham Lincoln Post 11 was organized by Major Austin Cushman on April 23, 1867, in Mechanics hall on Elm Street. The eleven charter members were Henry Sibly, R.A.White, George Long, Walter Everett, George Kelso, Charles Pease, Thomas Haskell, Thomas Grozier, Lyman Bigelow R. Titus and Edmond Bradford.
The Post first hired Seminary Hall on Union Street and remained there until 1867, when it moved to Lincoln Hall at 7 City Square. It had fifty two members at this time. In the fall of 1869, the post moved to the Warren Savings Bank on Main Street. In 1888, when the population of Charlestown was almost 38,000, the post was located at 102 Warren Street and about ready to make its final move.
The Dexter Estate, also known as the Lockwood estate, was purchased by the G.A.R. on Sept 6, 1887 for $14,575.75. One of the members, George Morrill, won the contract to rehab the building and put a hall on the second floor. In April of 1888, the membership of Abraham Lincoln Post 11 assembled in front of 102 Warren Street and marched to their new home on Green Street. Mayor Hugh O’Brien spoke at the dedication, saying “he knew of no body of men to whom the country should be so grateful as the Grand Army of the Republic, for by those who composed its membership, the Union was preserved”. Dorchester Post 68 presented the Post with a gavel block taken from the walls of Fort Sumter. Walter Prescott presented a Howard Clock, with a marble and mahogany case. Contributing members gave a suitably inscribed mirror for the reception area. True to their motto of “Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty” the Post was a source of comfort for the weak and wounded of the war and a gathering spot for the community. At this time, the Post had about 120 veterans as members.
In 1920, the membership changed their charter, and called the new corporation the Abraham Lincoln Post 11/Veterans of the World War. This opened up the membership to any veteran who served in the Armed Forces during time of war.
In 1932, with many of its Civil War members dead or dying, the charter was changed again, creating the Memorial Hall Corporation. The purpose of the corporation was and still is “to hold the property at 14 Green Street for the use and occupation by persons who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America in time of war…………and to preserve the building as a sacred heirloom for the future defenders of America and as a Shrine of Peace dedicated by the people of Charlestown to her sons, the Defenders of our Country in its struggle for Liberty, Unity and Humanity.”
Today we have brought back the old title of Abraham Lincoln Post 11, G.A.R. and still adhere to the motto of “Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty", continuing a tradition that goes back over 140 years. Membership is open to “ all persons who have served our country in time of war and are still in said service or have received an Honorable Discharge therefrom”. If you would like to help us continue the work our Brothers in Arms started back in 1866, you can make a donation here. All funds go to building maintenance, veteran’s assistance and community programs. All donations no matter how small are welcome.
Thanks to Dan O’Neil for all of the research he did for this article