Posted By Norman Gasbarro on December 14, 2015
Gratz is a small community in Upper Dauphin County that in 1883 formed a local G.A.R. post. Much of the history of that post has been lost over time and now needs to be re-created through available resources, among those resources, the Harrisburg and other archived newspapers and the national Grand Army of the Republic records.
In the beginning, it was just the veterans who participated in the Post activities, but as time went on with the loss of members due to the infirmities of age, lack of interest and death, more organizations in the community were involved, particularly for the “Decoration Day” exercises of remembrance. Also, it was clear from the wider community involvement, that those communities that did not have their own G.A.R. post, had their community’s veteran graves decorated by the G.A.R. Post that was geographically centered in Gratz.
Here follows a series of newspaper clippings describing the founding and other activities of the Kissinger G.A.R. Post #376. What has not been determined from these clippings is the person for whom the post was named. If any reader has knowledge of which “Kissinger” who served in the Civil War bears the Post name, please submit it as a comment or send it via e-mail.
Founding in 1883 and Meeting Place
From the National Tribune, 18 October 1883:
Reports of musters of the following Posts have been received during the past week: Kissinger Post, No. 376, located at Gratz, Dauphin County, was mustered on 29 September 1883, by Past Commander Jacob B. McCoy, Post No. 232, of Lykens. Commander McCoy was assisted by sixty members of his own Post, including all the officers and others from Posts No. 110 and No. 174. The comrades left Lykens in private conveyances, and when they arrived at the edge of the town of Gratz were met by the veterans of that place and the citizens’ band. Line was formed and a parade made through the streets of the town, after which the comrades were dismissed until the hour fixed for the muster. Shortly afterwards a delegation from Chester Post, No. 280, of Williamstown, arrived to take part in the ceremonies. The muster took place in Odd Fellows’ Hall, where the necessary services were successfully gone through with. Addresses were made by Comrades Senior Vice Commander J. W. Holland and John Murphy of Post No. 232. Commander McCoy pays a well-deserved compliment to the officers of Post 232 for their very efficient services and to all the comrades present for their cheerful obedience, uniform good conduct and assistance. The new Post will meet at Odd Fellows’ Hall every first and third Thursday. The following are its officers: Commander J. D. Gise; S.V.C., Jacob Kissinger; J.V.C., B. J. Evitts; Adj’t, John W. Hoffman; Q.M., A. Dreibelbies; Surgeon, Harrison Reigle; Chaplain, E. A. Kemble; O.D., Jacob Shiro; O.G., Jonas W. Hoffman; S.M., Henry T. Ferree; Q.M.S., Josiah Umholtz.
From the Harrisburg Telegraph, 6 Oct 1883:
Kissinger Post, No. 376, Grand Army of the Republic, was organized at Gratz on Saturday evening last, with twenty-four charter members.
From the Harrisburg Patriot, 17 May 1884:
Gratz will celebrate Decoration Day with a grand parade under the auspices of Kissinger Post No. 376, and Camp No. 236, P.O.S. of A. The Sunday Schools of the vicinity will also participate in the parade and decoration of soldiers’ graves.
From the Harrisburg Telegraph (via Lykens Register), 10 October 1884:
The new G.A.R. Hall at Fisherville, is nearly completed and will be quite and addition to the place. When finished B.F. Miller Post, No. 393, expect to have a gala day in dedicating their new place of meeting, and in greeting their sister posts. It is expected that Kirkpatrick Post of Millersburg, Kissinger Post of Gratz, Chester Post of Williamstown, as well as delegations from the posts of Harrisburg, Steelton, Georgetown, Liverpool and Oriental, will be present.
The minutes of the Kissinger Post at Gratz for the year 1886 have been located and will be posted here on this blog at a future date. They provide a rare, revealing window into post activities and actions and include the use of the “blackball” and the discipline of post members.
From the Harrisburg Telegraph, 13 May 1887:
From the Harrisburg Telegraph, 26 August 1887:
Kissinger Post, G.A.R., of Gratz, will hold a camp-fire during fair week.
From the Harrisburg Telegraph, 6 May 1889:
Comrade Harry A. Swartz, of Seneca G. Simmons Post 116, G.A.R., has received and accepted an invitation to deliver an oration to the G.A.R. boys at Gratz on Decoration Day.
From the Harrisburg Telegraph, 6 December 1889:
Kissinger G.A.R. Post in Gratz, is going to hold a fair.
From the Harrisburg Telegraph, 10 October 1890:
The officers of Kissinger Post, G.A.R., of Gratz, were installed last Saturday evening by Past Commander A. P. Thompson, of Heilner Post, No. 232, of Lykens. Mr. Frank Fidler is the new commander.
From the Harrisburg Telegraph, 20 October 1894:
William Thomas, Commander of Heiler Post, G.A.R., of Lykens, will inspect Kissinger Post at Gratz on Saturday evening.
From the Harrisburg Telegraph, 13 May 1898:
The military company of this place [Gratz] effected a permanent organization on Monday with the following officers: Captain, George W. Hoffman; First Lieutenant, M.S. Kissinger; Second Lieutenant, C. E. Hoffman.
Elaborate preparations are being already made by the G.A.R. Post and P.O.S. of A., for the exercises on Decoration Day. Professor Ira S. Wolcott and Rev. J.M. Wingert will be the orators. A number of visiting camps will participate.
From the Harrisburg Telegraph, 1 June 1899:
On Sunday, Kissinger Post, No. 376, of this place, and the Women’s Relief Corps, will decorate the graves at Klinger’s Church [Erdman, Lykens Township] and at Hebe, Northumberland County.
Decoration Day was fittingly observed. The decorations, although not a numerous as last year, were sufficient to make a good showing. The committee of the G.A.R. went to Hoffman’s Church [Lykens Township] and Uniontown [Pillow], decorating the graves of their comrades. They returned at noon and in the afternoon a parade consisting of G.A.R. Post No. 376, P.O.S. of A. of Berrysburg, P.O.S. of A., I.O.O.F. and three Sunday Schools. Music by the Berrysburg Cornet Band. Following the parade and exercises in the cemeteries they returned to the Lutheran and Reformed Church, where Dr. W. E. Lebo, of this place, G. M. Schminkey of Williamstownand Rev. Hawk, of Berrysburg, exhorted the audience to stand by the stars and stripes. A picnic followed in the evening, which was well attended.
From the Harrisburg Telegraph, 8 Jun 1899:
The memorial services by Kissinger Post, No. 376, and Ladies’ Relief Corps, visited Klinger’s Church [Erdman, Lykens Township] and Hebe. Prof. W. O. Moyer and Dr. W. E. Lebo were the orators of the day.
From the Harrisburg Telegraph, 1 June 1900:
Elizabethville, 31 May 1900 — Decoration Day was quietly observed at this place. A delegation of Heilner Post, No. 232, G.A.R. of Lykens, decorated the graves of their departed comrades. Camp No. 110, P.O.S. of A., attended the parade at Gratz and during the evening a large number of young folks took in the festival at Berrysburg.
From the Harrisburg Patriot, 30 May 1902:
Kissinger Post, Grand Army of the Republic, will celebrate Memorial Day by visiting the Hoffman Church Cemetery [Lykens Township] and Uniontown [Pillow] in the forenoon to decorate graves of comrades in that cemetery. In the afternoon they have arrangements made to have a parade. The few members of the Grand Army of the Republic will be assisted by all the Sunday Schools of town, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Patriotic Sons of America, of Gratz. The procession will form at the hall of the Grand Army of the Republic, led by the Wiconisco Band, thence to churches, where the Sunday Schools will follow with the orders in parade. The parade will then visit the cemeteries of Gratz.
From the Harrisburg Daily Independent, 2 June 1902:
G.A.R. Post at Gratz
Kissinger Post, G.A.R., at Gratz, yesterday decorated the graves of deceased soldiers at Killinger Cemetery, in this county, and Hebe Cemetery in Northumberland County. The members of the post were met at the latter place by Rev. Mr. Hottestine, who, after the decorating of the graves was completed, delivered an address which was well received by the large number of people who had gathered in the cemetery to witness the exercises of the day.
From the Harrisburg Telegraph, 6 May 1904:
Daniel Harman, a veteran of the Civil War, died at his home, about two miles west of town [Gratz], on Sunday. The funeral was conducted at Hoffman’s Church [Lykens Township] on Wednesday and was in charge of Kissinger Post, G.A.R. The Rev. Mr. Zimmerman officiated. Mr. Harman was the father of C. F. Harman and J.A. Harman, of Enterline and Berrysburg respectively.
From the Harrisburg Patriot, 19 May 1913:
MEMORIAL PLANS AT GRATZ
Special Dispatch at Gratz
Gratz, 18 May 1913 — Plans are being made here for the annual Memorial Day exercise to be held under the auspices of Ksisinger Post, G.A.R., Gratztown Lodge, No. 563, I.O.O.F.; Washington Camp, P.O.S. of A; and Lykens Valley Castle, No. 493, of the Knights of the Golden Eagle. Two bands have been engaged for the day. Prizes will be offered for the five best floats in the parade, which will start at one o’clock.
The committee on arrangements is composed by J. J. Buffington, Chairman; Dr. W. E. Lebo, Secretary; W. O. Rogers, H. E. Fidler, F. M. Ritzman, C. E. Hoffman, W. W. Phillips, C. A. Evitts, and L. C. Hoffman.
The Final Days of the Kissinger Post at Gratz
The new organization for the veterans of World War I and the Spanish American War, Shade Post No. 399 of the American Legion, took over the responsibility for the Memorial Day ceremonies and events in 1922, but the remaining G.A.R. veterans who had not yet been welcomed into the American Legion Post, participated in the cemetery graves decorating as joint venture. As shown by the second article, the G.A.R. men could not muster the $28.65 needed to decorate the Civil War veteran graves and had to rely on the charity of the county. Shortly after 1922, the G.A.R. Post in Gratz ceased to exist and the old survivors of the Civil War were mustered into the American Legion Post, which assumed the responsibility of decorating the graves of all deceased veterans of all wars.
From the Harrisburg Patriot, 22 May 1922:
WILL DECORATE 8 CEMETERIES MAY 30
Kissinger Post, G.A.R., and Shade Post, American Legion, Plan Program
Includes Parade and Concert
Gratz – 26 May 1922 — Kissinger Post, G.A.R., and Shade Post 399, of the American Legion, have arranged to decorate the graves of soldiers on Memorial Day. The following schedule has been adopted.
Klinger’s Church Cemetery [Erdman, Lykens Township], 7 a.m.; Cemetery at Hebe, 7:30 a.m.; Northeast Cemetery of Pillow, 8:45 a.m.; Southeast Cemetery of Pillow, 8:45 a.m.; Berrysburg, 9:45 a.m.; Southeastern Cemetery of Berrysburg, 10:15 a.m.; Western Cemetery of Berrysburg, 10:45 a.m.; Hoffman’s Church Cemetery [Lykens Township], 11:15 a.m.
Special services with addresses will be held at Southeast Cemetery of Pillow, Western Cemetery at Berrysburg, and the Cemetery at Hebe.
In the afternoon a parade will form at 12:45 o’clock. The Sunday schools, fraternal organizations, and the people of the borough, will march to the various cemeteries, headed by the Valley View Band. At each cemetery the American Legion Post will decorate the graves. William A. Earnest, of Harrisburg, will deliver addresses at the Lutheran and Reformed Churches.
The Valley View Band will give a twilight concert, followed by an address by the Rev. George E. Duell, a former Lieutenant of the United States Army
From the Harrisburg Evening News, 4 August 1922:
COUNTY AIDS G.A.R. POST
The county commissioners today appropriated $28.65 to Kissinger Post No. 376, G.A.R. of Gratz for the Memorial Day expenses of the Post. This sum represents the actual expenses of the Post for its Memorial Day exercises.
For a list of all prior posts on The Civil War Blog which have mentioned the G.A.R. Post No. 376, click on Kissinger Post.