Friday, June 27, 2014

The establishment of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Ballou Post # 3

After the end of the Civil War, many of the Union Army veterans joined branches (or posts) of the national fraternal organization, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). The GAR was formed in 1866 and at the peak of its popularity in 1890, the GAR had more than 490,000 members, all veterans of the Union Army. The GAR was immensely popular during its time and many of the veterans attended regional or national 'encampments'. The GAR founded soldiers' homes, and was active in relief work and in advocating for pension legislation. The organization was dissolved in 1956, when the last surviving member died. The GAR was succeeded by several other groups of descendants of veterans, the most popular being the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW). This is the official successor group to the Grand Army of the Republic. The SUVCW is still active with its mission of preserving the GAR, honoring Union veterans, and patriotic education. There are several allied organizations, including some for women descendants of Union Veterans.

I knew that my Great-Great-Grandfather, Zophar Skinner was a member of Ballou Post #3 of the GAR based in Central Falls, Rhode Island. According to one of his grandsons, Zophar attended many of the encampments and held positions as an officer of the Post. His obituary in the Pawtucket Times, 15 November 1926, page 6, states that
 "The ritual of the G.A.R. was read by Commander Henry Clark of the Ballou Post, G.A.R. As the body was borne from the house, former comrades representing the Ballou Post, G.A.R., the Prescott Post, G.A.R., and the State Department [of the G.A.R.] acted as a guard of honor." 
 Zophar died on what was then called Armistice Day (now Veteran's Day) on 11 November 1926 at the age of 83. I don't imagine there were many other veterans left in the post to participate in his funeral. The obituary states that Members of S.B. Hiscox Camp, No. 14, Sons of Veterans officiated in the firing squad and three volleys were fired as the casket was lowered into the grave.

What I found tonight while doing a google seach on "Zophar Skinner" was that he was actually one of the founders of Ballou Post!  Google books had a copy of an 1887 publication listing -

 "An Act to Incorporate Ballou Post, No. 3, G. A. R."

Acts, Resolves and Reports of the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Part I- May Session, 1886. Part II-January Session, 1887. State of Rhode Island, Etc., Office of the Secretary of State, July 1886. Published by E.L. Freeman & Son, State Printers, Providence, 1887.
Along with James Mulligan, Edson F Spring, Lucius F.C. Garvin, Nathan N. Knight, George W. Gooding, and B. Frank Bowen, Zophar was one of the founders of the Post.  It was established for "literary and charitable purposes" as set forth in the state statutes. The bill was passed during the RI State Assembly on 10 February 1887. Several other Rhode Island GAR posts came into being during the same legislative session.

Ballou Post obviously got off to a great start since a large advertisement was placed in the local paper in 1889, advertising the Third Grand Fair of the Ballou Post.

At the bottom of the advertisement, it says -
"Send $1.00 and your address to Zopher Skinner, Treas., P.O. Box 521, Central Falls, R.I., and receive a ticket in return."
I think I need to do more research in the Pawtucket Times and the Providence Journal to see who won some of these big prizes! I'm also interested in researching more of the history of Ballou Post as well as the other Rhode Island posts that some of my other Civil War ancestors probably joined.