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Decoration Day: A Historical Look At Memorial Day

by T. Hill

The Civil War. One of the bloodiest wars in America’s history, ended on April 9, 1865. Four years after its first battle at Ft. Sumter, SC, this war claimed more lives than any other conflict in U.S. history, with an estimated 620,000 men; 2% of the population during that time.

Following the Civil War, it became a tradition in most small towns around the US to host annual tributes or ceremonies in honor of lives lost during the war, a day called Decoration Day. Known today as Memorial Day, it continues to be a day of celebration and honor of fallen veterans, a concept actually dating back to ancient Greece and Rome in 431 B.C. Still today, there remains controversy over the origins of this holiday.

One of the earliest Memorial Day celebrations happened in Charleston, South Carolina by a group of freed slaves following a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865. It happened on what had been a horse race track, where 257 Union Soldiers had died in the makeshift prison camp and were buried in a mass grave. 10,000 people attended this momentous memorial, including freed slaves and white missionaries and teachers. Known then as “The Martyrs of the Racecourse” cemetery, the graves were moved and reinstated as Hampton Park after Confederate General Wade Hampton.

The traditional Confederate Memorial Day originally began by the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia who invited Confederate states throughout the US to join in the celebration in the Spring of 1866. There are still a few states today who continue to commemorate those fallen soldiers on the 26th of April each year.

But it was in the Summer of 1865 when Henry C. Welles and General John B. Murray of Waterloo, NY began the declaration of an annual memorial ceremony in honor of fallen soldiers. 

Finally, in May of 1868, US House of Representative and leader of an organization for Civil War veterans, General John A. Logan, called for a nationwide day of remembrance. May 30th 1868 was then declared as Decoration Day, in honor of those fallen in defense of their country.

In 1966 the State of NY, Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller and the US Federal Government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Decoration Day (Memorial Day).

Since this holiday was specific to veterans of the Civil War, Decoration Day was later changed in 1968 by Congress in order to honor fallen American soldiers of all historical wars. First celebrated in 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act declared Memorial Day as a federal holiday and declared it as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees.

Today, regardless of it’s origins or it’s meaning, the purpose behind Memorial Day/Decoration Day are one in the same. To honor those fallen soldiers. Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades, while families and friends visit cemeteries and memorials to decorate graves with flowers and decorations. Some post-WW1 traditions of wearing a red poppy flower are still seen in many communities. Unofficially, Memorial Day marks the first day of Summer for all Americans, beginning the season with a long weekend for travel, cookouts and summer festivities.

On a national level, the American flag is hung at half-staff until noon each Memorial Day and since the U.S. Congress passed legislation in 2000, all Americans are encouraged to pause for a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time. 

As then California Governor Ronald Reagan proudly stated at his 1967 Inaugural Address “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” 

May we never forget freedom isn’t free. 

References:

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history

https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/civil-war-casualties#

http://waterloony.com/memorial-day/history/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confederate_Memorial_Day

https://www.reaganlibrary.gov/archives/speech/january-5-1967-inaugural-address-public-ceremony

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Uncategorized Wealth of Our Community

Ramseur Dry Cleaners

A FAMILY TRADITION

Friendly and reliable service is a trademark for many businesses in Randolph County. The folks around Ramseur have depended on the Mace family for dry cleaning services for almost nine decades and their family-run business spans three generations. 

Ramseur Dry Cleaners is one of the oldest continually operated, family-run business in Randolph County. It was originally started in 1934 by Kenneth Mace in a building located on Main Street, Ramseur. The building was located just up from the old Red Front Store that is still there today. His brother Eugene (EV) Mace joined the business in 1936 and the two brothers ran the business together until 1949. As the business grew, the old coal-fired boiler that operated the plant on Main Street needed to be replaced, so the brothers decided to move the business to 807 Moffitt Street and build a new, modern building in 1947. Two years later, Eugene purchased his brother’s part of the business and Kenneth opened a laundry in Lillington.  Mace’s son Steve joined the business in 1961 after he graduated from high school.  Steve worked at the business with his father for over twenty years, eventually taking over the family business. Eugene Mace died in 1983. Steve and his wife Betty continued to operate the business and were soon joined by their son Keith, who joined the business after graduating from Ramseur High School. In 1989 Keith officially took over the family business.  Steve died in 1990 of lung cancer. Over the years, many members of the Mace family have worked at the cleaners, making this a true “Family-run Business”.   

As the industry began to change, Keith wanted to upgrade the equipment and modernize his dry cleaning business, but there were some limitations as to what he could do in his Ramseur location. After a lot of searching,  Keith opened a new facility in Randleman in July of 2007. Now the business was equipped with some of the most modern machinery and equipment in the dry cleaning industry. The Randleman location is a full-service dry cleaning business and can do a wide range of services including and full-service laundry and a center for alterations. The business is located at 120 Point South in Randleman and is open Monday thru Friday from 6:00 AM until 6:00 PM and Saturdays from 8:00 AM till Noon.

 The Ramseur connection runs deep in the Mace family with many good memories of people they have served over the years. Keith was not willing to close the Ramseur location, even though the Covid 19 pandemic has severely affected the business. The smell of freshly cleaned clothes and views of revolving dresses, suits, and jackets are now gone from the Moffitt Street store, but you can still get friendly service at the drop-off center that operates from the original location.  Currently, Ramseur Dry Cleaners is still open with revised hours. The location is open 6 days a week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 10:00 AM  till 2:00 PM, and Wed and Saturday from 8:00 AM till Noon. Keith says that it is his hope that business will improve and Ramseur Cleaners can get back to their normal hours. 

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Uncategorized Wealth of Our Community

Grady Lawson

by Gina Lawson Young
Forward by WT Cox


Randolph County has been blessed to be called “home” by many people who have made the area of North Carolina a great place to live and grow up. One of those people is Grady Lawson. If you grew up here in Eastern Randolph County, you most certainly have benefited in some way from the accomplishments of Grady Lawson. Whether you knew him as a friend or never met him personally, he had a large impact on our county. I remember Grady as being an elder in our church; Parks Crossroads Christian Church, and from his selling of Christmas trees every year in support of ERHS athletics. It was a ritual of our family every year to go the day after Thanksgiving and purchase a tree from Grady. He would be there selling trees, weather rain or snow, and was usually there until the last tree was sold. Grady was also known for his passion for baseball and for the young boys that played the sport. You could almost find Grady whenever there was a Legion Baseball or ERHS baseball game being played, he was their most avid fan and supporter. Grady cared deeply for his community and will be remembered not only as a successful businessman but for the impact he made in the lives of all who knew him.
The following was submitted by Gina Lawson:

   A little background – William Grady Lawson was born in King, NC on November 19, 1929. The family, which included his younger brother Gene, his mother Eva Estelle, and his father Henry, moved to Bennett, NC when Grady was young and where Henry was a tenant farmer. His two sisters, Doris and Peggy were born there. Shortly after, when Grady was 14, they moved to Ramseur where Henry was a tenant farmer for Hugh York. Later, Henry was able to buy the property from Mr. York.  Grady continued to live there until he married. His mother died suddenly when he was 18 (she was 39) of a heart ailment. Grady fell in love with a girl from his high school and married Helen Marie Carmac from Ramseur in 1948 in her mother’s home. He always referred to her as “the prettiest girl at Ramseur High School”.  Grady worked at Pugh Oil near the old Blue Mist on 64 and he and Helen lived across the road in a small white house. They moved to their current house a year later (Uncle Willie built it) and were there until he entered the Air Force 2 years later. He did his basic training in Texas, and then they moved to Montana where he was stationed from 1952-1954. (He hitchhiked home from Montana to get Helen and then drove them both back.) They were then stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany from 1954-1956 where daughter Gina was born. He attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. Upon returning to the US after leaving the service, they moved back to the house they would live in for the rest of their lives. Grady was able to borrow a little money and purchased the Ramseur Shell Station shortly after his return. Son Mike was born in 1961. Grady opened Ramseur Auto Parts in the mid-60s. After over 30 years in the service station business, he sold the station in the mid-80s to concentrate on the auto parts store until his retirement. He also operated Lawson Wrecker Service.  Grady was always active in community service and volunteerism because of his tremendous love for children and his hope that they could have better futures through a good education.  He served on the Randolph County Board of Education for over 40 years. He also served on the board of Randolph Community College for 28 years. He always strived to do what was best for the kids. He sponsored many local children’s baseball teams over the years and was later an avid supporter and sponsor of the American Legion Baseball team. He was most proud of the fact that his players earned over $2 million in college scholarship money-that, and whenever they beat Asheboro. He was an active fundraiser for Eastern Randolph High School Athletics. For 32 years, he organized and ran a Christmas tree lot that benefited the program. He was inducted into the American Legion Hall of Fame and was in the inaugural class of the Eastern Randolph Hall of Fame. The baseball field at Eastern Randolph is named in his honor. He was also honored with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by Governor Jim Hunt in 1984. Despite the accolades, Grady is probably most remembered for the small, kind things he did everyday-buying a ball glove or cleats for a kid who couldn’t afford them, charging a college student only $5 for a tow, helping out boys doing community service, and taking baseball players out to eat after games. Above all else, he loved his family fiercely.  
Grady passed away on November 20, 2017. Helen still lives in their original home in Ramseur. Daughter Gina lives with her husband Tom in Raleigh. They have three children-Brad and wife Casey and their son Truitt, Kelly, and Ali and her fiancé Cary. Son Mike lives with his wife Amy and their children Bobby, Carson, and Kylee in Lexington. Every year we present the Grady Lawson Memorial Scholarship to a senior at ERHS based on academics, athletics, character, financial need, and community involvement. 

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Ramseur Community Museum

The first Ramseur Museum was in the former post office building which had been placed behind the Ramseur Library in 1970. As the nation’s Bicentennial approached, most towns found a project to help the local areas celebrate this historic occasion. The building still had post office boxes and items from the town’s first post office. This museum was formerly dedicated on October 17, 1976.
The Ramseur Historical Committee found items were beginning to deteriorate in the building without heat or air condition. An opening in the door for the post office cat became the entrance for many rodents as well as snakes and other creepy animals. The committee asked the town commissioners for help in locating another place to store the fragile artifacts that the former committee had placed in the museum. The first floor of the former Bank of Coleridge building was made available to the committee. The renovation of the building began in 2002. The museum opened at this location on November 18, 2006.
The Ramseur Community Museum features exhibits on the area’s early history, events, and people. Current exhibits contain memorabilia from Columbia Manufacturing Company (the cotton mill), Ramseur Broom Works, Alberta Chair Factory, Brady Funeral Home, and other smaller industries.
Military uniforms from World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam are on display. Newspaper articles from these wars are included. One display case contains bank memorabilia from the Bank of Coleridge, the Bank of Franklinville, the Bank of Ramseur, and Page Trust Company. Ramseur had a community band in the early 1900s. Uniforms, instruments and music from the band and that period are on exhibit. A good portion of the movie Killer’s Three was filmed in Ramseur and Coleridge as well as other parts of the county. One area of the museum contains memorabilia from that event.
Exhibits change periodically. We have had special exhibits featuring boy scouts, girl scouts, farming, and schools. The only permanent exhibit is the one about General Stephen Ramseur for whom the town was named.
We have had over 700 visitors in the museum since it opened. These have included visitors from 10 different states and 2 foreign countries as well as from our local area. The museum is open one weekend a month and by appointment.
The old post office museum was renovated in 2015 by a local scout who was working to attain the rank of Eagle Scout. It is now a Ramseur post office museum only. It is opened periodically and also by appointment.

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Uncategorized Yesteryear

McAlisters, Asheboro, The Lost Colony, Grandfather Mountain, What Do They Have In Common?

The “Outlander” Series has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions and fueled interest in Scottish History and intrigue.  However, if you have roots in Randolph County you don’t have to travel through the stones……..look no further than your own backyard. 

I first attended “The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games” in 2006.  The Clan McAlister Society welcomed us into the McAlister Tent, signed us up as members and kindled flames that quickly grew into a passion for Highland Games, Scottish History and McAlister genealogy.  The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, or the Loch Norman Highland Games, both here in North Carolina are excellent places to explore your Scottish roots.  Check their sites for updates on 2021 events.  www.GMHG.org and www.lochnorman.com

McAlisters come from the Kintyre Peninsular and Southern Isles of Scotland.  Alisdair Mor, 2nd son of Donald of Islay, was the progenitor of the McAlisters. They descended from Somerled, King of the Isles in the 13th. Century. They were the senior branch of the Powerful Clan Donald until about 600 years ago when the Lord Lyon of Scotland recognized McAlisters as a “Clan” in their own right.  Our Chief today is William St. John Somerville McAlester of Loup and Kennox.  Having pledged my service to the McAlister Clan I proudly wear or display the “Clan Badge” at Scottish Games and Events.  The Motto “Fortiter” means Boldly! 

But what about the McAlister Family Crest? There are often questions about Family Crests Vs Clan Badges.  In English Heraldry there are Family Crests that are displayed by any member of the family, but in Scotland a Crest belongs not to a family, but to an individual.  It is illegal in Scotland to display a Crest that is not your own. 

My own line of McAlisters came directly into North Carolina.  In 1736, Coll McAlister and his son Col. Alexander McAlister sailed on an exploratory mission to visit the settlements in the North Carolina.  Landing at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, they liked what they found. Returning to Scotland they told family and friends of the beautiful land that in many ways seemed familiar to the hills of Kintyre.  Selling their possessions, and in concert with MacNeils and Campbells, they bought a ship called “the Thistle” and in 1739 sailed again bringing over 350 family’s to North Carolina. 

Col. Alexander McAlister had 16 children in North Carolina. He served during the Revolutionary War as a Patriot with the Cumberland County militia, in the provincial congress and state senate. His grandson Alexander Cary McAlister made his home in Asheboro and served with the 46th North Carolina Regiment during the Civil War.  If you’re a civil war buff, I recommend the book “Letters Home” by Brad Foley, a collection of letters between Col. A.C. McAlister and his wife, Adelaide Worth McAlister. Check out www.clanmacalistersociety.org and www.clanmcalister.org 

So perhaps you’re still wondering about that “Lost Colony” connection?  Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paul Green born in Lillington, NC , descendant of Coll McAlister wrote the play “The Lost Colony” and another of historical interest for McAlisters, “The Highland Call”.  

Stewart “McAlister” Flora

Chairman

Clan MacAlister Society

McAlister Clan Badge