A line of men pose in front of a building holding rifles at salute position

Dollard Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, standing on Main Street in Mendocino on Decoration Day, 1883. (Gift of Emery Escola)

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), founded in Springfield, Illinois in 1866, was a fraternal organization of veterans who served in the Union armed forces during the Civil War. The first GAR Commander-in-Chief, General John A. Logan, called for May 30, 1868 to be observed as Decoration Day, a day of commemoration at the gravesites of dead soldiers. During the 20th century, Decoration Day became the national holiday Memorial Day, honoring all Americans who died while serving in the U. S. military.

The February 7, 1885 issue of the Beacon described the photograph. “The Post was drawn up under arms by Captain M. H. Byrnes, on the sidewalk near the gallery and they stand at a “presentment” fronting Main Street.” The building behind them was located on the south side of Main Street and was at this time the Imperial Gallery (note the glass roof on the right) owned by photographer Ira C. Perry, who was also Commander of the Mendocino GAR Post in 1883. This structure was later the home of Mendocino’s post office from 1889 until 1957, when it was demolished.

These people are identified in the photo: Captain M. H. Byrnes; Ed. F. Fairfield, stands next to Byrnes and holds the flag; J. H. Vessel (a former Texas Ranger) stands next to Fairfield; and Lieut. Stearns stands behind Vessel.

Others pictured: W. H. Bitley, C. Anderson, M. O’Brien, P. Donovan, R. H. Hedden, W. Thrush, Major Cox, G. C. Johnson, Col. J. W.  Nicholson, J. Beard, Past Commander C. H. Joy, Present Commander of the Post I. C. Perry. Musicians: G. R. Hudson, R. Smith, and H. Fortson.

Exhibit Ends Today! Nathaniel Smith arrived in Mendocino County in the 1850s and is believed to be the first African American to settle on the coast. His life story is revealed through photos, clippings, and artifacts in this Kelley House Museum exhibit. 45007 Albion Street, Mendocino. Thursday-Monday, 11am – 3pm.