Continuing with our Memorial Day theme, we have been investigating the history of the parades, and the local Hopewell veterans groups that helped organize the activities over the years. This turns out to be a yet another somewhat complicated story of Hopewell history … Your feedback and additions are welcome!
== Read the full brief on Hopewell Borough Veterans Organizations – American Legion and G.A.R. (PDF) for more on the national organizations and the local chapters. ==
== Read the full brief on Memorial Day in Hopewell Borough – A History (PDF) for a timeline of the development of Memorial Day / Decoration Day in Hopewell ==
For Flag Day – It turns out that the Stars and Stripes flag adopted by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777 has a New Jersey connection – The design with thirteen stars and stripes was created by Francis Hopkinson, a Continental Congressman from New Jersey who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and also is credited with designing Continental paper money, the first United States coin, the Great Seal of New Jersey, and as a consultant to the design of the Great Seal of the United States.
Now on to an overview of Hopewell’s four veterans organizations.
Hopewell Grand Army of the Republic – Post 108 (1887)
The Grand Army of the Republic (G. A. R.) was founded in 1866 as a fraternal organization of veterans who served in the Civil War. The Memorial Day idea was created by a G. A. R. Commander, General John A. Logan, who in 1868 first called for a national day of remembrance on May 30. First called Decoration Day, for decorating the graves of soldiers who gave their lives in the Civil War, this expanded into Memorial Day, which honors all American soldiers who died in defense of the nation. Both names were used in the Hopewell Herald from the beginning of our records (1881), and Decoration Day was still used (sparingly) even up to 1949.
The G. A. R. post in Hopewell was the James M. Weart Post, No. 108, which was chartered in August 1887 and active through around 1920. The post bought the former public school building at 75 West Broad in 1888 (the “Old Grand Army Hall”), and was active with regular meetings and involvement in planning Memorial Day activities.
However, the G. A. R. inevitably declined as the Civil War veterans aged – a soldier who enlisted in 1861 at around age 20 was 60 in 1900, and 80 by 1920. The Hopewell post sold the building in 1918 (it was converted to a private residence that still stands), and the last Civil War veteran in Hopewell, Zephaniah Abbott, died in 1932.
Hopewell Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (<1893)
A related group, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), was organized in 1881 to preserve the history and legacy of those who fought and worked to save the Union. Since the G. A. R. remained limited to Civil War veterans, the Sons of Veterans was a separate organization that eventually became the legal successor to the G. A. R., and continues today, including maintaining G. A. R. records.
The Sons of Veterans organization in Hopewell was the H. M. Nevius Camp, No. 10 / No. 23, which was active in Hopewell by 1893 though around 1925. Confusingly, the original camp number 10 was duplicated with Lambertville (which was chartered), and so Hopewell was using a new camp number 23 by around 1910. The Hopewell camp was involved in Memorial Day activities though 1925, and mentioned in the Hopewell Herald in passing though 1935.
Hopewell, N. J. American Legion Post 273 (1921)
Another confusion is that Hopewell has had two different American Legion posts, the current Post 339, formed in 1945, and an earlier Post 273, formed in 1921.
The American Legion was formed in 1919 after the World War I, as a patriotic veterans organization, not tied to a specific conflict.
The first Hopewell American Legion Post 273 was chartered in 1921. The Hopewell Herald reported meeting and events though 1924, including film showings at Columbia Hall for 50 cents. The Legion was involved in Memorial Day activities through 1927, often jointly with the G. A. R. and the Sons of Veterans.
This first Legion Post 273 also was responsible for the monument now in front of the Elementary School. It was originally installed in 1925 in the middle of the intersection at Greenwood Avenue and Broad Street, “to top off the finishing of the concrete road through the borough.” By 1930 the Borough Council was ready to move it “for the purpose of improving traffic management.”
Hopewell Valley American Legion Post 339 (1945)
The original American Legion Post 273 apparently faded away by the end of the 1920s. A new group, Hopewell Valley American Legion Post 339, was chartered in 1945, and assumed management of the Memorial Day activities by 1952.
The Post’s first Legion Hall was built around 1948 at 9 Mercer Street (set back from the road near Model Avenue). The property also had open space used for carnivals on the lots south toward West Broad Street. The Post then had 125 members.
The second Legion Hall was built in 1966 at 44 Van Dyke Road, an 8 acre property with open space for annual carnivals and other events (“free parking for 2000 cars”). The Post then had 294 members.
Post 273 has since consolidated to a space at 19 Model Avenue.
See the Hopewell Borough Memorial Day Parades album in the Image Archives for views of Hopewell Memorial Day parades from the 1950s through 1992, including American Legion Post 339 marching with its huge 18-person flag.