Memorial Day 2020

Lest We Forget

Graves of Unknown Union Soldiers, Memphis National Cemetery,

In spite of the worst pandemic in a century, a quick glance at the news will show that many Americans are celebrating this Memorial Day in our now usual way, as “the first day of summer.” Beaches and parks are open, stores entice customers with deals and sales, and people are crowding shoulder to shoulder in swimming pools and along ocean boardwalks.

But for many of us, Memorial Day remains rooted in its origins as Decoration Day. The first national observance was in 1868, when retired general John A. Logan, commander and chief of the Grand Army of the Republic—the Union veterans’ organization—issued his General Order Number 11, designating May 30 as a memorial day “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

This Memorial Day, let’s remember those Clark House family, friends and Mequon neighbors who served in the Civil War, and what they fought—and died—for. The History of Washington and Ozaukee Counties of 1881 lists these 65 volunteers from Mequon:

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Correction: Laura M. Clark

“Constant vigilance!” — J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Mad Eye Moody’s advice to the Hogwarts students was essential for them and remains apt for anyone doing historical research. Whether working on a large history project or a modest family tree, constant vigilance is needed to avoid bad information. Fortunately, the historian or genealogist’s dementors are not deadly wraiths ready to suck the life force from us, but more mundane creatures such as typos, inaccessible or hard-to-read documents, and—most vexingly—mystery data.

For some reason, in my database I had recorded that Jonathan and Mary Clark’s sixth child, daughter Laura, had a middle name of “Mandlena.” This—unless I’ve overlooked some important but now lost evidence—was nonsense. It’s the sort of mistake that creeps into historical writing via random error; I don’t know how I managed to make this particular honker. So for the record, the Clark’s sixth child was Laura Marcelleau Clark.

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