By Memorial Day of 1919, many of the troops were home from World War I, and Tuolumne County was eager to honor the men who had served. Memorial Day was always a big event in Sonora, with a parade in the morning and often athletic events in the afternoon.
For many years, veterans of the Civil War were honored in the parade. But for 1919, emphasis was on the World War I veterans.
The Union Democrat reported…“this year the day has a deeper significance, and the honor was not alone for the soldiers of an old war but for the 60,000 young soldiers who fell on the blood-soaked soil of Europe in the greatest war in the history of the world. So tenderly the bright blossoms were strewn on the graves of the old guard, but in our hearts, the loving tribute was intended also for our brave lads that sleep over in France.”
The parade, consisting of community members, began at the IOOF Hall on Washington Street. The procession was led by John H. Shine as the flag bearer. He was followed by the grammar school drum corps, grammar school children, Boy Scouts, high school cadets, high school students, discharged soldiers and sailors, the choir, and officers of the day in autos. The parade marched to the IOOF cemetery where a program was conducted.
Columbia observed what was then known as Decoration Day with ceremonies at the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) plot at the public cemetery.
Following the exercise, a Himalaya cedar was planted in memory of Lawrence Kress, who had died in France in 1918. A marble tablet, inscribed with his information was placed at the base of the tree. His remains were brought home in 1921, and interred in the grave reserved for him.
Jamestown and Rawhide also had ceremonies, planting trees honoring their soldiers who had died.
A tree for Babe Lertora was planted at the Jamestown grammar school and another was planted at Rawhide for Clarence Kahl.
Pat Perry is Sonora city historian. She wrote this article for the Chispa, a publication of the Tuolumne County Historical Society, Tuolumne County During World War I. The Tuolumne County Historical Society has an exhibit on World War I exhibit at their museum located at 158 Bradford Avenue.