Figuratively speaking, taps were sounded in this Saline Valley community in recent days for an organization that has, since well before the turn of the century, faithfully carried on relief work for the "Vanishing Americans," the "boys in blue," their widows and orphans.
General Hazen Woman’s Relief Corps (WRC) No. 119 of Lincoln has disbanded after 95 continuous years of service. Ninety-one-year-old Amanda Borman has been the organization’s president for many, many years.
The WRC, a national organization, came into being during the Civil War, 1861 to 1865, and after the rehabilitation, continued in service to become the Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) which represented the Union Army of that war.
The main objective was to perpetuate the principles of the GAR, which fought to keep this country one nation with one flag. The GAR and the WRC are also credited with the writing of the Pledge of Allegiance – they appointed Francis Bellamy to chair the committee responsible for the pledge as it is known today, and since then, only one addition, "under God," inserted by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, has been made.
Sixty-six women formed the local chapter in 1886, to "assist the GAR veterans in perpetuating the memory of their heroic dead, to extend needful aid to GAR widows and orphans, to cherish and emulate deeds of Army nurses." Since then, and for the ensuing 95 years, members of the WRC have donated time and money to carry on relief work, have donated annually to the Red Cross, numerous national fund-raising drives (polio, cancer, tuberculosis), and provided funds to keep up old Civil War heroes’ graves, aid their families, and have sewn untold numbers of supplies for hospitalized veterans.
The WRC charter, table, gavel, scrap book and banner have been presented to the Lincoln Historical Society and are being placed on display in the Kyne House museum. The treasury fund, in excess of $350, has been passed on to the local American Legion to be used for a memorial of cemetery flagpoles.
Longtime president Amanda Borman is in ill health. A chapter letter to WRC State Treasurer Irene Severson, Arkansas City, cited, "Our members are all getting older and are either in rest homes or unable to attend meetings. We have not had enough members attending meetings to have floor work in over three years and have not been able to hold election of new officers."
The letter concluded, "The younger women of Lincoln are involved with the American Legion and the VFW Auxiliarys, and are very active with veterans projects. The WRC has many treasured memories…."
The organization has been a firm defender of the constitution and the preservation of history in true form. TheWRC feels there is room for only one "ism" in this nation: Americanism. It has kept all patriotic holidays.
The organization’s scrapbook, on display at the historical society’s museum, contains GAR and WRC rosters, and yellowed clippings telling of the "vanishing Americans," whose last annual encampment was their 82nd, and took place in 1949. At that time, notes the record, there were only 28 surviving Civil War vets. A 3-cent postage stamp honored the last encampment and went on sale at Indianapolis, Ind., Aug. 29, 1949. It is believe d that no veterans of the Civil War lived beyond the early 1950s.
The closing roster of the local chapter listed the following members: Mabel Anderson, Bertha Ackeman, Myrtle Allison, Amanda Borman, Ida Brown, Anna Breazier, Grace Bird, Katie Bishop, Lena Briggs, Mildred Cheney, Bessie Coatney, Gladys Davis, Ruth Edwards, Anna Ehlers, Ella Fitzgerald, Margaret Horner, Reva Mae Herman, Ella Jennings, Emily King, Elsie Krebs, Neola Lessor, Faye Larsen, Thyra Larsen, Ruth Murphy, Lillian Moss, Elsie Miller, Grace Owen, Naomi Olsen, Shirley Paulson, Joyce Rankin, Betty Stethman, Edna Snook, Ruth Pinnick, Florence Warner, Carmen Wilson, Erma Zink, Wilma Pratt, Florence Gunderson and Goldie Bailey.
All are direct descendants of those boys in blue.
It seems fitting, as the organization disbands, to recall words spoken in an address to the Woman’s Relief Corps by Grand Army of the Republican Commander in Chief T.B. Williams, Chapman, in the ealry 1930s:
"Like we of the GAR, your number grows smaller … but your hearts beat just as warmly, your devotion is just as keen as it was in those earlier days when you conceived and executed this noble purpose … because of your obligations and vow of fealty that in a large measure helped to heal and bind the dreadful wounds left by that fearful struggle which almost tore our nation asunder, you have ever proven faithful. You have kept the faith."