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Memorial Day history

Posted May 20, 2011 Posted by Be the first to comment

Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868 to remember the men that lost their lives in the Civil War. As the only southern city to remain in the Union during the Civil War, a large number of U.S. Navy, Marine Corp, and Army men died in Key West, mostly from tropical fevers. The Army men were buried in the Barracks Cemetery that was on White Street across from the Armory. The graves were moved in 1927 to the U.S. National Cemetery at Fort Barrancas near Pensacola. The Navy men were buried in what is now known as the Battleship Maine Plot in the Key West City Cemetery.

The Battleship Maine Plot began as a Naval Cemetery during the Civil War. After the Battleship Maine was destroyed by an explosion on February 15, 1898 in Havana most of the 200+ victims were buried in Cuba in the days after the disaster. During the investigation that followed, 27 more bodies were found and brought to Key West and buried in the Navy Plot.

The Plot was dedicated as the Battleship Maine Plot on December 11, 1898. Before the dedication, the fence and gates were installed by Encampment 69 Union Veteran Legion of Washington, District of Columbia.  The citizens of Key West raised the money for the statue of “The Lone Sailor” which was unveiled and dedicated on March 15, 1900.

Records have been found for 142 men and two women who are buried in the plot or memorized on one of the monuments. The plot contains 82 sailors and marines that died during the Civil War.

The two women in the plot are Mrs. Beth Allen Lacy and Mary Louise Quinlan. Mrs. Lacy’s ashes were interred in the grave of her husband Marine Sergeant Raymond Lewis Lacy. Ten month old Mary Louise Quinlan, who died on November 9, 1918 during the great flu pandemic, remains a mystery. Her parents were Earl Harrison and Lily Morrison Quinlan. She was baptized at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on March 3, 1918. The available records indicate that her father may have been military and as a dependent she was buried in the Navy owned plot.

After World War I, the Memorial Day was changed to honor all Americans who died fighting in any war. During this Memorial Day Weekend take a moment to remember those who paid the ultimate price so we can live in this great country.

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