Dakota Datebook

Memorial Day

On this date in 1921, the weather promised to be chilly, and the heavy clouds threatened rain.  But that did not dampen the spirits of folks in Grand Forks.  It was Memorial Day.  And Grand Forks was determined to celebrate, regardless of the weather.  The day was particularly meaningful because of the end of World War I was still fresh, only a few years before.  The Grand Forks Herald noted that the day was being recognized with great reverence, “for everywhere there are the graves of young Americans who gave their lives in France.”

The celebration was kicked off with a parade, described as “one of the biggest of its kind ever held.”  Added to the sadness of the war was the knowledge that the Grand Army of the Republic had almost entirely passed by.  Only one Civil War veteran participated, dressed in his blue uniform of the Union Army.  A.J. Pierce had marched or ridden in every Memorial Day parade held in Grand Forks.

The 1921 parade was headed by the Municipal Band.  Next came Captain H.L. Edwards and Company M of the National Guard.  The Guard was followed by Major A.E. Brown leading the ROTC staff and cadets of the University of North Dakota.  Then came the group the spectators eagerly awaited – the World War I veterans, marching together in uniform once more.  Also marching were veterans of older wars, and members of the Grand Forks American Legion representing every branch of military service.  The Gold Star Mothers also marched, carrying small red and white flags embellished with a gold star that represented a son who had fallen in service to his country.  Other parade participants included the high school band, the Boy Scouts, and school children, each carrying an American flag.

The parade formed at University Avenue and Fourth Street, marching to the cemetery where GAR services were held.  There was another service at the DeMers Avenue bridge to honor fallen sailors.  After that, the spectators went to the City Auditorium for a Memorial Day program including poetry, music, and a reading of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.


Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Grand Forks Herald. “Memorial Day Observed in Grand Forks.” 30 May, 1921.

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