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May 25: Memorial Day in North Dakota

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Memorial Day is fast approaching, occurring on or around this date. Here's a sampling of how communities throughout North Dakota have observed the day of military remembrance, from picnics to parades to poppy sales.

In Reeder, the Carl Hendrickson American Legion Post 51 prepared the cemetery for Memorial Day and flew flags on each side of the cemetery avenue. The Legion and the local American Legion Auxiliary began handling Memorial Day programs together in 1922. Proceeds from poppy sales on the Saturday before Memorial Day benefited veterans with disabilities. In 1948, organizers ordered flags to place on every veteran’s grave.

The Memorial Day parade in 1919 in Pembina was led by an automobile carrying the last two local Civil War veterans. Following them was the first appearance of local World War One veterans, parading in formation, wearing helmets. Sailors, the Boy Scouts, Campfire Girls and schoolchildren also were also in the parade lineup. Parade-goers held a ceremony on the Pembina River Bridge and decorated the graves of veterans.

In 1974, in Ambrose, North Dakota, Sunday school children of the Presbyterian church marched from the town flagpole to the cemetery to decorate graves. Each child carried a bouquet of wildflowers he or she had gathered the day before. They returned to church for Memorial Day services.

In 1909, Langdon-area residents lost five neighbors in a tornado the evening before Memorial Day – giving double significance to the day years afterward.

On Memorial Day in 1927, a band marched to the home of the last surviving Civil War veteran in Drake, North Dakota, to serenade him.

The first Memorial Day service held in New Salem was in 1894, when children gathered in the morning at the opera hall and marched to the cemetery with flags and flowers. In the evening, the children gave a recital at the opera hall.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura


  • Jubilee committee. (1983). Reeder diamond jubilee 1905-1983. 
  • N.a. (1919). Pembina county in the world war. The Crystal Call: Crystal, ND
  • History Book Committee. (1974). Divide County history, 1974, Crosby, North Dakota. N.p. 
  • Langdon Jubilee Committee. (1963). Langdon, North Dakota diamond jubilee 1888-1963. Taylor Publishing Company 
  • Cantlon, C. (1977). Prairie patchwork: A collection of anecdotes from Drake, North Dakota. McHenry County Register-Journal: Velva, North Dakota
  • Centennial Book Committee (1983). New Salem 1883-1983. N.p. 
  • Dura, J. 2021, May 28. World War I flu deaths. Prairie Public, Dakota Datebook. Retrieved from: news.prairiepublic.org/dakota-datebook/2021-05-28/world-war-i-flu-deaths

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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