John F. Reynolds Post No. 5
On this date in 1884, a group of Union Civil War veterans banded together in Fargo to form John F. Reynolds Post No. 44 of the Grand Army of the Republic. The group was active in Fargo for nearly 60 years. Its members, peaking at 287 before death took its toll, engaged in state and federal events involving and memorializing veterans.
Lafayette Hadley, a Minnesota Infantry captain, helped garner interest in 1883 to help get the post established. Horace Austin became the first post commander. Austin had served as Minnesota’s sixth governor from 1870 to 1874. With North Dakota gaining statehood in 1889, Post No. 44 became Post No 5, named after John F. Reynolds, who was killed in action commanding the First Corps of the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg.
Membership of the post began with 64 charter members. They took part in parades and ceremonies, including sendoffs and welcomings for soldiers of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. They also decorated veterans’ graves with wreathes on Decoration Day, a predecessor of Memorial Day.
While Dakota Territory played no major role in the American Civil War, many veterans settled the state after the coming of the railroad. They took advantage of the Homestead Act, establishing farms and raising families. Fargo in particular was a hub for vets, and two early mayors were veterans of the war. Wilbur F. Ball served with the Second Ohio Cavalry, while John A. Johnson served as a locomotive engineer.
By the 1930s, membership began to decline, and the winter of 1942 saw the passing of the post’s last member.
The Fargo GAR post may have disappeared, but a GAR monument funded by Post 5 and the governor remains. It stands in Island Park, and was dedicated on Decoration Day in 1916. Its inscription reads, “To the dead a tribute, to the living a memory, to posterity an inspiration.”
Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura
Eriksmoen, C. (2012, Apr 15). Minnesota governor had an impact on N.D. Bismarck Tribune. Retrieved from: