Where it all began

BOALSBURG – There are several towns in the United States that lay claim to the birthplace of Memorial Day, and Boalsburg is one of them.

This will be the 149th Memorial Day celebrated in Boalsburg, a tradition that stretches back to 1864 when three women placed flowers on the graves of two soldiers who were killed during the Civil War.

The tradition of placing flowers on the gravestones in Boalsburg continues today with the help of local Girl Scout Troop 1184.

“This gives the community a sense of identity to remember those who went before us,” said Christopher Lee, President of the Boalsburg Village Conservacy.

Lee, a direct dissident of the Boal family, lives at the Boal mansion where he maintains the rich history of the property, which includes the famous Columbus Chapel, home to an extensive collection of Christopher Columbus artifacts. The chapel was inherited by the Boal family in 1909 and was imported from Spain, brick by brick.

For more than 200 years, the Boal family has helped to shape the community of Boalsburg.

Across the street from the Boal Mansion on Business Route 322, is the Pennsylvania Military Museum. The site of the museum used to be where Col. Theodore Davis Boal organized the Boal Machine Gun Troop in 1916.

Starting at 10 a.m. today, the museum will host a number of events for the public, including a military encampment depicting what life was like for soldiers in the European Theater during WWII. The encampment will feature Axis and Allied troops.

In addition to the encampment, a 1940s style soldiers canteen show will be presented for the troops and public at 3 p.m. today. The encampment will also be held on Sunday.

On Memorial Day, Boalsburg will be a flutter with a host of activities beginning at 8:30 a.m. with a Fun Run at Blue Springs Park. Throughout the day there will be local musicians and artists selling their wares, as well as a traditional Maypole dance at 12:30 p.m.

There will also be a reenactment of a Civil War battle on the Boal Mansion lawn.

“Family holidays can be a real battle on Memorial Day. We have people killed in our front yard,” Lee said.

In addition the United Church of Christ will play the 1861 Durner pipe organ at 11 a.m.

The day’s activities round off with the traditional 6 p.m. Memorial Service at the cemetery. People may gather at the Diamond in the center of Boalsburg and walk to the cemetery to the sound of bagpipers.

Even though this year’s festivities are just now under way, Lee is already planning for 150th anniversary next year.

The BVC has asked Lee to organize the community committee by reaching out to interested organizations and individuals.

Lee said some current concepts under consideration for the 150th anniversary include a new history of Boalsburg’s Memorial Day based on research into primary sources, a DVD of photos and events, a historic house tour and the formation of a “Green Team” for recycling during the 2014 Memorial Day festival.