Hutchins Library
Special Collections & Archives
Guide to the Records of The Grand Army of the Republic - KY Post 171, 1890-1939

Accession Number: HC 24
Records of The Grand Army of the Republic - KY Post 171
or Records of the James C. West Post #171 & Women's Relief Corps #48
Dates: 1890-1939
.8 linear feet
Online Catalog Record (BANC)

Series Description
Series I - Captain James C. West Post #171
Series II - Women's Relief Corp #48 of the GAR

Access and Use

Provenance: Ellen Hays presented these records to Berea College. They came from her grandmother, Wilmoth Francis Hays, who inscribed the bound volumes that she was donating to the Berea College Library. W. Francis Hays had once been a vice president in the Kentucky Women's Relief Corps. Ellen's grandfather, Alexander Franklin Hays, claimed to have helped to raise the Union flag on Lookout Mountain when the Confederate and Union forces clashed at Chattanooga, and was also active in the GAR.

Preferred Citation: Records of The Grand Army of the Republic - KY Post 171, Berea College Special Collections & Archives, Berea, KY.

Related Archives

Berea College Archives, Record Group 9, LeVant Dodge
Historical Collections, HC 5, Berea City Records, 1890-1918


These are the records of two related community organizations, the Captain James C. West Post #171 of the Kentucky Department of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) and the Captain James C. West Women's Relief Corps #48 Auxiliary to the Kentucky Department GAR. The Captain James West Post was organized on May 24, 1890. The Captain James West Women's Relief Corps #48 Auxiliary was organized on March 17, 1906. Although the minutes found in this collection are incomplete, the last entry for Post #171 being November 9, 1930, there is significant evidence in Series II, the Women's Auxiliary Corps, suggesting that Post #171 continued to meet for some years, probably jointly with the Women's Relief Corps.

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The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization of Union Army veterans, first formed in 1868 in Decatur, Illinois, for mutual support, for relief of war widows and orphans, and for promotion of patriotic ideals. Chaplain William J. Rutledge and Dr. B.F. Stephenson discussed the idea of such an organization while both were serving in Sherman's army. Later Stephenson, in particular, devoted himself to developing the Grand Army of the Republic, organized at county level, state level, and national level. In 1869 an auxiliary society of women formed in Maine to assist their local GAR post in assisting the families of veterans and promoting patriotism. In 1881 the National Encampment formally recognized such auxiliary groups as the Women's Relief Corps and authorized them to add "Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic" to their official title. (Source: Robert Burns Beath, History of the Grand Army of the Republic, New York: Bryan, Taylor, and Co., 1889). The emphasis on loyalty to the flag and the sacrifices of the veterans' comrades in arms increasingly promoted not only patriotism but also nationalism. While initially only Union veterans participated, by 1897 the National Encampment was reaching out to Confederate veterans--but not African American veterans (Samuel P. Huntington, Who Are We?, N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, 2004). In this collection the GAR's printed cloth banners listing the annual Decoration Day Activities announce, starting in 1897, that both Confederate and Union veterans are welcome to join the march to the cemetery.

Series Description
2 Manuscript Boxes

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Series I
Captain James West Post #171
Box 1

Materials consist of minute books that supply some details concerning the order of the monthly meetings, a ledger of organizational accounts and dues, and various loose minutes and reports. Eleven charter members were mustered in by Capt. A. J. Tharp, Dept. MO, on May 24, 1890. They agreed to meet on the 4th Saturday of each month and taxed themselves 15 cents per quarter. A.J. Hanson was the first commander, and L. C. Duncan his adjutant—both sign the minutes. The minutes do not show other officers at that time. Eight more members joined over the next several months. Then on October 11 there is a note that R.E. Baugh was chosen Quartermaster to replace Daniel Moore, who moved away. At the end of the year they elected officers for the following year. Those listed were: A. J. Hanson, B. W. Bogie, Thomas E. Bicknell, Alex Moore, John B Lucas, R.E. Baugh, Morgan Ramsey, James M. Gabbert, L.C. Duncan, John Richardson, and William Burdette. Names of other men well known in the community appear in subsequent years, such as William M. Hays. In 1895 LeVant Dodge was elected commander of the local post, and in 1906 and 1907 was Commander of the GAR Department in Kentucky. He and his wife Mary regularly attended the annual national encampment.

The group met monthly and performed many community duties, including providing memorial services for veterans, help for needy widows and families of those who fought during the Civil War, as well as other community programs and activities that made the public aware of the significance and honor of the Union's participation in the Civil War. The GAR arranged a full day's community celebration on Decoration Day.

Box 1

  1. Minute Book May 24, 1890 - January 9, 1897
  2. Photo of James C. West Post with Green Broaddus Post (restricted)
  3. Minute Book July 16, 1904 - April 13, 1929
  4. Accounts Ledger January, 1901 - January 1, 1936
  5. Minutes and Accounting Records January 10, 1925 - July 13, 1936
  6. Adjutant and Quartermaster Reports December 30, 1910 - January 20, 1922
  7. Organizational Publications
  8. LeVant Dodge Correspondence
  9. Officers and delegates from three other posts, 1911
  10. Decoration Day banners, 1897-1899
  11. Membership Applications, 1903-1904

Series II
Women's Relief Corp #48
Box 2

The Captain James West Women's Relief Corps #48 Auxiliary was organized on March 17, 1906 and included such prominent community women as W. Francis Hays, Sally Bicknell, and Mary Dodge, whose husbands were also active in the GAR. Mary Dodge headed the Kentucky WRC in 1910-1912, and in 1917 W. Francis Hays was WRC Sr. Vice President.

Closely linked to the Captain James West Post #171, the Women's Auxiliary carried on many of the same community activities. In most cases the two organizations worked together, and in December 1909 began holding joint monthly meetings. Minutes of the meetings frequently refer to a lunch or dinner as part of the gathering, which may have promoted the joint meetings. The objectives of the Women's Auxiliary were, as outlined in the Rules and Regulations manual, to aid and assist the G A R, to perpetuate the memory of their heroic dead, to assist Union veterans in any possible way, to extend needful aid to their widows and orphans, and to promote patriotism. A lack of interest in the organization and poor attendance led to the group's demise in June 1939.

Box 2

  1. Minute Book March 17, 1906 - December 11, 1911
  2. Minute Book January 20, 1912 - June 14, 1930
  3. Minute Book July 12, 1930 - October 10, 1936
  4. Organizational Manuals
  5. Reports 1928-1935
  6. Correspondence
  7. Publications
Series III
General G.A.R. Pamphlets
Box 2

Box 2

  1. G.A.R. Department of Kentucky Proceedings of the Provisional Encampment and the Annual Encampments for the Years of 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887 and 1888 complied from the Original Records and edited by Comrade Geo. A. Jones, of Geo. H. Thomas Post. By Order of the State Encampment, 1885.
  2. Journal of the Fourteenth Annual Encampment, of the Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Kentucky. Held at Somerset, May 19th and 20th, 1896.
  3. Old War Songs, G.A.R. and Patriotic Songs, 1895.

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