Woman’s Relief Corps of the Grand Army of the Republic
Women’s Relief Corps of the Grand Army of the Republic. Sitting (L-R) Elizabeth Carris, Eliza Bennett, Betsey Weldon, Emma Price, Polly Coleman, Liilian Oxenrider, Hannah Gray, Janet Sebastian. Standing: Bertha Helmer, Edith Wrldon, Lillian Pitman, Alta Boulton, Emma Durkee, Augusta Rutz, Alice Hayes, Jesse Taylor.
Womans Relief Corps of the Grand Army of the Republic
By Mrs. Emma M. Durkee
The Womans Relief Corps was the outgrowth of the Soldiers Aid Societies, which sprang into existence among the loyal women of the North, during the Civil War. These societies were followed by the formation of like associations I many states.
July 25, 1883, at Denver, Colorado, these societies were united and a national organization was effected. By the unanimous adoption of the resolution of the fifteenth annual encampment of the G.A.R., this organization took the name of “The Womans Relief Corps,” and Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic.
April 2, 1884, the Department of Michigan was organized at Lansing with Mrs. Etta W. Shank (wife of Dr. Rush J. Shank), of Lansing, as its first president, her treasurer was Mrs. Kittie Rice-Stone, (wife of George W. Stone, auditor general, and Civil War Veteran, who was later Department Commander of the G.A.R. of Michigan). Both Mr. And Mrs. Stone were former Albion residents.
Through the untiring efforts of Agnes M. Wiley, E.W. Hollingsworth, W.R.C. was organized February 8, 1888, with 39 charter members, namely: Mesdames Agnes M. Wiley, Carrie B. Warren, Emma M. Durkee, Maggie Glascoff, Sarah J. Haines, M. Janette Gardner, Mamie OHara, Mary E. Matson, Mary E. Cook, Altha Hubbard, Julia Gillispie, Emma J. Sibley, Nettie A. Loder, Sophia Bissell, Lizzie Matson, Josephine Abby, Sarah M. Smith, Eliza OHara, Mary A. Simmons, Fannie A. Burnett, Marian Peachy, Ann E. Waterman, Carrie E. Hart, Anna Farout, Ada L. Gilbert, Lucinda Page, Lucy A. Delbridge, Sara M. Harrick, Carrie E. Ford, Jennie Schermerhord, Lucilla M. Tower, Jannett Sebastian, Anna Wickmire, Nancy Gildersleeve, Sada M. Biddinger, Emeretta Lipps, Mary E. Babcock, Lizzie J. Brundage, Alice Perine. Of this number, those who are still members of this corps are: Emma M. Durkee, Altha Hubbard, Mary Simmons-Ruff, and Janet Sebastian. Mrs. Wiley was the first president of the corps, Mrs. R.L. Warren, (mother of the Hon. Charles B. Warren of Detroit), first vice-president, and Mrs. W.C. Durkee, second vice-president; Mrs. Durkee became president in 1890.
The past presidents of the E.W. Hollingsworth Womans Relief Corps, No. 136, are: Mrs. Agnes M. Wiley, Mrs. Emma M. Durkee, Mrs. M. Janette Gardner, Mrs. Belle Bigelow, Mrs. Margaret Chatfield, Miss Gray, Mrs. Mary Deyoe, Mrs. Ada Gilbert, Mrs. Lucinda Page, Mrs. Alice Perine, Mrs. Mary B. Perine, Mrs. Viola Kingsnorth, Mrs. Kate Ruff, Mrs. Kate Broxholm, Mrs. Lillam Titman, Mrs. Jessie Taylor, Mrs. Hattie Pickett, Mrs. Bertha Helmer, Mrs. Emma Price, Mrs. Eliza Carris.
Agnes M. Wiley was elected Department President at Grand Rapids Encampment in 1912, and brought other honors to the Albion corps, appointing tow of our members to important offices, Emma A. Niver-Laurance, secretary, and M. Janette Gardner, as treasurer.
The object of the Womans Relief Corps was to assist the Grand Army in caring for the Union Veterans and their dependent ones, and to perpetuate the memory of their heroic dead, also to emulate and to cherish the deeds of our army nurses and all loyal women who rendered service to our country in her hour of peril. We believe in better citizenship, Americanism, child welfare, advance education, respect to our flag, and defense of our country against all enemies.
For more than forty years, E.W. Hollingsworth Post and the Womans Relief Corps worked in unison together. They bought and furnished the building on East Erie Street, known as the G.A.R. Memorial Hall, and shared the expenses of the upkeep until they rented it for church services. Together they marched to some church on Memorial Sunday to listed to memorial services for departed comrades. IT was never too hot a day for Civil War Veterans to turn out, and some of them never missed a Sunday until health or age obliged their staying at home.
Flags have been presented to all the churches where memorial services were held by the patriotic instructor of the Womans Relief Corps, also to the Albion High School, and others. One large flag and flag pole was given to the boys of the American Legion.
In early days when observing Memorial Day, boys and girls from the high school were asked to take part and to bring flowers to the hall where the flowers were arranged in bouquets and evergreen wreaths were twined, then carried by the boys and girls to the cemetery and laid tenderly on each grave and a brief sketch of the army life of each soldier was given by the leader.
These were followed by city officials, business men, schools and other organizations, showing due respect to the boys who wore the blue and carried the flag which floats over this and other countries today. Only seven of those gallant boys remain in Albion to tell the story, and because of feebleness were obliged to give up their Post work and now are organized informally into a little group which meets at their individual homes, to keep in touch with the work, with their last Commander, Rev. I.H. Riddick, to cheer them on their way.
The Womans Relief Corps hold their charter and pay their per capita tax to keep them on the Post roster.
Source: Krenerick, Miriam. Albion’s Milestones and Memories. Albion, MI: Art Craft Press. 1932. 97-98