By Scott Hentges
The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) was started by Dr. B.F. Stephenson in 1866 in Decatur, Ill., shortly after the Civil War ended. His plan was to care for disabled Union Civil War veterans, their widows, and orphans.
The Grand Army of the Republic was similar to todayıs American Legion and Veteranıs of Foreign Wars. As this organization grew, many towns had their own G.A.R. post.
The Grand Army of the Republic in Paynesville never had an actual building that was called the G.A.R. hall. Members met and had get-togethers at the Masonic Lodge or Odd Fellows Lodge.
The Grand Army of the Republic continued to hold meetings and other activities until most of the members passed away. When there were only three members left, the G.A.R. in Paynesville had to close down because to be a member you had to be a veteran of the Civil War.
This monument to Civil War veterans was erected on July 4, 1917, and still stands in a small park across from Grace United Methodist Church in Paynesville.
The three members that remained wanted the G.A.R. post to stay in Paynesville. These three reported to the Department of Encampment and told them their situation. Their wish was granted, and the three men continued to hold meetings and activities.
Finally, with only one member left, the Grand Army of the Republic post in Paynesville ceased to exist, but the memory of these three old soldiers and their former comrades has lived on.
On July 4, 1917, the Sons of Veterans built a Soldierıs Monument, dedicated to the memory of the village veterans who fought in the Civil War. This monument still stands today where it was built, across from Grace United Methodist Church on Highway 23.
At the Paynesville Area Historical Museum, we have an exhibit on the Civil War. In this exhibit, we have names and pictures about these soldiers who were members in the Grand Army of the Republic in Paynesville. If you have any information about the Grand Army of the Republic or if you would like to know more about it, please contact us or come visit the Paynesville Area Historical Museum.