September 28, 2017, marks the 70th Anniversary of the formal dedication ceremony to name
U.S. Highway 6 across Iowa as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway.
It was at 2:00 in the afternoon on Sunday, September 28, 1947, when Iowa’s two remaining Civil War veterans James Martin and Ebenezer McMurray came together at the Old Capitol Building in Iowa City with Governor Robert Blue, other dignitaries, and a crowd of about 400 people for the formal dedication of the Grand Army of the Republic Highway. As the proposed marker sign for the highway was unveiled, Governor Blue proclaimed “the deeds that Civil War veterans performed have not been forgotten.” (Iowa City Press-Citizen, 29 September 1947, p. 1) And, “We dedicate this highway today as a symbol of unity between these 48 states from coast to coast, to the vision of the boys of the Civil War, and to the future, for these men have left to us a heritage of freedom.” (Des Moines Register, 29 September 1947, p. 1)
Congratulations to Dan Rittel, 2017 recipient of the SUVCW Meritorious Service Award for his efforts on the Grand Army of the Republic Highway - Iowa
Iowa towns that previously had a G. A. R. post through which US Highway 6 passed in 1947
the year the Grand Army of the Republic Highway was dedicated in Iowa:
Davenport - August Wentz Post #1
Wilton - Henry Seibert Post #250
Atalissa - Charles Mitchner Post #362
West Liberty - Silas Jackson Post #255
Iowa City - Samuel J. Kirkwood Post #8
Marengo - John Dillon Post #233 & Col. John Connell Post #499
Ladora - W. B. Bricker Post #145
Victor - I. M. Huston Post #394
Brooklyn - John T. Drake Post #321
Grinnell - Gordon Granger Post #64
Newton - Garrett Post #16
Colfax - E. D. Duncan Post #253
Altoona - Dorr Post #62
Des Moines - Kinsman Post #7, Crocker Post #12 & Hooker Post #21
Waukee - Thornton Post #303
Adel - Col. Mills Post #45
Redfield - Marshall Post #43
Dexter - Wadsworth Post #36
Stuart - Maxwell Post #14
Menlo - McMillen Post #430
Casey - John Stanfield Post #359
Adair - Washington Post #135
Anita - Meade Post #50
Wiota - James Cantwell Post #99
Atlantic - Samuel Rice Post #6
Oakland - William Layton Post #358
Council Bluffs - Abe Lincoln Post #29 & H. Osborne Post #407
There are now new Grand Army of the Republic Highway marker signs up in most of these towns. Hopefully, all can be marked within the next year.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has proclaimed September 28th, 2016, as "Grand Army of the Republic Highway Day" in Iowa, to honor the 150th Anniversary of the founding of the Grand Army of the Republic. It was on that day in 1947 that Governor Blue signed the original proclamation.
Major William L. Anderson, Jr., of the U.S. Army conceived the idea of designating U.S. 6 the
Grand Army of the Republic Highway to honor the Union forces during the Civil War. Based on his recommendation, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War began promoting the idea in April 1934. Because the highway was owned by the States, the organization asked each State to act on the proposal. The first to do so was Massachusetts when Governor Charles F. Hurley signed a bill on February 12, 1937, naming the route. Over the years, the States gradually adopted the name. For example, California did so in 1943 and Indiana in 1946, while Governor James Duff of Pennsylvania named the State's segment of U.S. 6 in 1948.
A formal dedication of the Grand Army of the Republic Highway took place on May 3, 1953, in Long Beach. The occasion was a gathering of the five related service organizations, including the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. The five organizations held their own meetings, but came together for the dedication on that Sunday afternoon to place a monument in front of the Municipal Auditorium: Extending a distance of three thousand six hundred fifty-two miles through fourteen states the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War worked to name the highway in memory of the heroic services and unselfish devotion of the Union soldiers, sailors and marines who laid down their lives on the altar of sacrifice during the Civil War.
The Department of Iowa Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War is currently undertaking a project to re-mark the Grand Army of the Republic Highway across Iowa.
The initial goal is to be sure that each town along historic U.S. Highway 6 that had a GAR Post in the past has signs placed in accordance with correspondence between the GAR and the State Highway Commission from 1947-1948.
For more information, please contact Dan Rittel, the GAR Highway Officer for the Department of Iowa SUVCW by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beginning in 2007, the Department of Iowa Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War began memorializing Iowa's Civil War Generals by naming bridges along the Grand Army of the Republic Highway through Iowa in their honor. Eleven bridges have been named in honor of twelve Generals.