News: Spencer History – Women’s Relief Corps


Surnames: Andrews, Graves, Crowell, Whitmore, Wendell, Reas, Damon, McIlhattan, Corbett, Adams, Schaefer, Hayward, Engel, Goeler, Jossi

Source: Spencer Centennial Book (1874 – 1974)

The Woman's Relief Corps, one of the oldest patriotic organizations in the United States, voted in July of 1883 to become the official auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic and was headquartered in Springfield, Illinois. The aim of the corps was to assist the G. A. R. and perpetuate the memory of its dead, to assist Union veterans in need of help and to aid their widows and orphans.

On January 17, 1896, a meeting was held to organize the Spencer Woman's Relief Corps with 23 women attending the charter meeting. Officers elected were Mrs. Mary Andrews, President; Mrs. Leah Graves, Treasurer; Miss Rizpah Crowell, Secretary. Some others attending that meeting were Mrs. H. P. Crowell, Mrs. Joe Whitmore, Mrs. S. D. Graves, Mrs. Adolph Wendell, Mrs. Edith Graves, Mrs. Rose Reas, and Mrs. Carrie Damon.

The Corps celebrated its 50th Anniversary March 7, 1946 at the Methodist Church with a dinner and program with the husbands as their guests. The centerpiece was a gold decorated cake baked by Mrs. Essie Engel, the president; the invocation was given by Mrs. Edith Graves, Chaplain. During the program Mrs. Eva McIlhattan gave a history of the organization. Badges for 25 years or more of membership were awarded to Mrs. Edith Graves, Mrs. Eva McIlhattan, Mrs. Essie Engel, Mrs. Lillian Corbett, Mrs. Ella Adams, Mrs. Ora Schaefer, and Mrs. May Hayward. Essie Engel presented Eva McIlhattan with a corsage for her service as treasurer for 25 years. Membership of the Corps at this time was 38. Lt. Rita Goeler, the only Spencer nurse in war service, had been made an honorary member in December.

For years the Spencer Woman's Relief Corps was a strong, active group. They made arrangements with the public school teachers for a Memorial Day program by students and provided the children with flowers to place on soldiers' graves. They also made arrangements for a memorial service to be held in the Methodist Church each Sunday preceding Memorial Day. They were faithful and loyal in taking care of the hall left them by the G. A. R. until finally, with but a few members left, they turned it over to the Lee F. Pickett American Legion Post. Sometime in the 1950's they decided to disband.

Mrs. Merti Jossi, the last president of the W. R. C., presided over the last district convention held in Spencer.



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