Memorial Day began in 1865 in the mind of Henry Welles, a druggist in tiny Waterloo, N.Y., who wanted to honor the memory of those who died in the Civil War. He found an ally in a friend and customer, Union Army Brig. Gen. John Murray. A year later, they led Waterloo in the first annual observance of a day honoring
. Flags were lowered to half-mast, and locals joined in a parade to three local cemeteries to pay their respects. Some argue that similar traditions had already seized grieving communities across the nation, especially in the war-torn South. Why the credit today goes to Waterloo is largely because of Maj. Gen. John Logan, a friend of Murray and the founder of an organization of Union veterans. In 1868, he designated May 30 as the day to honor dead comrades—largely by scattering flower petals at their grave sites—and ordered local communities to join in Waterloo's celebration. Known as Decoration Day, the idea reached even President Ulysses S. Grant, who presided over a ceremony that year at Arlington National Cemetery.