In 1891, Redlands’s veterans united to establish the Bear Valley Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, or GAR. The GAR was a Union veteran’s organization founded in 1866 and held annual reunions, known as “Encampments”, until 1949. Cities across the country started local GAR posts and members wore special GAR uniforms, swords, and instruments.
The GAR was very active politically and advocated for several causes, including veteran’s pensions, establishing Memorial Day as a national holiday, and homes for aging veterans. At its peak in 1890, the organization boasted a national membership of over 400,000 veterans.
Women’s auxiliary posts were also formed soon after the war, including the Women’s Relief Corps and the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic. The WRC was recognized as the official GAR auxiliary group in 1883 and only admitted women who had “not given aid and comfort to the enemies of the Union” during the War. WRC groups formed in relation to individual GAR posts and maintained amongst their objectives the aim to “perpetuate the memory of the heroic dead,” and “to extend needful aid to their widows and orphans.” The Bear Valley Women’s Relief Corps was organized in February 1894 and included the spouses of many of the city’s veterans.
Members of the Bear Valley Post included some of the regions earliest settlers and many individuals who made long lasting contributions to Redlands and the surrounding area. At one of the group’s last meetings in late 1936, with only 5 members left, the decision was made to donate the post’s records to the Lincoln Memorial Shrine. The group went out of existence in February 1938 when it’s last surviving member, Captain Clifford Eagle, passed away and the records have remained in the Shrine’s collection.
Thanks to the work of Redlands historian Tom Atchley and Lincoln Shrine volunteer researcher Mark Radeleff, we now have a greater understanding of the role that Civil War veterans played in the origins of the City of Redlands. For more information, contact the Heritage Room at (909)798-7632 or firstname.lastname@example.org.