OAKLAND — In this “great small town” at the western edge of Maryland, they have observed Memorial Day on the last Monday of May every year since 1893, with a procession up the hill from Third Street and a ceremony under an oak tree and a hemlock in the town cemetery.
The oak and the hemlock are still there, big as history, and providing shade for the ceremony by the grave of an unknown Union soldier who died in Garrett County during the Civil War.
“He was wounded in Winchester, Va., and they brought him to Oakland to be treated by Dr. [Josiah Lee] McComas,” said Randall Kahl, the historian for the American Legion post here. “The soldier died, and they didn’t know his name.”
So the townspeople buried him between the oak and hemlock. For decades, a wooden cross marked the grave. The Legion replaced it with a handsome stone in 1950. Every Memorial Day, an Oakland woman put a red rose atop the stone at 6 a.m. The woman’s daughter has continued the tradition, Kahl said, pointing to the long-stemmed rose that had been placed on the stone Monday morning.
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