Tragedy marred North Wales 1910 Memorial Day observances
Shortly after noon on Memorial Day, May 30, 1910, members of Colonel Edwin Selma Post, No. 290, Grand Army of the Republic, escorted by Camp No. 92, Sons of Veterans, and also members of the ladies’ auxiliary, arrived in North Wales from Lansdale to take part in the Memorial Day parade and exercises. After dinner had been served at Hotel Wunder [at 5th & Walnut St., later McKeever’s], the delegation was headed by the Citizens Band of Quakertown, the Veterans, and the Women of the War, occupying two large coaches, and proceeded to Elm avenue where they took their places in the parade.
The formation of the parade was as follows: mounted police, chief marshal, assistant marshal, clergymen in carriages, Quakertown Band, Post 290 of the G.A.R., ladies’ auxiliary and Women of the War, Sons of Veterans, North Wales Burgess James Billiard, members of council and school board in carriages, North Wales Lodge No. 610 International Order of Odd Fellows, Lanah Rebekah in coaches, Independent Americans, Gilt Edge Castle Knights of the Golden Eagle, Uniformed Guards of Foresters, Court Pride Foresters of America, Camp 547 P.O.S. of A., Baraca Class of the Baptist Church.
At the cemeteries the various societies placed flowers on the graves of deceased members and the Grand Army men held services over the graves of their departed comrades. A squad from the Sons of Veterans fired a salute at each cemetery. After the Lutheran Cemetery was visited the parade marched to the school yard on School street where it was dismissed.
The program at the school was to have included short addresses by several local ministers. The main speaker was to be Jason Sexton, well-known local citizen, and a former member of the State Legislature and State Board of Agriculture.
The stand from which the speaking was to take place was beautifully decorated with flags and bunting and at night was illuminated with electric light. There was to be a band concert following the address by the main speaker.
Jason Sexton, clad in the uniform of the Grand Army of the Republic, filled with the enthusiasm and patriotism that called himself and thousands of others to the defense of their country in 1861, died in the presence of hundreds of his comrades, neighbors and friends assembled in the school yard soon after he had begun to deliver his address.
Sexton’s sudden and tragic death cast a gloom over the audience, nearly all of whom had seen the speaker fall to the platform. Willing hands were quickly at his side and Dr. H. F. Slifer, who was present, gave prompt assistance to the stricken man, but life was extinct. A few minutes later the announcement was made that Mr. Sexton was dead. His body was wrapped in the Stars and Stripes and borne to his late residence on Main street [later the home of W. Palmer King] by a detachment of the Sons of Veterans, grief stricken comrades acting as a guard of honor.
Mr. Sexton took an active part in the arrangements for Memorial Day, having presided at the meeting in Lansdale that morning. In the afternoon he took part in the parade in our town, going with the Veterans in carriages to both cemeteries. On arriving at the school yard he took a seat on the platform and listened with close attention to the remarks of Rev. J. N. LeVan, pastor of the Reformed Church, who was first on the program. Mr. Sexton followed, and it was only a few minutes after he arose, that he was seen to suddenly grow very pale and then fell backward, his head striking the floor with a sound that was heard all over the grounds. Heart failure, due to over exertion and fatigue following the events of the day, wase given as the cause of death.
The tragic death of the speaker broke up the meeting and the remainder of the program. The band concert which was to have been held in the evening was called off.
Carrying out the theme of these articles, to give our present residents a history of the town and its early residents, next week we will discuss the background of Mr. Sexton.
This post is sourced from a column entitled Early North Wales: Its History and Its People penned by long-time North Wales resident historian Leon T. Lewis. The article appeared in its original form in the May 26, 1959 issue of the North Penn Reporter.