Ken Gottry - Cambridge NY History

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a large multi-faceted organization (fraternal lodge, charitable society, special interest lobby, patriotic group, and political club) founded in 1866 by Union Army Surgeon Benjamin Franklin Stephenson in Decatur, IL.The Cambridge GAR Post was organized in 1882 and disbanded in 1924.

The organization was originally envisioned as a brotherhood of veterans who were dedicated to helping other veterans.

Each post was set up similar to a Union Army encampment. They had sentries at the door, members were transferred to other posts when they moved, and they were subject to court martial and dishonorable discharge.

The military system only lasted until 1869 when it was replaced by a fraternal order fashioned after the Masonic lodges. This form of organization, with its strict rules and grading system, did not appeal to the vast majority of veterans and membership plummeted. In the late 1870's the organization structure was once again adjusted and GAR membership rose sharply in the 1880's.

The GAR's annual financial report for 1911 shows there were 568 posts and 19,433 members. They expended $18,217.57 to help 789 families of members as well as 272 families of non-members. Forty-five after its inception, the GAR was still focused on its original goal of helping other veterans of the Civil War.

Cambridge NY GAR Post, 1882

The application for charter of Post #309, the John McKie Post, was submitted on 3-Nov-1882. There were 12 veterans listed on the application






Geo H Overocker




30th NY Volls Infty

Warren Russell




5th VT Volls Infty

Orin S Hall




123rd NY Volls Infty

D. C. Lambert





Mitchell McFarland




Harry C Wood




Ira King




Chas Graham



14th VT Volls Infty

Dr. C Coulter



44th NY Volls Infty

Peter Henry



123rd NY Volls Infty

Romain Bennett

White Creek




Beng. L Ward




79th IN Volls Infty


The post was named for John W McKie (1824-1864), older brother of William McKie. On 10-May-1861, John raised a company of 90 men from Cambridge and the surrounding areas. He was elevated to the rank of Captain in the 22nd Regiment. In June-1861 he was promoted to Major and on 30-Sep-1862 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.

John was honorably discharged in 1863 as the result of a physical disability. He was tragically killed on his family farm in 1864 as he fell from a wagon when the team of horses was startled.

GAR Post Members

The John W McKie Post #309 of the GAR met on the second floor of the Fuller Block, located at the southeast corner of Main and Park, approximately where Foggy Notions is located today (2005).

The photo above shows 53 members standing in front of a brick building. This may be the east side of the old Red Brick Hotel, former called the Loomis Hotel and Stroud's Hotel (1873), the location of Cumberland Farms Convenience Store today (2005).

The photo above is from Decoration Day 1909. It shows 16 members. It appears to be taken in front of the Fuller Block, looking east toward Ash Grove. The members that can be identified in the photo are:

Front Row: Evan, Willard Lawton, D. Lee, Mitchell McFarland, unknown, unknown
Back Row: Daniel Harr, unknown,unknown, unknown, unknown, unknown, David Garey, Warren Chase, Cpt Bailey, Cleve Andrew

Post Disbandment, 1924

The post remained in existence until it was disbanded on 12-Feb-1924 according to a letter from the Assistant Adjutant General, Isidore Isaacs sent to A. S. Lansing, the Cambridge Postmaster. The members of the GARat that time were:

  1. Willard Lawton, Cmdr
  2. GardnerBentley
  3. Albert Corbett
  4. John Haslem
  5. James Leigh

The Civil War Pension List in 1920 listed 3 veterans from Cambridge

  1. Marcus D Rice
  2. Andrew Shaler
  3. Clark Weir

Information for this report obtained by Ken Gottry, Mar-2005, from the New York State Archives located in the Cultural Education Center in Albany, NY and from The History of the McKie Family located in the Cambridge Public Library