Acton Memorial Library
Isaac Davis Post No. 138 G.A.R.
The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) was started in 1866 as a fraternal order of men who had served the Union cause in the Civil War. Individual groups, called posts, were organized under state departments. Each post was assigned a number based on the order in which it was formed in that state's department. Each post was also identified by a name chosen by its members, typically the name of a local military hero. While the G.A.R. started as a veterans and fraternal organization, it evolved into a potent political force working for the needs of veterans. It existed until 1956.
In May 1882, two years after they had met in the train station in West Acton, 38 veterans formed G.A.R. Post No. 138 and chose to name the post after Revolutionary War Captain Isaac Davis. This was the second post to be chartered in Acton. An earlier post had been chartered in 1870 but didn't attract enough membership to last more than a few years*. Following the establishment of the Isaac Davis Post, the G.A.R. post in neighboring Maynard (Henry Wilson Post No. 86), which had suffered a decline in membership, relinquished its charter. Many of its former members joined the new Acton post.
The Isaac Davis Post met monthly in West Acton, in Robinson's Hall over Richardson's store and later at the Odd Fellows Hall on the corner of Arlington and Central Streets. It flourished through comradeship forged in war and the need to remember. The post sponsored fundraising events to assist disabled veterans and the families of casualties. After the 1889 state law requiring schools to hold memorial observances, G.A.R. members visited local classes. Many veterans became active in the community, serving on town boards and in other public positions. The last member of the Isaac Davis Post, George L. Towne, died in 1940 at the age of 96.
Membership roster, Isaac Davis Post No. 138 G.A.R (Acton Memorial Library archives 73.3.3) (PDF, 38 pages)
Isaac Davis Post No. 138 in 1900 (photograph)
Isaac Davis Post No. 138 on May 30, 1924 (photograph)
Isaac Davis Post No. 138 (presumed) in front of the Acton Memorial Library (photograph, courtesy Brewster Conant)
Personal War Sketches of the Members of Isaac Davis Post No. 138 G.A.R., of West Acton (bound manuscript, 146 pages, from the Acton Memorial Library archives, A.M.L. archives 92.2.1)
Historical Sketch of the Post (from Personal War Sketches)
G.A.R. Flag (newspaper accounts)
Early History of the Department of Massachusetts, G.A.R., From 1866 to 1880 Inclusive. Compiled by Direction of the Department of Encampment of 1892. Boston, Mass.: Stillings & Co., 1895. Digital edition online at: http://archive.org/details/earlyhistoryofde1898gran
Grand Army of the Republic and Related Research Links (website), Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. http://suvcw.org/research.htm
Hosmer, Henry L. The Town of Acton in the Civil War, 1861-1865. Tucson, AZ: The Author, 2001. 107.
Journals of the Encampment Proceedings of the Department of Massachusetts G.A.R From 1881 to 1887 Inclusive. Boston, Mass.: E.B. Stillings & Co., 1902. Digitial edition online at: http://www.archive.org/details/journalsofencamp00gran
McConell, Stuart. Glorious Contentment: The Grand Army of the Republic, 1865-1900. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1992.
Sargent, A. Dean. Grand Army of the Republic: Civil War Veterans Department of Massachusetts 1866 to 1947. Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, Inc., 2002.