It was a rainy Sunday in Columbus on the weekend before Memorial Day in 1911. But that did not stop a lot of people from "making an excursion" to the city.

It was a rainy Sunday in Columbus on the weekend before Memorial Day in 1911. But that did not stop a lot of people from "making an excursion" to the city.

According to a local newspaper of the time, more than 5,000 people arrived in the city by train and interurban railway from places as distant as Cleveland, Cincinnati and Parkersburg, W. Va. They came to see the sites, visit local amusement parks and shop in the stores of the capital city.

Among the more popular sites were the Statehouse, the campus of Ohio State University and the institutions for the blind, the deaf, the mentally ill and the criminally penitent.

This was, after all, the weekend before Memorial Day and one might assume that people were simply celebrating a long three-day weekend.

But that is not what they were doing at all.

In 1911, Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30 -- no matter what day of the week it might happen to be. In 1911, it happened to be Tuesday, so most of these people seeking, as one reporter put it, "spots where cooling breezes ought to blow" or "places where inspiring liquors ought to flow" had a nice day in the capital city, boarded their trains and left central Ohio for a working day on Monday in their hometowns.

While most people in Columbus went about their business on Monday, May 29, several dozen others were working furiously to prepare for the holiday that was only one day away.

And there was a lot of work to do.

Local veterans and civic organizations combined with social service organizations to plan and prepare a full day of activities for Memorial Day. It was begun as a day to remember the men who died serving their country in the Civil War, but it also had become increasingly a time to remember veterans of all of America's wars and a Decoration Day for family plots in America's cemeteries, as well.

While there were parades to plan and religious services to prepare, most of the real work of Memorial Day involved flowers -- lots and lots of flowers. In 1911, the organizers of Memorial Day planned to put an American flag and a bouquet of flowers on the grave of every veteran in the city. To that end, the school children of Columbus were asked to bring bouquets of flowers to the Franklin County Memorial Hall on Monday, May 29. Because there was some doubt, the public was asked to bring flowers, as well.

There was no reason to worry. By Tuesday morning, there were more than enough flowers to accompany the 2,500 American flags to be placed in cemeteries around the city: "Carnations, roses, peonies and syringa blossoms were the most numerous in the collection."

At 7:30 a.m. on the morning of Memorial Day, veterans groups met at Memorial Hall in uniform, marched a few blocks to Statehouse Square and boarded streetcars to ride to Green Lawn and Mount Calvary cemeteries. They were soon followed by hundreds of people who joined them at the cemeteries for services.

At 9 a.m., flowers were placed at the McKinley Memorial in front of the Statehouse and at 11 a.m., a 46-gun artillery salute was fired in the Statehouse yard by local soldiers from the Columbus Barracks (now Fort Hayes).

At 1 p.m., local veterans groups, military organizations, marching bands and most of the Columbus Police Department formed up for a march through downtown Columbus. Returning to Memorial Hall, many of the marchers stayed to listen to a program of music and patriotic speeches. Religious services also were held in a number of local churches through the day.

Many people did not stay downtown for all of these events. Some had left town early in the day, since most businesses, schools and offices were closed and the excursion cars to Buckeye Lake, Griggs Dam and local amusement parks were running early and often.

And then there were some people who were not free to attend these events. As one paper put it, "Because it is Memorial Day, and in appreciation of things they have done and may do for their country, prisoners at the Workhouse who are Civil War or Spanish-American War veterans, or members of the regular army or national guard, at noon today will be served with a special dinner.

"Although the services for the Civil and Spanish war veterans at the Penitentiary Sunday were attended by 98 former soldiers, but three of them served in the Civil War and 95 during the Spanish-American War The number of Civil War veterans has greatly decreased during the past 10 years, by deaths and pardons. The 98 men have organized Walled City Camp and hold meetings just as the old soldiers do at Memorial Hall."

Other people attended all or part of the downtown observances and then departed for family gatherings in local parks or on the front porches of their homes. In the evening, the residents of many Columbus neighborhoods gathered for a fireworks celebration and further festivities.

All in all, it was a quite pleasant day for the unofficial beginning of the summer of 1911 in Columbus.

Ed Lentz writes a history column for ThisWeek.