Evolution of Pleasureville’s Memorial Day Bean Soup
An announcement for “A Bean Soup” appeared in the October 7, 1896, issue of The Semi-Weekly Gazette in York, PA. The General Sherman Post, No. 602, of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Civil War veterans, announced they “will hold a camp fire and bean soup at the headquarters of the post at Felton.” These campfires were a common occurrence for organizations of Civil War veterans. At these gatherings, veterans shared stories of the war with their comrades and with the public; many times serving army bean soup during the event. At this event, Post Commander Kibler delivered a lecture on prison life in Andersonville Prison. If you are reading this on the Ydr.com site, click on this LINK for a Full View of the illustrations in this post on the original YorkBlog site; since the ydr.com site will occasionally cut off important details in the cropping of illustrations.
As the ranks of the Civil War veterans thinned with old age, the tradition of a bean soup to honor the service of veterans was carried forth by communities across the country. Pleasureville is a community in York County, where an annual free bean soup event became a fixture as part of Memorial Day observances to honor veterans of all wars. The evolution of this event is recorded on page 75 of the book Springettsbury Township Centennial, 1891-1991:
The annual Memorial Day Parade, celebration, and free bean soup event at Pleasureville had its origin in about 1866, in observance of the heroes and veterans who gave their lives in the American Civil War. It was first instituted by the “Old Relief Lodge,” an organization of Civil War veterans, and soon developed as a major community event every year. When the “Old Relief Lodge” went out of existence, the “Patriotic Order of Sons of America,” and later the “Knights of the Mystic Chain” assumed responsibility for this patriotic affair. These groups may no longer be active in the community, but it was their zeal and dedication that bridged the gap to the modern era and carried the celebration forward to this very day.
In 1885, the modern era format of Pleasureville’s Memorial Day events was instituted by Veteran organizations. In 1889, a Memorial Day Committee, drawing membership from area churches took charge of the events. That year, the Committee instituted the custom of serving free army bean soup, when two kettles of soup were served.
The free bean soup event has been held annual, with the exception of years during WWI and WWII, when beef was in short supply. The photo shows 16-kettles used to cook the free bean soup during the event in 1981. During 1895, 7-kettles were utilized and since WWI, the number of kettles utilized has varied between 12 and 20.
In 1981, 150-pounds of beef and 400-pounds of beans were the primary ingredients for the soup cooked over open fire. The “wall” of cardboard boxes, in the photo, is used to block the breeze, to control the fires under the kettles. The free bean soup is not for sale, however donations are accepted and used to replenish supplies for the following year.
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