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A Seattle talk that “carried the boys back some thirty years”

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

—March 7, 1893 in Seattle—

On the evening of March 7, 1893, the men of Seattle’s John F Miller post of the Grand Army of the Republic met at their regular meeting location in what was then called the Frye Block, located at 1st Avenue and Marion Street in Seattle. The Grand Army of the Republic was the nation’s most prominent organization for Union Civil War veterans. Posts existed all around Washington State by the early 1890's with several around Seattle with the Stevens and Miller posts being the most prominent. That evening an address was delivered to the assembled Civil War veterans by fellow veteran Byron Phelps. Phelps was a former soldier of the 3rd Illinois Cavalry and was a prominent man both in the veterans’ organization and Seattle generally. Phelps was elected Seattle mayor a year later in 1894.

The topic of Phelps’ presentation was the Battle of Pea Ridge and was delivered on the battle’s 31st anniversary. The talk drew excellent attendance from the membership of Miller post and also brought in guests from other posts, namely the Stevens Post. The Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas was fought March 6-8, 1862. The engagement resulted in a Union victory that helped ensure the state of Missouri remained in the Union and set the stage for Union control of the Mississippi River. The P.I. described it as one of the most stubbornly fought battles of the war.

Byron Phelps “ably delivered” his paper on the 1862 battle in “good style,” according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper. He covered the entirety of the three days fighting, which included primarily Union troops of “Western” states, such as Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Missouri. Byron Phelps’ own 3rd Illinois Cavalry fought there. A majority of Seattle’s veterans served in units from “Western” state regiments so interest in the topic was high. Phelps address “carried the boys back some thirty years” and the points raised during the talk were “interestingly discussed” by the old soldiers afterwards. The meeting was regarded as one of the very best of the season by those who attended.

Byron Phelps

The prominent building on left is the Frye Block, where the Miller post meetings were held in 1893. It was later known as the Hotel Stevens.

The Frye block as it appeared later as the Hotel Stevens

Seattle Post Intelligencer March 7, 1893


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