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The Gentry Grand Army of the Republic Memorial is located in the northeast section of Gentry Cemetery in Gentry (Benton County) and was erected in 1918 by the Charles Harker Post of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). Along with monuments in Judsonia (White County) and Siloam Springs (Benton County), it is one of only three known GAR memorials in Arkansas.
The Grand Army of the Republic was a national organization of Union Civil War veterans initially formed to help the widows and orphans of fallen Union servicemen and to support the Republican Party. It later focused on promoting patriotic activities and decorating the graves of the war dead. The first GAR camp was established in Decatur, Illinois, in 1866, and the organization held its first encampment at Indianapolis, Indiana, in the same year. By 1867, GAR posts had been established in most northern states as well as in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Louisiana, the latter primarily consisting of African-American veterans. Membership languished in the 1870s but saw a resurgence in the late nineteenth century.
The GAR’s Department of Arkansas chartered at least 123 GAR posts over the years, and the Gentry post was started largely through the efforts of David Kost. Kost served as secretary to Colonel Charles G. Harker—who would later be promoted to brigadier general and die at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia—in the Sixty-Fifth Ohio Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. After the war, Kost was a newspaper publisher and politician in Missouri before moving to Gentry in 1894. Three years later, he and other Union veterans formed a GAR post in Gentry, with Kost often serving as commander. The post was named for Kost’s colonel in the Sixty-Fifth Ohio.
In 1918, Kost acquired a monument to be placed on his family plot in Gentry Cemetery, which he dedicated to the Harker post. The eighteen-foot-tall granite monument features inset marble panels on all four sides. The south side is inscribed “TO THE HEROES / WHO FELL OR FOUGHT FOR / THE LAND THEY LOVED DURING / THE CIVIL WAR 1861–’65. / THEIR SACRIFICES CEMENTED / OUR UNION OF STATES AND MADE / OUR FLAG GLORIOUS FOREVER. / ON FAME’S ETERNAL CAMPING GROUND / THEIR SILENT TENTS ARE SPREAD / AND GLORY GUARDS WITH SOLEMN ROUND / THE BIVOUAC OF OUR DEAD. / ERECTED IN 1918 BY THEIR / COMRADE DAVID L. KOST, / CO. H, 65TH OHIO INF’T.” The east panel is blank, and the north panel, which faces the grave plot, is engraved: “NEAR THIS MONUMENT BURY THE BODY OF / DAVID L. KOST LL.B. / FEB. 18, 1835–JULY 25, 1925 / HE FOUGHT IN THE RANKS FOR THE PRESERVATION / OF HIS COUNTRY, SAT IN THE COUNCILS OF HIS STATE; / LOVED HIS FELLOW MAN AND TRIED HUMBLY TO FOLLOW / THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE MASTER. / LAURA S. KOST / HIS WIFE/NOV. 18, 1842–OCT. 26, 1924 / NONA MAY KOST / THEIR DAUGHTER / NOV. 12, 1881–JULY 24,1967.” The west panel features a poem: “HERE WHEN THE BRIGHT (ILLEGIBLE) DAY IS PAST / AND EVENING SHADES ARE GATHERING FAST / THE SUNSET BEAM WILL CREEP; / AT MORNING LIGHT THE ORIENT BLUSH / WILL SEEK THE SPOT WITH CRIMSON FLUSH / WHERE OUR BELOVED SLEEP.”
The Gentry Grand Army of the Republic Monument was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1918, and both Union and Confederate veterans took part in the ceremonies, which featured the decorating of veterans’ graves, the singing of “America,” a reading of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and a reading of a general order from GAR Commander in Chief John A. Logan.
Kost died on July 25, 1925, and was buried in the shadow of the monument he erected. Membership in the Harker post dwindled as other old soldiers died. Henry Vessey, a veteran of the Second Minnesota Infantry, was the last member of the post, and it was dissolved after his death on January 2, 1932. The Gentry Grand Army of the Republic Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 26, 2018.
For additional information:
Bowden, Bill. “Monument in Gentry 4th to Hail Union Side.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 25, 2017, pp. 1B, 6B.
Christ, Mark K. “Gentry Grand Army of the Republic Monument.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/BE3650_nr.pdf (accessed May 26, 2018).
Grand Army of the Republic Records Project, Arkansas. http://www.garrecords.org (accessed May 26, 2018).
Logan, Charles Russell. “Something So Dim It Must Be Holy”: Civil War Commemorative Sculpture in Arkansas: 1886–1934. Little Rock: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 1996.
Roster of the Department of Arkansas, Grand Army of the Republic, 1915. Little Rock: Mitchell & Bettis, 1915.
Mark K. Christ
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Last Updated 6/6/2018
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