The official story of Memorial Day begins in the summer of 1865, when a prominent local civic leader from Waterloo, New York, Henry C. Welles by name, suggested to some of his friends at a social gathering that while praising the living veterans of the Civil War it would be well to remember the patriotic dead by placing flowers on their graves.
Everyone agreed, but nothing was done until the Spring of 1866, when Welles advanced the idea to General John B. Murray. Murray, an intensely patriotic Civil War hero, supported the idea wholeheartedly and marshalled veterans' support from the local chapter of the Grand Army of The Republic.
Plans were developed for a more complete celebration by a citizens' committee headed by Welles and Murray. It has been held annually ever since.
On March 7, 1966, the State of New York recognized Waterloo as the official birthplace of Memorial Day in a proclamation signed by Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller.
This was quickly followed by recognition from Congress of the United States when the House of Representatives and the Senate unanimously passed House Concurrent Resolution 587 on May 17th and May 19th, 1966 respectively.
It reads in part: "Resolved that the Congress of the United States, in recognition of the patriotic tradition set in motion one hundred years ago in the Village of Waterloo, NY, does hereby officially recognize Waterloo, New York as the birthplace of Memorial Day..."
On May 26, 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson, signed a Presidential Proclamation recognizing Waterloo as the Birthplace of Memorial Day