The Rockdale Memorial Day Parade

The Rockdale Memorial Day Parade was established to pay tribute to those who have served and sacrificed from the Civil War to the present day. Celebrating its 142nd year, early newspapers report that the parade began in 1881 as a Decoration Day procession through the streets of Rockdale to Calvary Episcopal Cemetery.
Historically, on Memorial Day, citizens, post members, drum corps and bands proceed to Calvary Episcopal Church Cemetery (now Resurrection Episcopal) and decorate the graves of Civil War casualties and other veterans buried there.

The earliest record of the parade is a May 31, 1881, Chester Times article that describes the events of the day. The new Bradbury Post, No. 149, Grand Army of the Republic (“GAR”), the parade host, was organized in 1880 and chartered in May 1881, which coincides with the first parade date. The post was named for Sgt. Jones Bradbury, who was killed at Burksville, Virginia in April 1865.

According to the “Grand Army Scout” Summer 2019 newsletter: Jones Bradbury was born in Otsego County, New York on July 5, 1837. The son of Matthew and Lavina Bradbury, his family moved to Rockdale, Delaware County, PA around 1855 after living in Philadelphia for many years. When the Civil War started, Jones enlisted in Company “B” of the 26th Pennsylvania Infantry on August 27, 1861. He saw action in many battles including Fair Oaks, Malvern Hill, Bristoe Station, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. When the 26th PA mustered out on June 18, 1864, many of the veterans, including Jones, re-enlisted and transferred to the 99th Pennsylvania Infantry. As a Sergeant in Company “C,” Jones was at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania and then ultimately in the Appomattox Campaign. It was at Sailor’s Creek on April 6,1865 when he was killed. Sgt. Jones Bradbury was brought home to Rockdale, PA and was buried at Episcopal Calvary Cemetery. On May 10,1880, the charter members of the new G.A.R. Post #149 Department of Pennsylvania, voted to name the Post in honor of Sgt. Jones Bradbury. They were presented with a flag by his mother.
Current evidence suggests the Rockdale Memorial Day Parade began in 1881, though it might be older. Three years after the Civil War ended, the GAR established Decoration Day as a day for the country to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Post No. 149 was originally formed that same year but surrendered its charter in 1872. Given the observance of the first Memorial Day and the establishment of Post No. 149 in 1868, it is quite likely that local tributes were paid earlier than 1881.

Several towns claim to have the oldest continuously running Memorial Day parade in the U.S. beginning in 1868, but the Rockdale parade is the oldest parade in Delaware County.  Maintained by VFW Bonaventure-Clark Post #6613 for decades, under the guidance of Mr. Murphy, this long-standing tradition was in danger of falling by the wayside.
Covid-related financial difficulties and a decline in VFW membership, church membership etc..  put the parade’s future in jeopardy.

A newly formed non-profit organization, led by a board of directors, has offered to work with the VFW members, American Legion and Calvary Church. They will oversee the finances and logistics of the parade going forward. These efforts will help to ensure the parade’s existence in perpetuity.

As with everything there is a cost. All monies raised go directly towards producing this event into the future. This includes decorations for the podium and parade route, the cost of performers (bands, disc jockey, etc.) as well as operational costs for things like portable toilets and clean-up. The budget also includes hot dogs and beverages for attendees and frozen treats for children, which will be provided at no cost. To fund these costs, the Board has established a financial plan to raise enough money to cover the cost of the 2022 parade and to establish a two-to-three-year reserve for future years. This reserve will allow the Board to focus their efforts on growing and improving the parade instead of spending all their time fundraising.

Attendance is free, but donations will be collected from those who attend the parade. Continuing the parade’s tradition of public speakers, the Board is also planning to design and build a portable podium and public address (PA) system. This will ensure that the speakers are visible, and they can be heard by the crowd on all sides of the speakers’ stand at the Rockdale Boys monument. Volunteers and donations of labor and/or materials are welcome and very much appreciated.

Corporate sponsorships are also available. You can reach our team at 610-420-5165 or to discuss any of these opportunities.
Instagram : @the_rockdale_parade

Donations should be made payable to The Rockdale Memorial Day Parade and mailed to:
101 Mildred Lane Aston, Pa 19014-2006
or Venmo BUSINESS @rockdale-parade

Thank you for your interest and God Bless America.