Joseph Littlefield, pictured here sitting in the front row, second from the left was a member of the Prairieville Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) chapter while he homesteaded in the Clear Creek area and always travelling to the veterans' meetings and reunions, like the one memorialized here. In this photograph he is wearing his GAR badge, a five-point star made of bronze of cannons captured in the Civil War battles and connected with the clasp by the American flag.
The Grand Army of the Republic was one of the more populous Civil War veterans' organizations, founded in 1866 in Decatur Illinois and dissolved in 1956 when the last GAR member died. At its height in the 1880s and 1890s GAR was a powerful instrument of establishing veterans' pensions and other benefits, and lobbying nationalist and regionalist agenda in politics.
Born in Peoria County, Illinois in 1840 Joseph Littlefield served almost three years in the Civil War as a private in company C of 102nd Illinois volunteer regiment. After the war he returned to Illinois and married Hellen Crandle. In 1879 Joseph Littlefield and his family that included his mother Joanna, who was 71 at the time, came to Nebraska Clear Creek area, Sherman County to homestead. Hellen died in 1881 and six years later Joseph, now 47, married 24 year-old Lotta (Charlotte) Roberts, and had 7 more children with her, of whom only 5 survived. Littlefield moved to Aurora, Nebraska in 1904 and died there in 1911.
The photograph comes from the collection of Terri and Dave Mabon. Dave Mabon is Joseph Littlefield's great-grandson.
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Wallace Evan Davies, Patriotism on Parade: The story of Veterans' and Hereditary Organizations in America, 1783-1900 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1955).