The Grand Army of the Republic
"Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty"
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was organized by Union Veterans of the Civil War in 1866 in Illinois. Their purpose was to "maintain fellowship for the men who fought to preserve the Union and to help widows, orphans, and handicapped veterans." By the 1880’s there were over 400,000 members across the United States; 300 of which belonged to Frank Daggett Post #35 in Litchfield, Minnesota.
Construction of the Litchfield G.A.R. Hall (named Frank Daggett Post No. 35) began and ended in 1885, designed originally to resemble a military fort. Henry Ames donated the bricks required from his own farm, which still stands just north of Litchfield. When construction was complete, the Post made an agreement with the City of Litchfield that, following the final meeting of the organization, the local government would work to keep the building in it's original condition. In those early days, the Hall served as a gathering place for veterans and public citizens alike. It was a popular space for community events, parties and club meetings while also serving as the first public library in Meeker County. Many books from that time period remain at the Meeker County Museum, and can be seen on display near the front entrance.
Frank Daggett, the man for whom the Litchfield post was named, was a local man who did many great things within a short life. During the Civil War, he enlisted with the 6th Minnesota Infantry and saw combat during the U.S/Dakota War of 1862. He commanded two African-American heavy artillery regiments, became a part of the Army of the Potomac, and as a Lieutenant. Never one to sit still, Daggett soon became a leader in the newspaper business and helped create the Litchfield Ledger in 1872. Daggett also remained involved with veterans organizations, serving as Commander in Chief of the Minnesota G.A.R. and raising the issues of veterans during his three terms as clerk in the Minnesota House of Representatives. In Daggett's hometown of Litchfield, he was the loudest supporter of the local G.A.R chapter being established in Meeker County. Unfortunately, his death in 1876 meant that he would not live to see Post No. 35 formally organized. One of the first acts of the Litchfield Post was to name their organization to honor Frank Daggett, a man who had accomplished so much in the short thirty-nine years he was on this Earth.