By Brenda Rudberg, Maplewood Area Historical Society Member
Before the Greatest Generation saved the world from Nazi domination the Boys in Blue saved our Union. One of those Boys in Blue, Washington Cook (W.C.) Fisher better known as Grandpa Fisher, settled in the Maplewood area in 1912. He spread the lessons of the Civil War to local residents.
W.C. Fisher was born in Sheboygan, WI in 1849. He enlisted in the army in February 1865 and served with the Medical Detail of Company G, 49th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry in Missouri. He mustered out in November 1865. The ten months he spent in active duty lead to a lifetime involvement with the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) a fraternal organization of Civil War veterans. He was the Minnesota adjunct general of the GAR in 1937. The GAR established Decoration Day, the forerunner of Memorial Day, in 1868 as a time for the nation to decorate veteran graves so the cost of a free and undivided republic is not forgotten. The GAR encouraged members to visit schools during Memorial Week to encourage patriotism.
The Civil War seems like ancient history having ended 151 years ago but there may be residents among us who remember Grandpa Fisher visiting their school during Memorial Week in the 1930s. He would have been a striking sight in his blue military uniform with brass buttons and medals along with his long side whiskers and large mustache. He loved to sing and was remembered for, "Who Will Tell the World the Story?," a version of "When the Boys in Blue Are Gone" by John Hendriks. Grandpa Fisher revised verses of the song and wrote a new one including the lines, "Who will tell the world the story how in eighteen sixty-one, from the south there came the challenge to our nation's loyal sons? Who will tell them how they suffered to avenge our Country's wrong? Who will tell the world the story, when the Boys in Blue are gone?" He handed out 30,000 copies of the song over the years.
W.C. Fisher attended GAR encampments until 1940; he died in 1941. You did your job well, Grandpa Fisher. We are still telling the story.