OHIO VALLEY — Ohio provided the nation with 310,654 fighting men during the America Civil War, 1861-65. These men fought in nearly every battlefield of the war. In all, Ohio lost 24571 “brave boys in blue,” according to America Legion Post 161 Historian John Holcomb, in its effort to preserve the Union and free slaves over the course of the war. Approximately 11,237 of the men were killed or wounded in combat and another 13,334 died from disease before their term of enlistment ended.
One of Ohio’s lasting tributes and living memorials to the “boys in blue” exists in the form of six historic bean dinners which take place across the Buckeye State each year. Governor Bob Taft, during the state’s bicentennial in 2003, officially recognized four of these events, the only four known to exist in 2003.
The last of their kind, five of these bean dinners were once sponsored by former Union soldiers who belonged to the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR, a Union veterans organization similar to today’s American Legion or VFW). The sixth event was started and sponsored by soliders who served in the 40th OVI Regiment during the war.
These annual events, formerly called Campfires by members of the GAR, have produced a unique legacy for the state of Ohio. This legacy is the state’s unbroken link with the American Civil War. Overall, it appears these events have been continually held since they were started by the first sponsors.
The first bean dinner of the season begins on the first Saturday of August each year in the village of Vinton, Gallia County. The dinner will take place Aug. 3 this year. The event is known as the Vinton Bean Dinner and was formerly sponsored by members of the Corwin/Matthews Post No. 259 GAR. The activities will begin with a parade that leaves Vinton Elementary School grounds at 11:30 a.m. The rest of the event consists of live music, children’s games, refreshments, bingo and more. Beans are served from noon to 2:30 p.m. Members of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, Cadot Blessing Post No. 126 of Gallipolis, heirs to the GAR, will be present. The event is sponsored by Vinton American Legion Post 161 and Auxiliary Unit 161.
The second bean dinner of the season, known as the Rio Grande Bean Dinner, will be held on the second Saturday in August, Aug. 10 this year, and will be held at the shelterhouse on the Bob Evans Farm in Rio Grande. This bean dinner was formerly sponsored by members of the I.Z. Haning Post No. 332 GAR. Members of Cadot Blessing Post No. 126 will be present at this event as well. Beans are served from noon to 2 p.m. The dinner is sponsored by the Rio Grande Memorial Association.
The third bean dinner of the season, known as the Limerick Bean Dinner, takes place on the third Saturday in August, Aug. 17, on the grounds of the old Limerick Grange Hall, the former headquarters of the Isaac Willis Post No. 160 GAR which once sponsored the event in Limerick, Jackson County. Refreshments, music, and sometimes crafts are available. The dinner is sponsored by members and volunteers of Limerick Grange No. 1917.
The fourth bean dinner of the season is known as the New Castle Bean Dinner, which takes place on the third Sunday of August each year, Aug. 18, at New Castle Coshocton County. This bean dinner was formerly sponsored by members of the C.C. Nichol’s Post No. 394 GAR. Live music, refreshments, guest speakers, occasional reenactors and more visit. Beans start being served round noon and last until 2 p.m. or later. The dinner is sponsored by the Trustees of New Castle Township.
The fifth bean dinner in this group is known as the Celina Bean Dinner, also called the Durbin Bean Bake, and takes place each Labor day at Celina in Mercer County near the Indiana and Ohio border. The event was started by former soldiers of the 40th OVI Regiment. Live music, refreshments, programs and games are held. Beans are served in the evening around 4:30 p.m. and the dinner is sponsored by the Durbin Bean Bake Community Club.
Ohio’s sixth bean dinner is known as the Wilkesville Bean Dinner which takes place on the first Saturday of September, Sept. 7 this year. The event was formerly sponsored by members of the John Levis Post. 560 GAR. It is held about one mile east of Wilkesville, on the grounds of America Legion Post No. 476. Refreshments, music, bingo and more are held on the grounds and beans are served from noon onward. The event is sponsored by Joseph Freeman Post No. 476 of the American Legion.
All are invited to attend these memorial events to honor soldiers of long ago and veterans of recent conflicts as well. Call 740-388-8053 for information and questions of John Holcomb.