The First Fathers Day: In Celebration and MemoryMay 29, 2014
December 6, 1907.
About 360 men were killed. In such a small town as Monongah (even today the total population is slightly more than 1,000), more than 1,000 children were newly fatherless. The grief and loss were extreme, sudden and lasting.
It was the year of the first Mother’s Day in 1908. At the time Grace Golden Clayton, 41, was reminiscing about the past. She and her siblings were reared by their father, Rev. Fletcher Golden, after their mother passed away. He passed away in 1896.
She felt he should be honored. And Grace wasn’t the only one missing her father that year.
“It was partly the explosion that set me to think how important and loved most fathers are,” she said. “All those lonely children and those heart-broken wives and mothers, made orphans and widows in a matter of a few minutes. Oh, how sad and frightening to have no father, no husband, to turn to at such an awful time.”
Out of a tragedy and communal loss, the first Father’s Day was in the works. Grace went to the minister of what is now Central United Methodist Church and the first Father’s Day service was set for July 5, 1908, the Sunday closest to her father’s birthday.
From the city signs to the interstate markers, we know the unfortunate event of how Father’s Day came to be. The rest of the nation knows a slightly different and happier story.
In 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Wash., also missed her father who had become a single parent when his wife passed away. Their service was the third Sunday in June, and the next year it spread to Oregon, then Chicago and around the nation. Because of this unending domino effect, President Nixon made it a national holiday in 1972.
Although Marion County didn’t perpetuate Father’s Day to its present fame, we started it out of community, mourning and love. We can move on in celebration and in memory.
To read more about the Monongah Mine disaster, read MONONGAH, la Marcinelle americana. Davitt McAteer, Clinton Administration mine safety administrator, authored the book, Monongah: The Tragic Story of the 1907 Monongah Mine Disaster.
What do you do to celebrate Father’s Day?