VINTON — In 1882, a Post of the Grand Army of the Republic (a Union veteran’s organization, aka G.A.R.) was organized at Vinton, Gallia County, Ohio.
“A Post of the G.A.R. was organized at Vinton on Saturday last. It is named Corwin Post No. . The name is in honor of T. Corwin Matthews, a private in Co. G., 1st O.V.H.. Art., who died in hospital at Covington, Ky., 1863. He was a member of the 60th O.V.I., and was taken prisoner at Harper’s Ferry when that place surrendered to Jackson, in 1862. The officers of the new Post are as follows: Commander, W.S. Matthews, S. V. Commander, Hiram Wilcox, J. V. Commander, M.K. Glenn; Adjutant, N.F. Barrett; Chaplin, John Vaughn; Quartermaster, E.G. Shaner; O.D. J.H. Cherrington; Sergeant Major, Zara Holcomb; Q.M. Sergeant, Jacob Shuler.” (The Bulletin, Gallipolis, Ohio, Tuesday Oct. 17, 1882).
On the first anniversary of Corwin Post No. 259 G.A.R., the Post made an announcement that it would hold a Campfire.
“Corwin Post, No. 259 G.A.R., intends holding a Camp Fire in Holcomb’s Grove, near Vinton, Oct. 13th, 1883. All honorably discharged union soldiers are cordially invited to come and participate. Bill of fare: pork, hard-tack, slap jack, beans. — ELI G. SHANER, Q. M.” (The Bulletin, Gallipolis, Ohio, Tuesday Sept. 11, 1883).
Details of this first documented Campfire at Vinton, which, at the present time, is the oldest documented account of an existing Civil War Bean Dinner in the State of Ohio, stated: “Tables were spread 165 feet long, and all the luxuries that willing hands could provide were there to tempt and tickle the palate of all present.” (The Bulletin, Gallipolis, Ohio, Oct. 16, 1883.)
A second account of the 1883 campfire at Vinton revealed the Boys of Corwin Post No. 259 were making plans to sponsor a campfire the following year which indicated this was to become an annual event.
True to their word, the following year the Grand Army Boys at Vinton announced they would hold a “Soldiers’ Camp-Fire” on Sept. 3, 1884 (The Bulletin, Gallipolis, Ohio, Aug. 19, 1884).
It is clear the soldier boys at Vinton, who were sponsoring their “campfires,” (the soldier’s meal of beans) were actually sponsoring “bean dinners.” In addition, it is clear the GAR boys at Vinton were not taking over an existing bean dinner. This is true of Ohio’s other Civil War bean dinners as well which were all sponsored, at one time, by former soldiers of the American Civil War.
As the soldiers’ campfires continued at Vinton, the name of the soldiers’ event at Vinton gradually changed from “campfires” to “The Vinton Bean Dinner.” This transition is revealed in the newspaper accounts during the early years when Corwin Post sponsored these events.
In 1885, the Grand Army Boys at Vinton referred to their annual campfire as a “G.A.R. Camp Fire.” (The Bulletin, Aug. 25, 1885). In 1887, the boys simply called their event a “camp-fire” (The Bulletin, Oct. 4, 1887). In 1890, the annual event at Vinton was broken down into three components known as a “re-union,” “bean dinner,” and “camp-fire” (The Bulletin, Aug. 12, 1890). In 1892, the event at Vinton was referred to as a “bean dinner” (Gallipolis Tribune, Aug. 10, 1892). In 1893, the Vinton Boys announced they would hold a reunion, and bean dinner (Gallipolis Journal, Aug. 2,1893). In 1894, the Vinton event was referred to as an annual campfire in one issue of The Bulletin dated, July 28, 1894. In another issue of the same newspaper under the heading “THE VINTON REUNION,” the event was referred to as a reunion, and camp-fire (The Bulletin, August 11, 1894).
In 1907, under the heading “VINTON BEAN DINNER,” the announcement proclaimed: “The 23rd annual bean dinner of Corwin Post G.A.R. is a thing of the past.” (Vinton Leader, Aug. 8, 1907). In 1920, under the same heading, “VINTON BEAN DINNER,” it stated: “The 37th annual Bean Dinner and Home Coming held Saturday was a success in every way.” (The Gallia Times, Aug. 12, 1920). In 1941 the heading on the newspaper stated: “59th Bean Dinner at Vinton Draws Crowd Saturday” (The Gallipolis Daily Tribune, Aug. 5, 1941).
A legend about the Vinton Bean Dinner was published in 1957. This legend said the Vinton Bean Dinner originated in 1868. This legend makes an outstanding claim, and such claims require outstanding proof. At the present time, no credible proof has been provided to support this legend. The 1907, 1920, and 1941 newspaper accounts show the date the Vinton bean dinner began closely matches the 1883 documented date given earlier (This is in reference to the Campfire Corwin Post gave on Oct. 13th, 1883).
The fact that Corwin Post No. 259 G.A.R. of Vinton originated the bean dinner custom at Vinton was confirmed in 1943 by Mrs. Isaac Evans. (Mrs. Evans, who was the daughter of Eli G. Shaner, a charter member of Corwin Post No. 259, attended the Vinton dinners from her infancy). Mrs. Evans stated: “Over 60 years ago members of Huntington Township’s Corwin Mathews Post G.A.R., originated the bean dinner custom.” Mrs. Evans’ statement was published in the July 30, 1943, issue of the Gallipolis Daily Tribune.
Based on the documented facts concerning the date of origin of the Vinton Bean Dinner, a medal was made to commemorate the dinner, and the Union soldiers during the state’s bicentennial in 2003. This medal, commemorating the soldiers, helped to fulfill a request the old soldiers themselves had made when they exacted a promise from the community of Vinton before they passed away, asking that the annual campfires — which by this time had come to be called bean dinners — would be continued by the community, thus, preserving their memory.
This year the community of Vinton is again remembering the soldiers of the American Civil War by holding its annual civil war bean dinner. The dinner, which is sponsored by American Legion Post 161, will take place in the Vinton Community Park on Saturday August 4th.
Two hundred seventy-five pounds of beans will be cooked for this year’s bean dinner. Bean serving starts at noon. Live music will be provided by the Coal Valley Ramblers. Members of the Ladies auxiliary will sponsor children’s games on the grounds. The event also include bingo games and a parade. The parade will assemble at the Vinton Elementary School at 10 a.m.
The public is invited to come and support this special civil war event which is also a homecoming occasion. Don’t forget the dinners at Rio Grande, Wilkesville and New Castle, as well. Together, these four historic dinners — which are all that are left of hundreds of these authentic events — are preserving the state’s unbroken link with the American Civil War, and in turn, giving the State of Ohio a unique civil war legacy. Don’t let this legacy fade away like the old soldiers of yore. Bring your grandchildren, and tell them about the Civil War, and how this unbroken link — the soldier’s meal of beans — has been maintained over the years in their memory, thus producing this distinct legacy, perhaps, unique to Ohio.