SUVCW Dept. of Wisconsin Commanders:
Roy R. Lewis
1938 - 1940
When Roy Lewis married Ida Hollister, he soon found that he was also marrying the Auxiliary to the SUVCW.
Three years earlier, in 1906, when Ida was 21, she joined Shamokin, Pennsylvania’s Auxiliary #18. Her father, Pvt. Samuel Hollister, Co. I, 48th Penn. Vol. Inf., had just died and this was a way of honoring his memory. Roy and Ida had been married a year when Ida was elected Auxiliary President.
Shamokin was a coal mining and railroad town of several thousand. Roy was born on January 23, 1887, the eighth of eleven children. Ida was the second youngest of ten children. After graduating school, Roy went to work for the railroad as a switchman. In 1912, Roy’s job brought the couple to Milwaukee. There Ida transferred to C.K. Pier Badger Aux. #4 and was soon elected Treasurer.
DC Roy Lewis
The two had three children: Harry J. (1912), Mary L (1913) and John Raymond (1914-1978). Harry served during WWII as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army.
In 1922, when all the children were school age, Sr. Ida returned to a more active role in the Auxiliary, serving as Dept Patriotic Instructor and as Personal Aid to Wisconsin’s first National President, Minnie Groth. This latter position involved some travel. It was apparent Ida was going to need some help and husband Roy joined C.K. Pier Badger Camp #1 in March 1923. His grandfather, Pvt. Peter, K. Snyder, had served in Co. F, 178th Pennsylvania from November 1862 to July 1863. He had seen action at Fort Magruder, on the approach to Richmond and at Ballow’s Bridge. He died before Roy was born. Roy’s father, Henry, was active in fraternal Orders. He was a member of the Odd Fellows and the Patriotic Order of the Sons of America.
In 1923, Ida formed the Milwaukee Drill Team and was elected Dept. President. She was in charge of the convention arrangements during the National GAR Encampment held in Milwaukee that year.
In 1926, Br. Roy was elected Camp Commander. The National Encampment had intensified interest in the Allied Orders and Br. Roy led a Camp of just under 200 men. With the encouragement of the local GAR post, the Camp organized a drum corps, starting with eight men. Over the next 25 years the unit doubled in size and grew in popularity. After his term, Br. Roy served as Camp Patriotic Instructor, on the Camp Council, and as Camp Guide.
The family made a trip back to Shamokin, Penn. in 1930. Br. Roy’s parents died four days apart that September.
Ida continued to rise in the Auxiliary hierarchy and was elected National President in 1936. At the 1937 National Encampment in Madison, a marble GAR memorial bench was placed at the city’s hospital. The following year, she was instrumental in a joint project with the Wisconsin Dept. SUVCW and LGAR. The Orders placed a bench at Milwaukee’s Soldiers Home and dedicated it during the Dept. Encampment held in the city that year.
When Roy was elected Dept. Commander in 1938 and was re-elected the next year, the bench tradition continued with dedications at Baraboo and Madison. Since the Great Depression, Wisconsin’s membership had declined from 1500 in over 30 Camps to about 400 in 14 Camps on the eve of World War II.
Personal tragedy befell the Lewises when Ida’s mother died while visiting Milwaukee in 1939.
During the 1943 National Encampment in Milwaukee, Br. Roy was elected Jr. Vice Commander-in-Chief. It was customary for the National Encampment to elect a candidate form the host department to that high post.
Sr. Ida’s health was failing and she died on August 9, 1944 at age 60.
The genial Br. Lewis was elected Sr. Vice Commander-in-Chief in 1946, but due to his own illness, did not attend the National Encampment the following year and lost the election for Commander-in-Chief. He ran again for CinC the following year, but lost the election to a Michigan man with 50 years service in the Order. He continued to serve the Order as Dept. Counselor and Dept. Patriotic Instructor.
Br. Roy remarried in the 1950s. Lydia Barfknecht (1893-1984) had one daughter from a previous marriage.
He died on March 20, 1964 at age 77 and was buried next to Ida in Holy Assumption (now St. Martin of Tours) Cemetery in Franklin. Despite living on Milwaukee’s near south side, the couple had chosen a serene Church cemetery, which at the time was "out in the country," as their final resting place.
History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865 by Samuel P. Bates; Harriusburg, PA, 1868-1871
C.K. Pier Badger Camp #1 Minute Books and Membership Register, 1923-1950
Milwaukee Sentinel, September 5, 1937, June 10. 1948, March 21, 1964.
ASUVCW National Proceedings -- 58th Annual Encampment
SUVCW National Proceedings, 1946, 1947, 1948
Wis. Dept. Encampment Programs, 1938 -1942
Maintained by: Dept. Signals Officer
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
Department of Wisconsin