A big thank you from Hazel Varella for her tribute at the May 7th Open House. What an amazing turn-out, and so well deserved. (Who left the windchimes? Much appreciated.)
This week we have a wonderful reflection on Memorial Day by guest writer and EHS member Ed Leonard. He is something of an expert on war memorials and monuments.
MEMORIAL DAY Monday May 29, 2023
We remember the many lives lost in all the Wars to protect our democracy and all of those who mourn their loss- Mothers, Fathers, Sisters, Brothers, Family and Friends. The first observance was May 30, 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery and called “Decoration Day” with the placement of flowers on the graves of the soldiers lost in the Civil War. Easton Dedicated its Civil War Soldiers Monument on May 30, 1882.
I recently found a pamphlet at the Historical Museum “Exercises Held at the Soldiers Monument”. The Preface identifies the Committee chosen in 1880 at Town Meeting to “Consider building a Monument or Memorial Hall” as Dr Geo. B. Cogswell, Geo. A. Lacky, L.S. Drake, Oakes A. Ames and Joseph Barrows. The 1881 Town Meeting approved their recommendation of erecting a monument and $5000 to defray expenses by the same committee. At the March 1882 Town meeting, $200 was appropriated for the G.A.R. to plan and meet the expenses of dedicating the monument on May 30th, including building a platform for speakers in front of the Town Hall. Two thousand people, including those in two hundred carriages, attended the dedication. Good weather favored the all-day event.
The program began with a prayer by Rev. W.H. Bowden, followed by an Introduction by Dr Cogswell, the President of the Day. Joseph Barrows Esq gave a historical address, naming the 47 soldiers who gave their lives. Four more speeches were made, interspersed with music by a chorus and a band. Two of the speakers were veteran military officers from Brockton and Bridgewater. An Appendix lists the names of the soldiers who returned from the war and were buried in local cemeteries.
The Monument was moved 75’ last fall at a cost of $100,000 to make room for the new intersection. A massive concrete base was allowed to settle and cure for ten weeks before the 16 granite pieces, including the statue, were carefully assembled to recreate the Monument. Pressure washing completed the process. Curved granite curbing was removed from the original site and now surrounds the base.
Two issues regarding the relocation of the Monument come to mind.
1. The committee was directed to consider a “Monument or Memorial Hall”. I have documented a collection of 1,650 Soldier Statues dedicated in the United States since the Civil War. Only 5 have a “Memorial Hall” with a Soldier Statue. One is on the Common in Foxboro which has the only Statue of a Soldier sculpture in wood. It is also the 6th earliest soldier monument to be dedicated following the War. Erected in 1868 and dedicated in 1870. Foxboro’s Hall must have been considered?
2. The most active period for dedicating Soldier Statue Monuments was from 1880 to 1920. Motor vehicles were of basic design or non-existent and the drivers were without license or experience during this period. The horse-drawn carriages maneuvered easily around the monuments in town centers. Motorized vehicles were constantly crashing into them. Thus, many were removed to safer locations such as into cemeteries. The closest example is the Soldiers Monument in Attleboro which was originally located in the town square, dedicated in 1908 and moved to Capron Park in 1929 at a cost of $3,300.
It is interesting that our Monument survived being damaged by vehicles but had to be moved to prevent vehicles from hitting each other.
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Anne Wooster Drury