Friday, November 11, 2011

Soldiers & Sailors Monument, 1896

On May 30, 1896, Middleborough dedicated its impressive Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial on the Town Hall lawn to the memory of the community's civil war veterans.  Though the initial proposal for the memorial was met with skepticism and concerns that the monument would be neglected in time, the Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial has since become a focal point of both Memorial and Veterans' Day observances now held at the neighboring Veterans' Memorial Park.  At the time of its dedication to "the defenders of our country" in 1896, the Middleboro Gazette published the following brief history of the memorial's origins.

The first movement looking towards a soldiers’ memorial was soon after the close of the war, when the town made an appropriation of $1000 for a monument, but the matter was overshadowed by the urgent need of a new town house, and was disposed of on that account, and nothing ever came of it. The following item in the MIDDLEBOROUGH GAZETTE of June 9, 1866, perhaps best explains the final disposition of the affair: “A town meeting has been called for the 18th to see what action the town will take in regard to building a Memorial and Town Hall. The town has already voted $1000 towards building a monument, and it is found a much larger sum will be needed to erect a shaft that shall be at all honorable to our people. We are at the same time greatly in need of a decent town house. It is therefore proposed with great unanimity on the part of our heaviest taxpayers to drop the matter of a monument, and erect a good Town and Memorial hall. This building will in the end be much cheaper than to build both; and at the same time, its design as a memorial of the sacrifices of our citizen soldiers, will be secured.” It is evident that though the Town house was finally built, the memorial hall in connection with it failed to materialize.

The first written plea for a monument appeared in the columns of the GAZETTE, from the pen of that gifted writer, so well and favorably known by our townspeople, today, Miss Nellie Brightman, now of Boston, and was probably called forth by the action of the town in regard to the soldiers’ monument, and was published July 7, 1866.

It was an earnest appeal for a distinct soldiers’ memorial, and decried the idea of a combination of a Town and Memorial hall, as will be seen by the following extract: “Can we raise utility to so great a height that sublimity will not become ridiculous in the effort to descend to its level? Does not the idea of commemorating the great deeds of the brave soar beyond and above all thought of earthly use and convenience, carrying the mind away from business, amusements, and the gathering of hundred, onward to the glorious assemblage of our gallant thousands in celestial halls of light?”

We wish we might be able to reproduce the article entire, but the closing sentences are especially fine: “One objection to the shaft is that it will become defaced in time, and will be neglected. A hard commentary on the gratitude of future generations. Will children forget the brave deeds of their fathers? We are lower than the heathen if we cannot educate our children to look with awe and affection on the commemorative stone, and it is especially our duty, which neglected now will never be performed, to institute, theirs to perpetuate, this emblem of the soldier’s valor, and of events that called it forth. Are there ‘none so poor to do them reverence’ – the gallant boys, who full of hope and eager for the fray, left their beautiful village homes to return no more? Don’t give up the monument! Wait, work and hope, and in time see the glorious workmanship arise majestic and grand. Let the sun’s latest rays at his setting gild the half raised visor of the soldier’s cap, and as he slowly sinks behind the hills they loved, let his light play lovingly round the glistening steel of the bayonet, which in the hands of men we venerate, brought back sweet peace to our native land.”

The matter of a monument seems to have languished from this time on with faint attempts to revive it until about 1889, when the first committee was appointed to forward the work and was organized with John C. Sullivan, past Commander of Post 8, as chairman, and W. B. Stetson, then Commander of the Post, as secretary, and George H. Walker, treasurer. Sylvanus Mendall and Alvin C. Howes were the other members of the committee.

From the resignation of J. C. Sullivan and the death of the late George H. Walker, the committee was composed as follows: Alvin C. Howes, chairman, Warren B. Stetson, secretary, Sylvanus Mendall, treasurer, John N. Main and Jairus H. Shaw, which committee continued at the head of the movement. The following were added as a citizens’ committee to co-operate with them in 1894: Joseph E. Beals, Rev. M. F. Johnson, Rev. J. H. O’Neil, Rev. R. G. Woodbridge, Rev. George W. Stearns, David G. Pratt and George W. Stetson, Esq., and this number was augmented by the addition of six more members, Rev. W. F. Davis, George H. Shaw, Hon. M. H. Cushing, Sprague S. Stetson, Henry D. Smith.

"Soldiers Monument, Middleboro, Mass.", F. N. Whitman, Middleborough, MA, publisher, postcard, early 20th century.

“Soldiers’ Memorial”, Middleboro Gazette, May 30, 1896.


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