First person: A better understanding by learning the history

The story behind the Clarion Civil War monument

Iconic monument was dedicated 123 years ago this week

CLARION - When my mom was a young girl, she played on "the statue" in the park. Fast forward 25 years. When I was a young girl, I played on the "the statue" in the park, and on the cannons, as well. Fast forward another 25 years, my children played on "the statue" in the park, and on the cannons.

Fast forward still another 25 years, and my grandchildren played on "the statue" in the park. I would play hide and seek with them. Around and around on the ledges, peek around the corner, reverse course, and laugh when they caught me.

Then around 2010, a chain was put around the statue, and rose bushes planted. At the time, I was a bit miffed, because my grandchildren lost a fun place to play, and people lost a nice place to sit. I was miffed only because I didn't "get it."

More recently, as I was walking the diagonal across the park, I stopped and just looked at the statue in the middle of our park. And I wondered about how it came to be.

Obviously it was erected after the Civil War. But I wanted to know more. I wanted the whole story of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial in our park, and want to share it with you here.

In the original layout of 1840 that shows the lots and their dimensions, the "Public Square: was across from the courthouse.

On April 6, 1841, the village of Clarion was incorporated into a borough. It grew slowly and gradually began to take shape. Houses were constructed, businesses opened, all of which required a huge amount of labor and hardship.

And then the war was upon us

Blue versus gray

Men from Clarion County and the surrounding area gathered in Clarion and formed five companies.

Leman's, Knox's, Reid's, Loomis's, and Maskey's men trained as Main street, the public squares, and the fairgrounds resounded to the drum, the "spirit stirring fife," and the martial tread of the volunteers in drill and tactics. History recalls "The panting recruits swept along the chief thoroughfare of the village from end to end, marching, counter marching, charging, and toilsomely but heroically performing all the evolutions of the drill. Sometimes they were armed with old muskets, oftener with sticks and canes."

Newspapers of the day reported, "Then amid tears and cheers, they wheeled down Fifth avenue, and the declivity of the road shut them out from view; some, forever."

The close of the war was appropriately celebrated by the townspeople.

The following extract is taken from the issue of April 15, 1865, of the Clarion Democrat, which, though it was hostile to the war, and bitterly attacked Lincoln's policy during its continuance, joined in the general rejoicing over the triumph of the Union.

"CLARION REJOICING OVER THE GOOD NEWS.

"On Monday and Tuesday the news of the surrender of Lee's army was received and confirmed. The courthouse and church bells were rung, a salute fired, and preparations made for holding a meeting. On Tuesday evening almost every house in Clarion was brilliantly illuminated, and flags displayed in great numbers. A large meeting of ladies and gentlemen was held in the courthouse; William L. Corbett, Esq., was chosen president, Dr. James Ross and James Sweeny, Esq., vice presidents, and R. B. Brown and Samuel Young, secretaries. The exercises were opened by the audience standing up and singing the doxology, ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow, etc.,' and prayer by Rev. Graham. Appropriate and patriotic speeches were made by Corbett, Reid, Graham, Montgomery, Barr, and Myers; Guth's brass band, and a company of young ladies and gentlemen accompanied by a melodeon, enlivened the occasion by playing and singing patriotic airs. The rejoicing was general and heartfelt, and all look forward with great hope to a speedy termination of the war, and a return of our brave soldiers to their homes and friends, so that all may enjoy the blessings of peace and harmony."

The war is over and debate begins

In 1871, stimulated by the opening of the Clarion oil field, there was a great awakening, and improvements were being made to the town and its structures.

Between 1875 and 1886 many structures were built, including fine homes, commercial buildings, the Normal School buildings. Clarion came alive and was anxious to move forward, after about 15 years of stagnated growth.

In early July of 1890, the Clarion Democrat newspaper began a campaign of "Park Improvement" with a challenge to businesses and individuals to donate.

In August, an executive committee was appointed to plan the improvements and oversee the work on the park. By the fall, work had progressed steadily, but was halted during the winter months. Because of some grumbling in the town (there is always grumbling, no?) this report appeared on May 7, 1891:

"For the benefit of one of our town papers, which seems to be losing its breath and becoming possessed of a fear that the wealth it invested in the enterprise may get lost, we will state that the Clarion Park Improvement Society has not been asleep.

"A handsome drinking fountain for the accommodation of man and beast has just been ordered and will be placed in position either on the north or east side of the park as soon as it arrives. In the meantime the committee in charge will have the grounds properly graded, walks made, comfortable seats scattered under the trees through the enclosure and the unsightly old fence removed.

"Other improvements will follow until Clarion Park will blossom as the rose and afford a most inviting retreat for all our people and be an ornament and credit to the town. The good work is now under way. Let all help to keep it going."

And keep it going they did. By June 11 1891 the park was nearly completed, and a statement was made, followed by a question in the Democrat: "The glorious Fourth of July is rapidly approaching. How shall we celebrate it? Why can't Clarion have a public celebration and formal opening of the park and unveiling of the new fountain that day?"

The park grows

The park had gone from an uneven parcel of ground with trees and brush to "a cool and shady retreat for those who may wish to take a stroll or linger under the sylvan shades, far removed from the busy marts of trade and still be close enough to know what is going on in the neighborhood.

Walks had been laid around the perimeter and on the diagonal from corner to corner, intersecting at right angles in the center. The trees had been trimmed, flowers planted, comfortable seats scattered throughout under the trees, a music pavilion was built, and a drinking fountain "for the accommodation of man and beast" was located on the north side of the park just opposite the courthouse.

I can only imagine how much the residents of Clarion loved and appreciated their park.

As I read through these old newspapers, I found some really amusing (to me) articles, this being one of them, published on June 25, 1891.

My friends and family know that I am partial to angels, so that is why I really stopped at this one:

"A gross Misrepresentation - It seems that the editor of the Kittanning Globe cannot appreciate really fine and artistic wood engraving when he sees it, as witness the following from a recent issue of that paper: The penknife artist of the Clarion Republican gave a representation in a recent issue of that paper of a new fountain which is to be placed in front of the park in its town. The picture looks as though it might be to a certain extent a fair representation of what is alleged to be a very handsome fountain, but if the humpbacked, homely and aged individual with wings is to be taken as a truthful likeness of the ‘angel,' a grand kick may be expected on the part of the heavenly host. Though it is considered rather difficult to obtain angels to pose as models, still it is asking too much to suppose that a creature like this will pass current even in Clarion as a copy of a celestial character."

The coming of the monuments

So the park was completed, and enjoyed by all.

An 1895 act of the state assembly began the whole major park project that would culminate in the events of 1897.

From The Clarion Democrat of January 9, 1896, reported the act authorized in the county seat of each county "the erection or completion of a monument in memory of the soldiers and sailors of the late war."

Suck local action required a citizens'' petition of at 50 signatures.

If approved by two meetings of the county grand jury and the board of county commissioners, a monument could be built in the park.

The newspaper reported, "We learn that petitions are now being circulated throughout the county for signers, said petitions are to be laid before the next grand jury. A full generation ago this country was in the throes of a civil war. Clarion county was loyal to the old flag and sent sixteen full companies of her sons to the front. In addition to these, there was a detachment of Clarion county men in Co. F, 67th Pa. Vols., and also Cos. D, J and K of the 57th Pa, one hundred day men, besides very many who enlisted in other organizations outside of Clarion county. It is now proposed to have a monument erected in memory of these men, to which Clarion county can point with pride, and we believe our people will respond to this move in honor of these brave men, with the same loyalty that their fathers, brothers and sons responded to the call in the defence of the old flag"

A powerful speech

In the process of the conduct of the second grand jury, a most amazing and powerful speech was given to the grand jury by B.J. Reed.

It was while reading this speech that I truly began to "get it," but not yet completely.

From the Clarion Democrat of April 23, 1896:

Court Proceedings

On Tuesday of last week when the petition for the erection of a soldiers' monument came before the grand jury for their consideration, as it appeared that a number of remonstrances were to be presented, the petitioners were represented by Maj. B. J. Reid, Maj. J. J. Frazier and J. H. Patrick, Esq., all of whom made stirring speeches in favor of the petition.

‘Maj. B. J. Reid spoke as follows:

"Gentlemen of the Grand Jury

"At the January term of court your predecessors of the grand jury approved this petition, and as the law just read in your hearing requires the concurrence of two grand juries, it now devolves on you to approve or disapprove it.

"From what I know of you, gentlemen, as an enlightened, broad minded, patriotic citizens, having at heart the public good and the honor of your county, I feel a strong confidence that you will approve it.

"The petition is signed by nearly seven hundred citizens, and it prays that, under the recent act of assembly authorizing it, the county of Clarion shall erect a monument to commemorate the patriotic services of the soldiers from this county who, in the late war of the rebellion, volunteered at their country's call to suppress armed treason and maintain the integrity of the union.

"Let us pause here a moment to reflect on what was involved in answering that call. Every man who answered that call took upon himself untold hardships. Every soldier who went to the front risked health and limb and life. Vast numbers of them did more than risk they gave up their lives on battlefields, in army hospitals and in southern prisons; and a still larger number of them came back to their homes maimed and disabled by wounds, or ruined in health by disease and exposure in the service.

"This small county sent into the field of that war no less than twenty two full companies, besides parts of other companies and many individual recruits; in all nearly 3,000 men. That shows that our county was patriotic then, and I trust your action today will show that it is patriotic now.

"Need I remind you of the magnitude of the cause in which those soldiers enlisted, or the value of the services then rendered by our armies? It would be impossible to over-estimate the importance of the issues that were involved in that contest. Nothing less was at stake than the very existence of this government and the perpetuity of our free institutions.

"So vital was the issue that our country willingly made enormous sacrifices to sustain itself through four years of war such as the world has scarcely ever seen. And for a long time the skies were dark, the contest hung doubtful in the balance, and good men began to despair of the republic.

"And is there a man on this jury who will say by his vote to-day that the soldiers who went out from this county in those trying times do not deserve some public recognition from the present generation, even though it may cost us from half a mill to one mill on the dollar of our assessed valuation to give it in the manner now proposed?

"Remember, that but for the service of those soldiers, the other nine hundred and ninety-nine mills might not be yours to enjoy today.

"Remember, that if this great republic was not overthrown before it was a century old if we can still boast that we have the freest and best government on earth we owe it to the citizen soldiers who left their farms, their work-shops, their professions, their families and firesides, and marched to the front some thirty odd years ago.

"If we still have a united country and our beloved stars and stripes still float over it if peace reigns throughout our borders and our people rest secure in their homes and possessions we owe it to the devoted men who freely offered their lives that all these blessings might be preserved.

"I cannot believe that this grand jury is going to say by your findings in this case that the men who rendered such services shall not receive the public thanks of the people in the shape of a soldiers' monument.

"I cannot believe that you will be influenced by the remonstrances of people who higgle about the price and cry out against the waste, as the gospel of St. John tells us that Judas did when Mary of Bethany poured out her alabaster box of precious ointment on the feet of Jesus.

"No, gentlemen -- while there are some here and there who take a narrow view of this matter and murmer at what this pound of spikenard is going to cost the county, I feel confident that you, sitting here as a representative body of the county, will take a higher and broader view.

"I think you will agree with me that there is something more than mere dollars and cents to consider in deliberating on a matter like this which is so closely connected with the public welfare and good citizenship.

"I think you will agree with me that even from a worldly point of view there ought to be, and there is, what might be called a spiritual side to a nation's life, to distinguish it from what is merely material and mercenary.

"It was that nobler idea of devotion to country and to duty that fired the nation's heart and sent armies of volunteers to the field in the days of the country's peril; and that the same high ideal, I am confident, still lives in the hearts of the people, and will sustain your action in approving this petition.

"A public testimonial in the shape of a monument of an enduring character, costing say from five to ten thousand dollars, would be a credit to this county; and it would be a great deal more. It would touch the heart and come home to the best thoughts of every citizen. It would be a great object lesson to all of this or of future generations who shall come to look upon it. They would see in it a tribute to heroism and patriotism, and a proof that the country was grateful for the service of her soldiers in time of need.

"It would inspire our people with increased love and respect for our country's flag and for the institutions for which those soldiers fought. And in an especial manner it would be an incentive to the youth of our county, in all time to come, to be ready to emulate the grand example of the soldiers thus commemorated, should any great crisis ever again threaten the life of the republic or the honor of the flag.

"While no one can tell in advance what your action will be, I hope for the honor of the county that it will be favorable. As for me, if I were on this grand jury, and it should reject this petition, -- if at any time hereafter one of my children or grandchildren were to ask me whether it was really true that I once sat on a grand jury that voted against a soldiers' monument, I would not know what answer to make to the question except to bow my head in shame.

"Gentlemen, the matter is in your hands. All that I ask of you is to act upon it as becomes American citizens who love their country and are not ungrateful to its defenders."

The grand jury and the Court approved the petition, and it now remains for the County Commissioners to take action on it." And they did just that.

From the July 23, 1896, newspaper:

"The County Commissioners have invited designs and bids for the soldiers monument to be opened on the 28th inst. They request us to say that they would be glad to have a representative from each G.A.R. post in the county to attend on that day and aid by their views as to the selection of a design from among the many that may be submitted."

And, from the August 27, 1896, newspaper:

Contract Let for Clarion County Soldier's Monument

Bids for the erection of the Clarion county Soldiers' monument were opened and the contract awarded last Thursday. Two designs were finally decided upon by the committee and bids were confined thereto. The bids submitted on the large and smaller designs were as follows:

J.H. Woodruff, Clarion, Pa., large design, $9950, small $8450; Badger Bros., Quincy, Mass., large design, $10,300, small $9100; Harrison Granite Co., Barre, Vt., large design, $8941, small, $7693; Campbell & Horrigan, Pittsburg, large design, $10,000, small, $8462; R.A. Bigley, Franklin, Pa., large design, $9450, small, $8340; John S. Moore, Brookville, Pa., large design, $9927, small, $8997; J.W. Kerr, Franklin, Pa., large design, $8600, small, $7400.

"The contract was awarded to J. W. Kerr, of Franklin, whose bid to some of the large granite firms bidding, who own their own quarries, was quite a surprise."

Not without a fight

Subsequent legal issues arose. Yes, even then, legal challenges were plentiful as challenges were made to just about everything.

From the Sept 3, 1896, newspaper:

A Monumental Muddle

"Considerable of a sensation has been produced by the publication of a bill in equity between George W. Noll, plaintiff and Cyrus Neely, James Russell, and W.H. Kerr, County Commissioners of the county of Clarion, and J.W. Kerr, defendants.

"Noll the plaintiff, is a marble and granite dealer of New Castle, Pa., and one of the unsuccessful bidders on the proposed Clarion County Soldier's monument, while J. W. Kerr, the last named defendant, is in the same business at Franklin, Pa. The institution of the suit is based upon the alleged illegal manner of the awarding of the contract for the soldiers' monument to J. W. Kerr, as set forth in the plaintiff's bill in equity referred to.

"Among the complaints made by George W. Noll, the defendant, are the following: That the county commissioners permitted J.W. Kerr to examine the bids of the other bidders at the time of the opening of the first proposals and before the contract had been awarded.

"That after all the bids received at the first opening had been rejected, W.H. Kerr, one of the county commissioners above named, went to Boston and other eastern points where granite is largely quarried, handled and sold and examined plans and specifications and made inquiries as to the cost and prices of monuments, and that he consulted with J.W. Kerr, the defendant, at and after the time he was in Boston.

"That the advertisement of the commissioners of their intention to receive bids a second time for the erection of said monument was insufficient and not made in the manner required by law. That the defendant J.W. Kerr, was afforded the opportunity to make an intelligent bid not accorded the other persons bidding. That W.H. Kerr examined plans submitted at the first bidding and permitted J.W. Kerr to examine the same and then went to Boston and other places to secure information which he gave to J.W. Kerr and other persons associated with him to enable the said J.W. Kerr to make a lower bid than he otherwise could and would have made; and that the plans and specifications on file in the county commissioners office August 20, 1896, were indefinite, vague, and uncertain in their requirements and were so drawn that they tended to deceive persons proposing to bid thereon.

"Finally, the plaintiff prays the Honorable Court that the contract awarded and made between the said county commissioners and the said J.W. Kerr be set aside and decreed to be null and void and illegal. G.G. Sloan, and Wilson & Gordon of this place and J. Norman Martin of New Castle, appear as counsel for the plaintiff."

From the September 17, 1896, newspaper:

"Commissioners Answer

"The answer of the County Commissioners was filed last week to the Bill in Equity filed by G.W. Noll, of New Castle, against the Commissioners, involving the validity of the contract awarded to J.W. Kerr & Son, of Franklin, to erect a soldiers' monument at Clarion.

In their answer the Commissioners admit the facts as to the act of Assembly authorizing the erection of such monument; the petition to the Court and the approval of two successive grand juries; the advertising for plans and specifications and bids for building said monument (except as to the manner of advertising); and the examining of said plans and opening and rejecting all bids, but deny the allegation that they permitted J. W. Kerr to examine said plans and specifications.

"The Commissioners admit the fact that W.H. Kerr, went east to secure designs for a monument, but deny that W.H. Kerr consulted with J.W. Kerr at and after the time he was east. They also admit that they advertised again on August 12, 1896, for bids for erecting said monument in accordance with a design to be seen at their office, and required bidders to file bonds in the sum of $12,000.

"The Commissioners aver that plaintiff was in Clarion in time to file a bid, and did not request more time, and deny that he was prevented by them from bidding, and aver that plaintiff had been at expense in preparing plans, etc., is immaterial. The defendants admit that granite is obtained in the New England states but deny that it was necessary for intelligent bidders to send there for prices and estimates; and deny also that J.W. Kerr saw said plans as stated by plaintiff, or was given information that would give him advantage over others.

"They deny that the Act of April 4, 1870, applies to the case, and aver that the Commissioners have exclusive control of the letting of said contract and have the right to require a bond to be filed, and deny it was for the purpose of hindering the plaintiff or others from bidding, but aver it was to shut out irresponsible bidders.

"Defendants also deny that W.H. Kerr permitted J.W. Kerr to examine plans at first bidding, or that W.H. Kerr gave to J.W. Kerr and other persons information to enable them to make a lower bid; and deny that said plans were vague and tended to or did deceive bidders. They admit awarding the contract to J.W. Kerr & Son, the lowest bidder, but deny that it is unlawful or in derogation of rights of bidders; and aver that plaintiff is not a citizen or taxpayer of the county and has no standing in equity; and not having bid or requested more time, cannot now complain, and, if injured, has his remedy, if any, at law."

The Commissioners prevailed and the contract with J.W. Kerr was ruled valid. Construction began and was documented as the work progressed.

From the Nov 19, 1896, newspaper "The derrick is on the ground in the park preparatory to the erection of the new soldiers' monument, work upon which will be commenced this week."

Nov 26, 1896 "The stone got for the foundation of the Soldiers' Monument to be erected in the Clarion Park is now being placed upon the ground by Isaac L. Jones of Monroe township who has the contract for this part of the work. The stone is being quarried on Mr. Jones' farm and is of fine quality. The contract calls for about 100 perch of stone and Mr. Jones is putting it on the ground in a very satisfactory manner."

The work was paused in the winter months, and was resumed in the spring as weather permitted. The following comment that appeared in April commonly appeared in the newspapers of the day:

"Work has been resumed on the erection of the soldiers' monument in the Clarion park, and, according to actual count of those present, there are seven overseers to each workman employed on the job."

April 22, 1897 "Work on the new soldier's monument in Clarion park has been progressing very favorably the past week and will be finished in a few days."

Planning for an grand unveiling of the monument started immediately.

The next article appeared in The Clarion Democrat on Thursday, Apr 29, 1897, giving the description of the now-finished monument.

Of the many things that I did not appreciate, the actual creation and construction of the monument had never crossed my mind.

Now it is imprinted there.

Clarion County Soldiers Monument

"Some five years ago the Clarion County Soldiers' Association appointed a committee consisting of Major B.J. Reid, Maj. J. J. Frazier, J. H. Patrick, Esq, S. Niederriter and Isaac Mong to consider and report upon the ways and means of erecting a Clarion county soldiers' monument. The monetary depression then bearing heavily on the country, rendered hopeless for the time all efforts to raise the necessary funds by private subscription, and further action in the matter was suspended till the conditions should be more favorable.

"The contract was awarded to J.W. Kerr & Son, the lowest bidders, and it is the unanimous verdict of every person of taste and judgment that they have done the work faithfully according to contract and admirably well in every way.

"Their right to rank among the most efficient workers in their line in the state all who have seen this beautiful sample of their handiwork will readily admit.

"The monument was completed on the 23rd inst., and a work of artistic beauty and grandeur it is probably not excelled by any soldiers' monument in Pennsylvania. Through all time it will reflect credit on the Court, the grand jurors, the county commissioners, the contractors, the committee whose efforts have made it an accomplished fact, and all concerned in any way in furthering the work.

"The foundation is ten feet deep, composed of massive blocks of sand-stone well bedded and laid in cement. The superstructure is of fine white granite from E. L. Smith & Co.'s quarries of Barre, Vermont, fifteen feet square at the base and forty-seven feet high to the top of the flag in the hands of a flag bearer surmounting the richly carved capital which crowns the graceful shaft.

"On the north face of the die, which is a solid block of beautifully chiseled and polished granite five and a half feet square by three and a third feet high, is this inscription in raised and polished letters:

1896

IN MEMORY

OF THE SOLDIERS

OF CLARION COUNTY

WHO SERVED THEIR COUNTRY

IN ITS HOUR OF PERIL.

1861-1865

"On the ledges of the plinth above the die, with backs to the four sides of the shaft, stand four finely sculptured granite statues, each six feet high, representing the four arms of the service Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery and Marine. Midway up the tall shaft is another plinth, on the four faces of which are carved in relief the badges of the thirteen army corps represented most numerously by Clarion county soldiers.

"The monument stands in the center of the public park directly opposite the Court House front, and there it will stand for ages, a proof of the patriotism of Clarion county's soldiers and of the patriotism and public spirit of the people of the county in thus fittingly recognizing the services of those soldiers in the time of their country's trial.

On May 20, the celebration itself was held, with the event advertised in the Democrat with this simple photo.

[Insert May 20th picture]

The actual ceremony is described in its entirety in the next edition of the Democrat, May 27th, 1897. As you read it, try to absorb the magnitude and heartfelt joy of those participating in or watching the ceremony.

The Clarion Democrat Thu, May 27, 1897:

The Soldiers Monument

"On the 20th inst. Clarion and the country round about witnessed a spectacle never witnessed here before, rarely witnessed anywhere, and which it is safe to say will never be witnessed in Clarion in a thousand years. It was the unveiling of the Soldiers' Monument, completed last month.

"Clarion county has the honor of having the first monument in the whole state erected under that act, -- a proof of the patriotism and public spirit of our citizens, and of the energy and push of the committee of the Clarion County Soldiers' Association having charge of the undertaking.

"The monument is beautifully located in the center of the small public park directly opposite the court house.

"The contractors, J.W. Kerr & Son, of Franklin, Pa., deserve the thanks of the soldiers and the whole community for the admirable manner in which the work was executed both as to the solidity and artistic excellence. As a work of art it will compare favorably with any monument in the state outside of the largest cities.

Vast throngs of people began to pour into our town on the morning of the 20th, and some on the evening before; and when the hour of 1 p.m. arrived and the procession began to form called together by brass and martial bands discoursing soul stirring music a striking scene was presented.

"Company D, 15th Regt., N.G.P., under Lieut. Hackett, led off after the music, followed by the various Grand Army Posts of the county in uniform, other veterans, Clarion Hose Company No. 1 under Capt. Richards, and a large concourse of civilians. The route of the procession and indeed the entire town was gaily decorated with national flags of all sizes and festoons of bunting, indicating the presence of a greater than usual holiday.

"But far more noticeable than waving flags and gay streamers, more than martial music or the bright trappings and regular march of the National Guard, was the long line of veterans, many of them maimed, bent and halting in gait, and all of them showing the advance of years since they were ‘soldier boys' in the service of their country.

"How could anyone with a spark of right feeling in his bosom refrain from expressing respect and almost veneration for them as they passed by?

"When the procession returned to the park and was massed in the wide spaces surrounding the monument and the speakers' stand, a sea of faces could have been seen from the stand such as had never before been seen in any public meeting in Clarion county. It looked as though almost every adult citizen was present to witness the coming event.

"On taking the chair Maj. Reid announced the unveiling of the monument by Miss Alice Wetter, daughter of Maj. Henry Wetter, deceased. At a signal from the chairman Miss Wetter pulled the cord which held an immense American flag in place around the shaft and its group of statues, and the monument stood revealed to the admiring multitude which sent up a shout of joy, and at the same moment the court house bell, the school bells and all the church bells in town rang out a joyous peal which lasted until Capt. Blanchard with his veteran cannon, a relic of many battles of the war, had finished firing a salute of eleven guns.

"Prof. Rugh of the State Normal School and his excellent Clarion State Normal Glee Club were introduced and sang ‘Tenting on the old camp ground' with great spirit.

"A.A. Geary, Esq, was then introduced as the representation of the County Commissioners, and in their behalf presented the monument to the Soldiers of the county not as their property but as a testimonial in their honor. His remarks were eloquent and forcibly delivered. Major Reid, in the name and on behalf of the soldiers of the county, made a short but feeling address, accepting the testimonials and returning thanks to all who had any part in its ordering or erection.

"Ex-Governor James A. Beaver followed in a beautiful and appropriate address to the school children present and an address to the veterans that won their heartiest applause.

"Next came the beautiful flag drill and flag salute by 30 children of the public school and 40 of the parochial school, massed on a platform specially prepared for them, and led by Mrs. F.M. Lewis and Miss Mary Delo. This feature of the celebration was highly appreciated by the immense audience.

"All the addresses were replete with patriotic sentiment and instructive lessons, and the immense crowd was very attentive and appreciative throughout, although a rather strong breeze blowing fitfully all afternoon made it very difficult to hear the speakers.

"Take it all in all the day was a most memorable one in the annals of our town and county."

The author's closing thoughts

Major B.J. Reid's words have stuck in my mind. "It should touch the heart and come home to the best thoughts of every citizen. It would be a great object lesson to all of this or of future generations who shall come to look upon it."

It seems that the "future generations" have lost the true meaning of the memorial, and of the toll that the Civil War took on Clarion County.

Imagine that 3,000 young men marched off to war, out of a county population of 25,000. I had never realized the impact that the war had on Clarion County, and indeed, on every county of every state whether fighting for the North or the South.

It was never real. I remember watching Ken Burns' The Civil War, and being so very sad about the whole war -- deaths, casualties, devastation.

But because I was watching battles somewhere else, the magnitude of the impact here at home never even crossed my mind.

I was moved to tears when I read about the procession on May 20, 1897, the day that the monument was unveiled.

I saw in my mind "the long line of veterans, many of them maimed, bent and halting in gait" so many years since they were "soldier boys" who left home and family to serve their country.

And I am sad, and ashamed, that I once played on the monument and brought my children and grandchildren there to climb on it. I am sad also that this incredible Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument may have meant nothing more to most than a place to sit and eat ice cream during the Autumn Leaf Festival.

My reason for writing this long story began after I discovered that May 20 was the 123rd anniversary of the unveiling.

I planned to go there, visualizing that gigantic flag being taken away to reveal this wonderful monument.

I thought maybe I'd pretend to be the one who pulls the cord to do that.

And even more, Memorial Day is May 25. I plan to visit on that day, too, to think about the brave 3,000 "soldier boys" who marched off to war, so many never to return home.

I finally "get it." I hope you do, too.

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