Preserving Past Was a Monumental Affair

This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on May 18, 1991

PRESERVING PAST WAS A MONUMENTAL AFFAIR

by Roz Young

 

            On a windy, cold April day about a dozen city officials clustered together at the site of the new Civil War statue base and held a little ceremony when they placed a time capsule with a few mementos of life in 1991 into the plinth. County Commissioner Donna Moon remarked that she hoped it would be a nicer day when our ancestors will find and open the stainless steel box they buried in the monument. (On a windy day the vocabulary is the first to go.)
            I would like to have seen a little more fuss made, more like the one our ancestors did make when they entombed the record box in the original statue base July 15, 1884.
            That evening, 125 members of the Grand Army of the Republic assembled in uniform in their hall in the Clegg block at 124 S. Jefferson St. They marched in a group to the monument, where a large crowd had gathered.
            The ceremony began when Allen O. Jeffries presented a flag with "appropriate remarks," as the Drury history says, to the Edward A. King Post. After a few other speeches the committee on preparation of the record box was asked to make its report. Committee members were Capt. A.C. Fenner, Dr. J.M. Weaver and the chairman, E.M. Thresher. Thresher read the contents of the box: a copy of the Bible, the city directory for 1883-'84, the latest annual reports of the city clerk, the work house, the fire commissioners, the fire chief, the board of health, the city infirmary, the city solicitor, the police commissioners, and the Women's Christian Association. Also included were the constitution and bylaws of local Old Guard Association, the May 30 edition of the Dayton Journal, which contained the list of names of all deceased soldiers in Dayton cemeteries, copies of weekly papers then published in Dayton, a list of officers of the E.A. King Post and the roster of the G.A.R. posts of Ohio.
            After the box was sealed, Thresher made an address. Then, while the band played Hail Columbia , a Mr. Carpenter put the box in its place in the monument and the Old Guard thereupon marched back to the hall for refreshments.
            Our ancestors really did up the dedication of the monument in grand style, too. It began at sunrise the morning of July 29 with a salute of 13 guns. The morning was devoted to reunions of veterans. At noon came a salute of 38 guns. In the afternoon there was a band concert, a prayer by Rev. W.A. Hale, an address of welcome by Mayor John L. Miller, a response by Gen. Robert P. Kennedy and salute of 13 guns.
            The next day was much like the previous one with salutes and speeches by Gen. Robert P. Kennedy, Gen. W.S. Rosecrans and ex-President Rutherford B. Hayes.
            July 31 was the big day, beginning with a parade at 10 a.m. At the head was the 7th Regiment band followed by two detachments of the Old Guard. Then came commander-in-chief of the celebration, Gen. Thomas J. Wood and his staff and Hon. George Hoadley and staff, followed by the G.A.R. posts, the regimental organizations commanded by Col. E.A. Parrott and various societies in full dress. Carriages of important personages of the military and Dayton citizens followed: Gen. J.R. Hawley, Hon. G.W. Houk, Hon. Samuel Craighead, Judge Henderson Elliott, Hon. John A. McMahon, W.D. Bickham, Col. Charles Williams, Judge Stanley Matthews, Gen. W.S. Rosecrans, Gen. R.P. Kennedy, Cap. Charles Earnshaw and Hon. John W. Stoddard.
            The dignitaries sat on a grandstand erected by the monument. Craighead introduced Houk, who delivered the monument to the people. After Col. Parrott delivered an oration, the choir sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic . The celebration closed with the singing of America, after which the parade countermarched to Fifth and Main and disbanded.
            "An unpleasant incident of the occasion was the refusal of the veil to be lifted from its place about the statue," said historian Drury. "A steeple climber was soon secured who, by throwing ropes about the shaft, was able to climb to the place of difficulty and free the veil, which he did amid the cheers of the assembled multitude."
            It was a grand day, and no matter how many more times we move the monument, we shall not see its like again.