|The History of the Soldiers Monument|
Mary Place Boyd
| A soldiers monument to
hold in memory those from their community, who so well served their country in her great
civil struggle, had long been in the hearts and on the minds of those who went through
those stirring days, whether on the field of battle or anxiously awaiting at home the news
of the fray. During war times a fund was raised to help Caledonia fill her quota of
soldiers, and to assist the wives and families of those who might be left needy when the
struggle should end.
On Mary 7, 1876 at a town meeting John A. Walker offered a resolution, which was carried, that the balance left of this fund, then amounting to $223.78 should be placed at interest and the proceeds used in building such a monument. Here the matter rested until 1898 when again stirred by the triumphs of American arms in the struggle to free the Cubans, the question was again agitated by McNaughton Post 625, G.A.R. The Post felt that its numbers were being rapidly reduced by death and that if the task were left to a succeeding generation it might never be done. It was at a meeting of the citizens of the town was held to make plans for pushing the long delayed project to completion. At the general election that fall, it was voted to set aside this sum, principle and proceeds, now amounting to $640.00 for the building of the monument. On further consideration it was deemed advisable to expend a much larger sum than was at first intended in order that the object and the location might be fittingly represented, and accordingly on March 14, 1899 at a town meeting the electors of the town of Caledonia voted to raise $1000.00 by taxation. To this sum was afterward added by popular subscription by the personal efforts of members of McNaughton Post the sum of $316.50. Then a committee consisting of the following officers of the town was appointed to take the matter in charge with instructions to push it through without any further delay: Supervisor Fraser A. Christie, Town Clerk James C. Foote, Justice of the Peace D.D. Cameron, J. H. Wilson, John W. Hannah, D.D. McCall, W.S. McKenzie, President of the Village Thomas Ball, Commander Robert M. Place and Quartermaster Robert W. Scotts, Sr. of McNaughton Post.
The place were the monument should stand proved for a time to be a trying question, but finally the place selected met with approval of all concerned. After a canvas of some length for bids upon the work, the contract was awarded to J.M. Hamilton and Son of Batavia, New York for $1870.00 exclusive of grading and the building of coping. Entirely completed the monument cost slightly over $2000.00, a sum the expenditure of which will always remain a source of pride to those who were active in securing its outlay for such a patriotic purpose. That committee in charge, as well as the workmen, who toiled so skillfully, deserved great praise was the subject of universal comment by all.
The site on which it is erected is a most commanding one. Being the small square formed by the intersection of State, Main and North Streets and East Avenue, it may be seen for a long distance upon every road entering the village. Near it on State Street stands the Old Caledonia House, now the Masonic Temple, a handsome stone hotel built in 1833 and one of the Inns on the line of old stages operated on the state road running through the town of Caledonia. Either way on State and Main Streets are found the business places of the village while on North Street and East Avenue are some of the handsomest residences in the village.
The monument stands firmly on a solid base eight feet square, built of stone laid in portland cement and rises 33 feet 4 inches in height. The stone used in the two base stones is rough cut light Barre, Vermont granite the third base being of the same material smooth dressed but unpolished and bearing in raised letters upon the western side, "In Memory of the Men Who Served In Defense of Our Country", on the eastern side "1900" on the northern side " Erected By The Citizens Of the Town of Caledonia" and on the southern side "1861-5". The die upon which the names of the dead soldiers rests is upon this third base and is of dark Quincy granite and is three feet eight inches (38") square and four feet six inches high (46").
Following are the names of the soldiers cut here:
Space was reserved for the placing of the names of surviving soldiers upon this die and the following have been added in later years.
On the west side of the pediment above the die are carved in relief the crossed sabers, on the north side the crossed guns and knapsack bearing the letters U.S.A., on the east side the crossed cannon, and on the south the anchor above the plinth above his cap rises the shaft ten feet six inches (106") in height and two feet six inches (26") square in one piece. Upon the western side is carved in relief the badge of the Grand Army of the Republic, and on the eastern side are the draped flags. On a carved cap upon this shaft the statue. It is clothed in the cape coat and regulation cap and stands at Parade rest holding in the right hand the usual army musket. The weight of the entire monument is about 37 TONS. On the first of May, 1900 during the erection of the monument a tin box three by eight by twelve inches was placed between the massive stones of the first and second bases. The contents of the box were as follows: copy of Caledonia Advertiser, April 26, 1900; copy of Caledonia Advertiser descriptive of the village and prominent residents; copies of Rochester Union and Advertiser, Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester Herald of May 1, 1900, Rochester Post Express, Buffalo Post Express, Evening News and Commercial of April 30, 1900, copy of subscription list of $316.50 raised toward cost of monument, names of supervisors of McNaughton Post 625 G.A.R., Topic card Y.P.S.C.E.-U.P. Church, proceedings of Board of Supervisors, a handkerchief from Mrs. Susan F. Kelsey bearing the year of her birth 1802-1900, a button photograph of Master Cameron Place, cards and letter heads of business men.
The Unveiling of Soldiers Monument June 13, 1900
The unveiling of the Soldiers Monument and the presence of Governor Roosevelt and other distinguished guests brought over 6000 people to Caledonia on June 13, 1900. Special trains on the Erie brought large numbers. Hebings Artillery Band arrived at 8 oclock and met all incoming visitors with music from the reviewing stand. The Lehigh Valley and New York Central rail roads provided special rates and coaches for the visitors. Governor Roosevelt attended by Sherman Command 2 U.V.H. of Rochester arrived on a special train on the Erie bringing also the Livingston County Grand Army Association. The Governor was received with a salute or twenty guns and music. Other distinguished guests were Major W.A. Wadsworth, Hon. W.W. Armstrong, Hon. Otto Kelsey, Hon. James W. Wadsworth, Hon. L.H. Humphrey, Hon. Charles Gardiner, Hon. John H. Ellis, Hon. J.M. Hamilton, Joseph OConnor and Hon. C.R. Parsons. They were met by the reception committee and took carriages in the line of march of the parade which formed immediately.
Following is the formation of the
Alexander E. Menzie, Aide
The line of march was short starting from the Erie Station to the monument, then East on East Avenue to Jersey Street to Church to North, Main and Leicester. Counter march to the monument where the ranks were broken. The reviewing stand was occupied during the passing of the parade by children of the Caledonia High School who sang patriotic selections.
Governor Roosevelt was loudly cheered along the line of march especially by the "Old Soldiers" who were drawn up on Main Street after they had covered their line of march. As he rode down between the ranks, hats were thrown in the air and the "Old Soldiers" cheered him to the echo. During lunch hour dinner was served on the First Church lawn. The Governor and distinguished guests dined at Spring Brook Hotel at the Fish Ponds. At 2:30 p.m. commenced the literary exercises of the afternoon from the speakers platform on the reviewing stand.
First was a selection "Swanne River" by the Amphion male quartette composed of Jay E. Bostwick, Oscar L. Howk, basses, Rev. G.O. Miller and Rev. H.H. Barstow, tenors, then a prayer by Rev. Henry F. Darnell of Avon, Rector of St. Andrews Episcopal Church here. Another selection "Soldiers Rest" by the quartette. W.V. Hamilton, presiding officer of the afternoon then introduced Governor Roosevelt who was given a hearty reception. The Governor said in part:
"My fellow citizens, men and women of the great Empire State and above all those who wear the button that in the time that tried mens souls you were true to your ideals. I am honored to be given a chance to speak upon this day when you commemorate a monument to those sons of this neighborhood who responded to the call of your nation who went to the front to give to the nation all that man can give his life. I am very proud of being governor of this state. I have enjoyed it. One thing that makes me even prouder is the way in which you who served in the great war have held out the hand of comradeship to us who have served in the little war. You today commemorate the valor not only of t hose whose names are inscribed on this monument but as well the more fortunate but none the less brave comrades who returned home and are with us today. I am proud to speak of the lesson of citizenship given to us in civil life by what was done by these men in military life. You of the Grand Army of the Republic remember thirty-eight years ago when the blanket you carried was far too heavy in the daytime and too light at night! You knew what it was in those days not only to feel hungry for one meal but for months at a time never to feel not hungry. The long months of inaction waiting wondering if maybe the man at the head had not gone a little wrong wondering why he had not made this move or that move. You have seen bitter days when defeat came, when you had to fall back but yet at that supreme moment were able to show you were men indeed. The brave man who meets defeat but waits to come to victory. We erect this monument in the spirit of paying the highest homage it is in our power to pay to the men who beyond all of us have deserved well of their country. Let me apply the lesson taught to us of this generation in civic and social life who live in times of peace. you honor the men of 61-65 who went to the front, the men who died, the men who dared and the men who won. So it must be in civic life. You remember the words of the poet who sang in the darkest time of civil war, "Freedom is not a gift that tarries long in the hands of cowards". You want first of all honesty and after that courage. We have gathered today to pay honor to the men who when the nation called sprang to arms from this neighborhood and well we do honor them because their example would be not only a spur to do your duty if ever the nation calls you to arms, but a spur to every man to do his duty as an honest American citizen with honor, with courage and common sense."
At the conclusion an original poem read by Col. Sherman D. Richardson of Rochester and singing of "America" by the audience, led by the quartette.