A History of the Monument

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Here is some history about this magnificent piece of art.

Located in Veteran’s Park within a square block bounded by Dwight, Hampden, Maple and Chestnut Streets in downtown Holyoke. Prior to 1962, this park was known as Hampden Park.

The Soldier’s Monument located in the center of the square was erected July 4, 1876 at the cost of $10,000, honoring the soldier’s from Holyoke who died during the Civil War.

The granite base is 10ft. sq. and the diam. is 3ft.sq. A bronze figure of Miss Liberty is 9ft. high and the overall height is 16ft. Emblazed on the stone is the following inscription, “In Memory of our Volunteers who Died for the Union 1861-1865.”

Designed and sculpted by ELLICOTT, HENRY JACKSON; 1847-1901, a graduate of Rock Hill College, Ellicott city, Md.; at Gonzaga College, Washington; at Georgetown Medical College and at the New York Academy of Design, 1867-70.

Among his more notable works are the Soldier’s monument at Holyoke, Mass., 1874; the group “Commerce, Protection and Mechanism” on the New England life insurance building at Boston, 1875; the portrait statue of Colonel Cameron at Sunbury, Pa., 1879; the statue of recording angel surmounting the Duncan monument at Pittsburgh, Pa., 1880; the bronze statues erected by the 1st and 2nd Pennsylvania cavalry of the battlefield of Gettysburg, one in 1887, the other in 1889; the equestrian statue of Gen. George B. McClellan erected on the city hall plaza, Philadelphia, Pa., 1894, and the equestrian statue of Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, erected by the U.S. government at Washington, D.C., and unveiled May 12, 1896. He was chief modeler and sculptor for the government under President Harrison’s administration.

There are four bas-relief bronze plates around the base of the monument.

The first shows a newly enlisted cavalryman leaving home. He is about to mount his horse while his wife embraces him and his son stands playing with the sabre scabbard.

The second is a battle scene with cavalrymen charging upon the infantry.

The third scene shows a rebel standing guard over a wounded prisoner and two others, one evidently a surgeon binding up the wounds.

The fourth shows a widow and her child at the gravesite of the husband and father in the south, where a loyal black guide has found the gravesite for them.

An incident that took place during the dedication on July 4th 1876 claimed the life of one, and injured two others, when upon the 14th shot from the saluting cannon caused the cannon to explode. The parade took 2 hours to pass a given point and included 38 “beautiful young ladies” representing the 38 states of the Union.

Here is an article that Cynthia Simison, managing editor of special projects for The Republican and its Plus Papers allowed me to publish in the Holyoke Plus section 2005 to familiarize the citizens of Holyoke with their beloved monument. Thank you!

They amaze me! Who you may be asking? The people of Holyoke who lived one hundred and twenty-nine years ago. The high-spirited fathers, as they were called by the Holyoke Daily Transcript at the time, held a grand 4th of July parade that lasted two hours that culminated in the dedication of a stunning piece of art work we now call the Soldiers monument.

The Soldiers monument located in Veterans Park is one of the most beautiful monuments in Western Massachusetts. Designed by Henry Jackson Ellicott who was the chief modeler and sculptor for the government under President Harrison’s Administration. He was an exceptional and talented artist, who designed and sculpted monuments through out the east coast, including Gettysburg. It’s obvious that Holyoke’s forefathers hired the very best.

According to the 1926 Holyoke Daily Transcript, Holyoke celebrated the dedication of the beautiful Soldier’s Monument at Hamden Park, now known as Veterans Parks and the laying of the corner stone of the St. Jerome Church at their Centennial on July 4, 1876. They illuminated the downtown area with thousands of Japanese lanterns lit by candles on trees and in gardens. Maple Street, then the court of the town, was transformed into fairyland. At precisely twelve o’clock a company of gunners fired the first salute from a six-pound cannon on Depot Hill when it exploded, killing one man and severely injuring two others.

The day was hot. The parade was in the afternoon, and ice water drinks all along the line of the march were pronounced the greatest blessing of the day. Two and one half tons of ice was used and over twenty-five hogsheads of water. The attendants stood at their task from 5am to 8pm. The police made and gave away 125 gallons of lemonade, and were proud that they had only eight drunks to care for at the close of the day. Food was also provided by the people with the leftovers given to the poor. The parade included Veterans of the war of 1812, a car containing twenty-one young ladies dressed in white and representing forty-eight states of the Union at the time. Next came three cars, beautifully decorated to represent Faith, Hope and Charity: Hope must have been a charming young lady leaning on a moss covered anchor. Education had a big exhibit. There was an ox-drawn cart representing domestic education in 1776-a cart representing the school-house of “76, and the various schools with their teachers representing Young America and the Fairy Queen of Holyoke. Four carts represented the seasons.

A company of thirteen boys represented Continentals. Another car represented Liberty. A car filled with young ladies dressed in Shaker costume personified “Canterbury Belles.” A number of women with their babies in one car represented Industrial Pursuits. There was yellow literature in those days. A young lady loafing on a lounge with her yellow-covered book told the story. There were five companies in the Second Regiment. It was made up mostly of Irish societies, the St. Jerome Temperance Society, The Ancient Order of Hibernians and Catholic Mutual Benevolent Society. It took four cars filled with lovely girls dressed in white tulle with green sashes to represent the counties of Ireland.

The German, French and Scottish societies made up the fourth division. The whole fire department was out in the fifth division. The Lyman Mills had a large number of girls from their various departments in line. The merchants of the new town showed their wares on cars. The only music mentioned is the Chicopee Brass Bands. In all, the paper records 38 entries, many of them very ornate and worked out with quite as much care and elegance as will be shown in our 1926 parade.

After the parade ended, all participants surrounded the Soldiers monument to partake in the dedication ceremony. Rev. L.R. Trask offered the dedication prayer. Mayor Pearsons accepted the monument for the city.

Rev. J. F. Marrs of Greenfield, the chaplain of the 53d Regt., said at the time, “It all seems long ago to us but the Civil War was a vivid present memory then.” Fifteen years ago, the 100th birthday of the Republic was a doubtful event to anticipate. Two mighty armies were marshaled, one to destroy, one to save. The earth has drunk their blood and it springs up again from the soil in the sweet blossoms of peace. Our dead soldiers are yearly commemorated by speeches and wreath and garlands, but it was left to this late day to honor them by a more substantial and enduring monument, that will stand to tell other generation its own thrilling and inspiring story. Our city has at last done this, and redeemed itself from the reproach of forgetfulness of its heroes and defender. There is no grave so deep and dark as the grave of forgetfulness and oblivion. While this beautiful memorial figure stands in the midst of our busy city, the figure of Liberty holding a wreath of immorality over the names of our honored volunteers, Holyoke cannot forget the boys who fought and bled and died that our country might be prosperous and free. No longer will we have the rude wooden cross in the Forestdale cemetery to honor our fallen sons. Obviously, it was truly a memorable day for the people of Holyoke.

The proud people of Holyoke bestowed upon us this grand and memorable monument. Now in 2005, the monument needs to be preserved. The bronze on Miss Liberty needs to be evened out, cleaned, buffed and waxed. The granite also needs to be cleaned. On one of the bronze plates located on the pedestal of the monument, a soldier’s hand is broken off and his horse’s ear is chipped. The city school children are writing essays to show their respect and appreciation to our veterans and are drawing the monument. Let us rally around this incredible monument as they did one hundred twenty-nine years ago.