Article: The Republican December 2004

Southampton plans to restore war memorial

By David Bergengren

SOUTHAMPTON-Jacqueline M. Sears is on a mission to raise money to restore the town’s Civil War monument. It honors the 127 Southampton residents who fought in the bloody conflict, particularly the 22 who died and whose names are listed on it.

The sandstone monument, erected in 1866 at the Center Cemetery on College Highway, has not had any restoration work since it was erected, officials believe.

“I believe it’s a treasure here for the people in Southampton,” said Sears, 41. She is an artist who lives in Southampton, and who has worked on similar monument restoration efforts in Westfield and Holyoke.

“In all the towns I’ve worked (on such projects), these monuments are standing history lesson,” Sears said. “They’ve put these monuments up to honor their soldiers, many of whom gave their lives.”

Southampton’s Civil War monument, topped by an eagle, includes the names of the residents who died in the war-and where they died, whenever such information was known.

As part of the rededication ceremony to be conducted after the restoration is completed next year, Sears and town officials are organizing a reading by one or more descendants of Civil War soldiers who wrote home to their families. The letters are help by the Southampton Historical Society.

Judith Miller Conlin, chairwomen of the town’s Cemetery Commission, has read some the letters. “It really brings forth what it was like to be in the war, absolutely (incredible) carnage,” she said. “I was moved to tears.”

Sears is working with the commission on the restoration effort, for which she is hoping to raise at least $10,000. Within several weeks, she expects to start contacting local businesses and civic organizations for donations. “The town is pretty strapped financially,” said Selectman Chairman Jean Pierre Crevier. “They just kind of started this campaign to get it done, which is kind of nice they did.”

The plan is to have Monument Conservation Collaborative, a foundry in Colebrook, Conn., undertake the restoration.

Regarding the monument’s sandstone, Conlin said, “it’s easy to carve, but it eroded more easily.” Related activities planned to coincide with the restoration effort include art and essay contest among pupils at the William E. Norris Elementary School. The art contest will feature children’s renditions of the monument and the essay will focus “on how do we show appreciation and respect to our veterans?”

Restoring the monument will show some of that respect, officials said. It’s very exciting,” conlin said. “It’s really a focal point of the community. Whenever the Memorial Day parade comes, or the town gathers there, it’s the first thing they see.”

Wreaths are places at the monument each Memorial Day. It’s a good-looking monument,” said Historical Society member Maxine Hendrick. “It’s not elaborate or anything; it’s substantial.”