Article: The Republican September 2005

Honoring the memory of those who served

By Jacqueline M. Sears

Southampton residents will come together in September to honor their ancestors, as well as their modern day champions. At least two of those are Elisha Clark, who in 1748 was killed by Indians while threshing grain in his barn on Cold Spring Road, and Noah Pixley, who was shot by Indians, tomahawked and scalped while returning from taking his cows to pasture. “After this, the whole settlement withdrew in fear to Northampton until July 1748 when seven to 10 families returned, followed by others in the fall of the same year,” according to records at the Edwards Public Library. As far back as 250 years ago, Southampton residents were tenacious and determined to stand together. In the French and Indian War, two Southampton men were among the victors. Ten men joined one of the four great expeditions against the French. They served in the Revolutionary War and Civil War. Southampton men also served in World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam and Gulf Wars. And of course currently, we have brave men and women serving in Iraq. We owe them all a great debt of gratitude.

Here I was on a beautiful spring morning standing in front of the Soldier’s Monument in the Center Cemetery in Southampton, Massachusetts, far, far away from a battlefield. All I could hear were the birds chirping and the motor of a passing car. I started reading the letters that Maxine Hendrick, one of our treasured town historians, resurrected from the Clark Chapman house as I was waiting for Judith Miller Conlin, Chair of the Southampton Cemetery Commission, and John Suchocki, a photographer from the The Republican. We were kicking off a campaign to raise funds for the Soldier’s Monument, which was in need of a serious cleaning before it crumbled to pieces, as sandstone is known to do. As with every preservation effort with which I’ve been involved, a picture tells a thousand words.

In March 1865, the city voted to build a monument to the memory of deceased soldiers in the “recent rebellion,” not exceeding $600. In 1866, the Soldier’s Monument, sculpted by A. Clapp, and was erected in the Center Cemetery. Twenty-two names are inscribed on the monument, with an inscription that reads “Died for Their Country” on a coat of arms. The monument also has a beautiful bird perched on top.

As I stood reading one of the many letters that Civil War soldier, Rubin Searle wrote to his mother, my eyes filled with tears. “Dear Mother, there has been a dreadful fight, and it is not near ended. I have news that is painful to write, but you must know it. John Hyde and George Wolcott are killed.” At that moment, I looked up at the monument and saw their names. I can’t imagine how awful it must have been for these young men. Day after day, seeing each other suffer and die. One day they were on a beautiful farm in Southampton, the next in a bloody battle in a strange and dangerous place.

After composing myself, I continued, “They were all good boys and will be greatly missed,” Searle said. They were indeed boys, some not even 18 years old. In another passage, Searle went on to say, “I tell you mother, a man don’t know how much he can go through till he tries. I thought I could not go in and help but when I saw our poor fellows suffering, I did not hesitate. I got so I could help do the worst such as amputating limbs, arms feet, etc.”

In 2002, when I originally began raising funds for war memorial monuments, I did it because they were beautiful pieces of artwork. As I delved deeper, however, by reading veteran’s letters and watching programs on the History Channel and PBS, my reasons completely changed. I realized that our veterans suffered a great deal and needed our appreciation.

The men in my family who have served in the military during wartime never spoke of the terrible things they had witnessed. What man would tell a little girl about the gory details of battle? I had to learn by myself. Hopefully, by preserving and paying homage to these monuments, I have reminded everyone how important it is to remember and celebrate the people who have done us the honor of serving their country.

This September 10th at 10 Am., the citizens of Southampton will dedicate the newly preserved Soldier’s Monument. We will honor students from the William E. Norris School. English teacher Joseph Moynihan inspired the entire 5th grade to write an essay on “how we can show our respect and appreciation for our veterans.” Art teacher Leslie DeCursio did the same for her 4th graders by having the children render the Soldier’s Monument in watercolor. Barry Searle, a descendent of Rubin Searle, will read his touching letters.

Most importantly, the children will stand with our veterans in a ceremony that will honor a monument that reminds us that our veterans courageously gave of themselves and even died for their country. Let the citizens of Southampton once again proudly stand together.