Civil War Blog

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History of the Dauphin County Civil War Monument – Part 5

Posted By on March 24, 2012

Part 5.  The Dauphin County Memorial to the Civil War is currently located in a park at 3rd Street and Division Streets near William Penn High School and near Italian Lake.  It is now in the Uptown section of Harrisburg, north of what was once the entrance area to Camp Curtin.  The monument stands about 110 feet high and is a single obelisk which resembles a smaller version of the monument to George Washington in Washington, D.C.  The stone of the monument is native to the area and was cut from the banks of the Susquehanna River.

The monument was originally located at the intersection of North 2nd Street and State Streets but in 1960, after years of deterioration, it was cleaned and restored and moved to the park where it presently resides.

While the monument inscription indicates that it was originally erected in 1869, the fact is that it was not completed until 1876 and before its completion, the “pile of stone” was an eyesore and embarrassment in downtown Harrisburg.  The long, difficult struggle to get funding for the monument and complete it in a reasonable amount of time after the war has been discussed in a series of five posts that began on 13 March 2012 and concluded today. The story is told as reported in the Harrisburg Patriot, 25 December 1903.


How the Great Shaft Was Raised as a Memorial to Dauphin County’s Soldiers and Sailors in the Civil War

Contents of the Corner Stone

Within the stone which was thus laid with such impressive rites were deposited the Act of incorporation of 1867, and a book containing the names of the Executive and other committees of the Soldiers’ Fair, also the autographs of the visitors to the Fair.

A copy of the Alhlmon Rexon, and lists of the officers of the R. W. Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania under whose auspices the corner stone was laid.

Lists of the officers and members of the Board of commissioners.

Lists of the Soldiers of dauphin County who died during the Civil War.

Smull’s Legislative Hand Book for 1869.

A copy of the original muster roll of the Lochiel Grays, one of the first companies raised in Dauphin County.

List of the Municipal Officers of Harrisburg, a map of the city and an impression of the great Seal of Pennsylvania.

A gold dollar and United States silver coins of the denominations of 1/2, 1, 2, 3 and 5 cents respectively.

Specimens of the fractional currency then in use of the denominations of 3, 5, 10, 25 and 30 cents in a sealed jar.

“Sealed jar of the principal hexerage of the ancient inhabitants of Dauphin County.”

Sealed jars of specimens of Dauphin County, wheat, rye, oats and corn.

Specimens of revenue and postage stamps then in use.

Copies of the following newspapers of 9 April 1869:

Morning PATRIOT, daily and weekly.

Pennsylvania Telegraph, daily and weekly.

State Guard, daily and weekly.

Pennsylvania State Zeitung.

Vaterlands Waechter.

Middletown Journal.

Upper Dauphin Register.

The Philadelphia Daily Age and daily Press.

The New York Tribune, Herald, World and Times.

For a short time the work on the monument was brisk, the shaft went up with some trying delays until the inscription was placed, and a few feet above it, some sixty-two feet five inches in all.  Then came calamity.  Henry Brown failed, the money had all been paid over; and the monument with no funds to it was still nearly fifty feet from completion.

Great was the consternation in the county; through no fault of the Commissioners, the great object of the people’s thought and work for so many years, the Soldiers’ Monument, was brought to a standstilll.  There was no money in the treasury and doubtless little heart left in the people to collect more.  For years a shapeless mass of unfinished stone, the butt of strangers’ derision, the subject of sarcastic editorials whenever an editor was short of ideas, and the despair of the men and women who had labored so faithfully for its erection, was all Dauphin County could offer to its dead soldiers.

On 4 May 1869, by an Act of Assembly, the County Commissioners were authorized to subscribe to the Monument Association a sum not exceeding $3,000 for the purpose of completing the work already begun.  Several successive Grand Juries in the next seven years reported favorably on the same, but nothing came of it.

When the Centennial year dawned, the fated stone pile with an inscription on it seemed as far from completion as ever.  Then civil pride came to the rescue.  There would be thousands of strangers in that summer of 1876 to visit the Capital of the State and it behooved the citizens of the county to remove the blot on their fair fame of an unfinished monument to their herioic dead.  The papers again began to thunder, and in March they recorded rumors that the work was about to be resumed, as on 24 January 1876, the Grand Jury had made a definite report authorizing the County Commissioners to pay half the amount necessary to complete the monument.

County Took Up the Work

The Commissioners went actively to work, and by 29 July, the contract was awarded to Jehu De Haven for $4,378  The money was still unraised and on 18 August, a new Monument Committee was appointed, consisting of Henry McCormick, William Calder, W. W. Jennings, A. L. Chayne, James Worrell, while Theodore D. Greenawalt was made chairman of a Finance Committee with T. F. Jordan, H. B. Buehler, J. C. Herman and William H. Egle to help him in soliciting subscriptions.  Mr. Greenawalt announced that he would remain in the house each evening from 18 August to 1 September between the hours of 7 to 9 to receive subscriptions, the money not to be paid until the monument was finished.

Their earnest efforts were rewarded and the citizens of Harrisburg and the county generously came to the rescue.  Mr. DeHaven himself was much interested and succeeded in getting many subscriptions.  Early in October work on the monument was again started and in four weeks the last 48 feet 7 inches was raised, though it was by far the most difficult part of the building.

Sataurday, 4 November 1876, just two months short of eleven years after the movement had been initiated, the Soldiers’ Monument of Dauphin County was finished.  On that day a little girl, the daughter of Edward Curzon, now Mrs. Martin Fager, was lifted in her father’s arms to place a flag in the capstone o’er it was raised into place on top of the plain substantial-looking granite obelisk whose corners mark exactly the points of the compass.

The great undertaking was at last accomplished: the heroes of Dauphin County, no longer remain unhonored, their memory is preserved for future generations by what has proved indeed “a storied urn.”  With 28 December 1876, when the County Commissioners paid out to the Harrisburg National Bank for the Monument Commission $2,500 (the dauphin County Soldiers’ Monument having been accepted by the Commissioners and so certified), its story ends.  The flag for which so many gave their lives waved over the monument’s top, but a few months when it was blown down by a storm and a few years later the shaft itself was struck by lightning and a stone on the upper side displaced.

There are many who do not think that old monument at State and Second Street a thing of beauty; and some who feel it a positive obstruction; but those who ponder on the vicissitudes of its history and on the devotion, both of the men to whom it was raised of the men and women who raised it, will surely feel that while Harrisburg remains that shaft to Dauphin County’s heroic sons should stand on the spot where it was erected after more than a decade of earnest and disheartening effort.

This concludes the five-part story of how the Dauphin County Soldiers’ Monument came to be built.  When the Monument was moved to it present location, a whole new story emerged regarding the moving of it and the location in which it would be placed.  Likewise, the most recent story occurred when the monument had to be restored in 1991.  Those stories will be told here at some point in the future.



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