[Nameplate] Overcast ~ 45°F  
High: 63°F ~ Low: 43°F
Wednesday, May 4, 2016

HPS fundraiser monumental effort for Forest Hill relic

Monday, August 20, 2012

An estimated 350 people Saturday toured the newly renovated 1887 Dr. Clinton Zaring home at the corner or Poplar and Vine streets in Greencastle in a fundraiser for the Heritage Preservation Society. Visitors included Warren and Flo Harlan who admired the woodwork and unique fireplace on the main floor, while owner Kim Shinn (white top, below), who joined her husband in renovating the historic home, greeted visitors in the old dining room where a mammoth buffet was an original fixture of the home. Funds raised by the home tour will go toward helping assess, stabilize and ultimately repair the rare Civil War soldier's monument at Forest Hill Cemetery.
Saturday emerged as a history lesson, a step back in time and a glimpse at the future all rolled into one.

From the Civil War monument at Forest Hill Cemetery to the tour of the immaculately restored Dr. Clinton Zaring House, local residents saw both the need for historic preservation and its incredible results.

"What a wonderful event and fabulous day!" exclaimed Ken Eitel, HPS president.

An estimated 350 visitors came to see the recent restoration of the house and doctor's office, undertaken by owners Kim and Tim Shinn. Additionally, more than 50 of those took the time to see the monument and learn more about it from Civil War Roundtable volunteers at the cemetery.

"The dollars, statistics and reports are not finalized," Eitel added, "but in my view these events were a great success because people were excited and awed by preservation. But preliminary accounting shows success in raising funds for the monument, too.

"I, personally, need to recognize Bonnie (Yahraus) and Phil (Gick of the HPS) and Kim and Tim Shinn for their vision and persistence in recognizing the potential of these events. To the board members and community members who volunteered and spent the day, or gave a few hours planning, running errands, donating or contributing ideas to the discussion, thank you."

Out at the cemetery, a similar mutual admiration association was also apparent.

"I'm glad to do this, it's part of my hobby," Anderson told a group of about a dozen interested guests at the first of four cemetery talks.

The group learned the monument actually has a name -- "Western Soldier on Guard" -- and a virtual twin on display in Pomeroy (Meigs County), Ohio, Anderson advised.

And it was through discovery of that like monument in Ohio (both done by Thomas David Jones) that local historians realized that not only the rifle of the infantry soldier is missing, but so is the bayonet from the belt at his left rear and the primer pouch from his belt in front.

Anderson also pointed to the broken knob of the cannon on which the soldier's right foot rests. Closer inspection shows the foot has been wired to that part of the cannon, while comparison to the Pomeroy piece indicates the cannon had originally faced in the opposite direction.

"The soldier is supposed to be resting, sitting down on the remnants of a captured Rebel fort and broken cannon," Anderson told the group as it circled the monument for a closer look.

He also shared the story of pranksters stealing the rifle from the monument, noting that after authorities recovered it, they decided not to reinstall the rifle for fear of repeated thefts.

So it was stored at the office of the cemetery sexton for safekeeping. However, that didn't keep it was from becoming a victim of fate anyway and going up in flames along with the building.

For a number of years, it was assumed the statue depicts a Union cavalryman, however upon closer examination it is apparent the soldier is an infantryman, Anderson assures.

"The more we looked, the more we realized it was not a cavalry officer," the Civil War Roundtable representative said, explaining that the boots were those of an infantryman, while the cartridge case on the back of his belt screamed infantry as well.

"But the real giveaway was his rifle," Anderson said, "It was a Springfield Model 1861, which only the infantry carried. The cavalry used carbines or Henry rifles," he added.

Another interesting observation by Anderson was that in the top ring of the monument's base, battle scenes were once etched into the limestone between the stars. The stars can still be seen, the battle scenes have crumbled under time and exposure to the elements.

He also reported that the base of the monument was Putnam County limestone quarried locally, while the center portion is made of Cincinnati limestone and the statute itself of Cincinnati white marble.

Anderson also noted that the Ohio "twin" of Greencastle's historic monument has fared better over the years, keeping its rifle, bayonet and primer pouch intact.

Part of that could be because the Ohio monument is located adjacent to the county courthouse there, "kind of like our Buzz Bomb," Anderson said, "so they can watch it all the time."

Civil War Roundtable member Ken Anderson (facing camera) relates details of the Western Soldier on Guard Civil War monument to visitors Saturday afternoon at Forest Hill Cemetery in Greencastle.
Visitor John M. Gough, who rolled up to the site with sister Melissa in a 1957 Chevy, asked if any thought had ever been given to moving the rare monument to another, more visible location where more people might be able to experience it.

"The argument to that (besides being too costly)," Anderson replied, "is that this (Forest Hill Cemetery) is where most of these boys (the 321 who died in the Civil War and are listed on the monument) are buried."

The speaker also pointed to the five names listed near the base of the monument. They were added later after their names were discovered missing. The final one is James H. McGill, the first Putnam County soldier killed in the Civil War.

"He was killed right off the bat at the Battle of Ridge Mountain, West Virginia," Anderson said. "He's our first and last. First one killed, last one added."

HPS officials estimate the fundraising efforts this past weekend have netted around $5,000 toward the effort to assess and stabilize the monument.

With the announcement of matching funds available up to $5,000, the goal of doing an assessment of the monument's condition and funding the needed work to stabilize the monument prior to winter, is within sight.

Additional donations can be sent to the Heritage Preservation Society, P.O. Box 163, Greencastle IN 46135.

Any gifts received beyond the immediate needs for the first two phases of assessment and stabilization will be earmarked for the third phase of restoration of the monument. Early estimates indicate that $25,000 to $50,000 could be needed for complete restoration.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: