Despite the frigid temperatures and brutal winds, I had a lovely day today! I stayed in my jammies looking out at the artic weather until well after lunch time. Then, I went to the store and out to visit with Mom for a little while. This evening, I went to my regular Thursday Bible Study meeting…..when the meeting ended, so did my fairly routine day! Some friends from church and I went to the local community college campus to listen to our county historian, Bill Lattin, talk about the Civil War and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument – a memorial to the 463 Orleans County men who died during the Civil War – that is located in our lovely Mt. Albion Cemetery. After his presentation, my friends and I went to Tim Hortons for a hot treat – soup and chili – and great conversation!
So — what I really want to write about is Bill Lattin’s presentation. It was so interesting and enjoyable – I always love to hear him speak about our local history or other topics of interest. Mr. Lattin was also my art teacher in high school, so it is a pleasure to see him. He started out talking a little about the history of Mt. Albion Cemetery to set the stage for why it was chosen as the site for the monument. He also talked about the grief that the war caused, given that there were so many lives lost and families left alone to mourn and move on without their husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons. He had several photos and artifacts he had collected from that period. One item that struck me most was a long glass tube that the widows would capture their tears in – some would fill it with tears and take it to pour their tears onto the graves of their loved ones – others would fill it with tears and leave it on a table until all the tears dried up, signifying the end of the mourning period. I find it fascinating to hear about customs from long ago.
The history, stories, and visual aids he offered us kept the small room of close to 40 people glued to their seats and totally engrossed in what he had to say. But…..what made it so very personal and sentimental for me was his inclusion of information surrounding the efforts to restore the monument in the 1973-1976 time frame. I was in high school at that time – graduating in 1974. Although I was not directly involved in the work started by some students at the school, I did participate in some of the fund raising activities and was very aware of and supported the “SAVE THE TOWER” campaign that resulted in major renovation and restoration work on the tower. I remember that time fondly and he spoke of several people who I knew well. His recounting of the efforts that he, too, was very closely involved in, stirred up a heavy sense of pride and strong memories for me……I got a little teary eyed! At the time, it was obvious that the students and community leaders who lead the campaign were doing something special – we all knew it, but it wasn’t until tonight – when Bill Lattin put it all together and presented it so eloquently – that I realized just how incredibly special and historic it was! Before this campaign, the tower was falling into disrepair and was locked so that no one could go up and enjoy the view from the top due to safety concerns. The Village wasn’t in a position and didn’t have the drive to put forth the effort to repair it. Thanks to this group of caring people – in particular, the students who did not accept the suggestion that the Village “just tear it down” and came up with a way to save a historic monument – the tower was repaired and reopened so that it could be enjoyed once again…….and now, 40 years later, it is still going strong as a memorial to those who lost their lives fighting for the Union and as a great site to visit and climb to take in the amazing views – you can actually see clean to Canada on a clear day from up there!!!
This is a photo I took a few years ago of our beautiful Soldiers and Sailors Monument Tower – constructed of locally quarried Medina Sandstone, the tower was originally dedicated and opened on July 4, 1876 – the 100th anniversary of our great country. It stands 68 feet tall and sits on top of the highest point in the county in the oldest section of Mount Albion Cemetery. It has the names of 463 Orleans County Civil War casualties engraved in marble slabs on the interior walls. Visitors can climb the 84 steps of the winding wrought iron staircase to reach the top of the tower and have an incredible unobstructed view for miles and miles in all directions!!! It really is incredible and a historic treasure for our county. The rededication and reopening after the restoration work took place on July 4, 1976 – the 200th anniversary of our great country!!!