Friday, June 22, 2012

George Wickens and the Civil War Soldiers Monument

I first became interested in George Wickens when my research revealed that he was the original driving force behind Lorain's long-gone Civil War soldiers monument and fountain (shown above in a vintage postcard).

In May 1901, Lorain's Public Square was a weedy, unkempt mess – and George Wickens, the former mayor and now a member of City Council, was unhappy about it. As reported in mid-May in the Lorain Times-Herald, Wickens stated that the park was a disgrace to the city, and he felt that it should be fixed up before the Fourth of July. At Wickens' urging, a motion was passed by City Council to take money from the park fund to accomplish this goal.

Work began on the Public Square at once. The grass was mowed, and plans were prepared by Chief Engineer Loofbourrow for paths to be built, curving from each corner of the square and meeting at the bandstand in the center.

The soldiers monument and fountain
as it appeared in the J. L. Mott catalo
But Wickens thought something else was needed for the Public Square: a fountain. He began to try to get Jason B. Hoge, a former resident of Lorain (and later a director of the Lake Shore Electric Railway Company) to donate one. Hoge was about to order a fountain when the Lorain Post of the Grand Army of the Republic made it known that they wished to combine the fountain with something they also felt was needed: a soldiers monument.

Mr. Hoge offered to contribute one quarter of the amount of a fountain and soldiers monument costing not more than $1,000. The balance of the sum would have to be raised by the citizens of Lorain and turned over to the G.A.R. for the actual purchase.

It took a summer-long community effort to raise the money, but the fountain was finally ordered from J. L. Mott & Company.

With much fanfare and an onlooking crowd of 5,000, the combined soldiers monument and fountain was dedicated on the Public Square on Labor Day, September 2, 1901.

Undated photo of the statue
after the fountain had been removed
The fountain was removed in 1933 because it had become a safety hazard due to corrosion, and it was feared that it might topple in a storm.

The Civil War soldiers statue was then placed on a pedestal at ground level surrounded by flowers, where – for the next thirty years – it suffered abuse at the hands of vandals as well as the elements. The soldier had his rifle stolen, the brim of his cap broken off and he even lost his head when he was knocked off his pedestal in 1959.

Repaired and repainted for many years, the soldier was finally removed from the park along with the Honor Roll in 1967 when both were replaced by the new veterans monument.

In 1968 he was sent out to his final home: the 103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry in Sheffield Lake.

At that time, the Lorain Journal acknowledged George Wickens' contribution towards the acquisition of the civil war statue and fountain with a simple statement describing why he felt it was important.

"Because he wanted to do something to beautify the city."

I forgot to mention that since I began this blog, I have posted several times specifically about this statue – with this post being the first, followed by this one, and then this one.

It's taken a while, but I feel that I finally have the statue's timeline documented from its installation in the park to its removal.


Alberta Dougan said...

Too bad they don't have another memorial to our Civil War Hero's. Maybe a walk of bricks with each soldier' name on it near the fountain at the Park.

Florence Ellis said...

Excellent story of a statue I never knew existed, as a latecomer to the city. It is too bad it couldn't stay in its original home.