Reflections

The last chapter of this booklet will take a look at the history of that vanishing piece of land in the center of York Village and the two war monuments that have sat on it at different times during the last 120 years. - From The Soldiers' Monument by Michael Dow, 2018

Yorks First Civil War Monument

Post Card from Private Collection

York’s First Civil War Monument is also the first war monument of any kind to come to York Village! This early post card dates from between 1897 and 1906. 

York has two monuments that pay respect to the men who fought and died in the Civil War. Both monuments sat on the same spot on the grass triangle in the center of York Village at different times. The 6.4” Parrott Rifle naval cannon pictured above was made in 1863 at the West Point Foundry in West Point, New York. The cannon (Registry #206) was donated to the “village selectmen” in 1897 making it the first war monument of any kind to be displayed in York Village. Made in the same year the Battle of Gettysburg was fought, it is York’s first Civil War monument. 

The Honorable E. O. Emerson owned this property and he kindly allowed the cannon to be displayed there. He later agreed to allow the Soldiers’ Monument to be placed on roughly the same spot. The cannon and granite mount were moved to the Long Sands Road side (left side) of the property sometime in early 1906. York’s second Civil War monument, known as The Soldiers’ Monument, was set on this spot and dedicated on May 26, 1906. 

In August, 1906, Mr. Emerson sold the land to the town for one dollar. York house mover Frank Ellis moved the cannon to Goal (Jail) Hill sometime after the Soldiers’ Monument dedication for which he was paid $25 on October 29, 1906. 

Peeking out from behind that tree with multiple branches we can see a granite watering trough. That tree can also be seen in other early postcards of the Soldiers’ Monument and can be used as a reference point. Long Sands Road (formerly Old Post Road) is on the left, York Street (Route 1A) is behind the photographer and two children standing hand in hand can be seen on the short connecting road to the right.

. - From The Soldiers' Monument by Michael Dow, 2018

Monument for booklet

Memorial Day

 Will Be A Great Event For Old York

Maine’s Famous War Governor To Be Orator.

"Portsmouth Herald Article, February 9, 1906"

“Memorial Day in York this year promises to be an event of unusual importance and interest. It is a pleasure to chronical the face of the engagement which is now assured of General Joshua L. Chamberlain, Maine’s great war-governor, as the orator on that occasion. Previous arrangements had assigned General Chamberlain as orator to appear at Gorham on this date, but the G.A.R. Post of that town courteously conceded their engagement in favor of York owing to the special occasion and significance of that date in York, which will mark the unveiling of the soldiers’ monument and dedication.

The committee of the Veterans’ and Sons of Veterans Association is working enthusiastically to prepare a program on that day which will be of particular significance and a most fitting testimonial to the consideration which that day involves. The splendid enterprise which has secured the most notable of all Maine’s warriors doe speaker is worthy of congratulation. General Chamberlain’s war record is one to inspire the deepest admiration and respect. No Maine man has ever held higher place in the hearts of the people for the magnificent courage and deeds of bravery in the service of his country during the Civil War. Several times General Chamberlain has appeared before York audience but only twice in late years. Once was at the rededication of the Congregational Church in 1882. Again his appearance as notable at the exercises in celebration of York’s 250th anniversary when the others who occupied the platform with him and made addresses were: Thomas B. Reed, Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, Thomas Nelson Page, Hon. James P. Baxter, Francis Lynde Stetson, Pres. Tucker, Hon, J.C. Stewart, Walter M. Smith. General Chamberlain’s address on this occasion was noteworthy and one of the best of the day.

Subscriptions to the monument fund now amount to about $1,175. The sum necessary for the purchase of the monument is $2,000 and the committee is anxious to secure additions to its funds and invites contributions from everybody, no matter how small. The Soldiers’ Monument is an enterprise that belongs peculiarly to the people and to whatever extent their means may allow let everyone respond.

Although it is very early other arrangements for the observation of that day are in progress. The Salmon Falls band has been acquired and other details soon as they are prepared will be as announced.”

                                                                                                                                                 

The Portsmouth Herald February 9, 1906. Collected by Donald Hands

Memorial Day, 1906

“At one o’clock p.m. the members of the post, Sons of Veterans and Lady’s Auxiliary to Sons of Veterans took a special car for York and attended the dedicatory exercises by the York Association of Veterans’ and Sons of Veterans, of a soldiers’ and sailors’ monument. These consisted of the address of the day by Gen. Joshua L. Chamberlain, an address by Comrade D.A. Stevens and a prayer by Rev. I.A. Bean.”

                                                                                                                                                                            Excerpt from Portsmouth Herald article May 30, 1906

According to the Handbook History of the Town of York by Edward C. Mooney, Reverend I. A. Bean was the pastor of the old Methodist Church from 1905-1907. Now re-purposed, that building still sits just across the street from the monument.

    D.A. Stevens 1845-1909 Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain 1828-1914

                Circa 1900 1905

 Cropped, close up view of two men watching the unveiling of the Soldiers’ Monument.

                                                                      May 30, 1906


On the right side of the dedication image, between the tree and the flag pole and sticking up just above the heads in the audience we have the only two faces seen by the camera at that Memorial Day unveiling ceremony on May 30, 1906.

From the above, May 30, 1906 news article we know there were three people who addressed the audience at that ceremony. Gen. Joshua L. Chamberlain, (1828-1914), D.A. Stevens (1845-1909) and the Rev, I.A. Bean (1854-1924). Insley Alvarro Bean would have been 52 years old in 1906 and according to Edward C. Moody’s Handbook History of the Town of York, Bean was the minister of the Methodist Church in 1905, 6 &7. At that time, the church was just across the street from the unveiling.

According to his obituary, D.A. Stevens served in the “War of the Rebellion” so the kepi hat and medal are appropriate and this man’s face seems to fits Steven’s obituary picture. Stevens would have been 61 years old in 1906.

This portrait of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was taken in 1905 at age 77, no more than a year before the monument dedication. Chamberlain was never photographed with a beard after the Civil War and the gentleman on the left without a hat seems to have a beard along with sunken eyes, straight nose and a receding hairline. Chamberlain had a full head of brilliant, white hair well into his later years along with his famous long and full, signature moustache.

“The handsome new Soldiers monument for York Village arrived on Saturday and will be set up on the village lawn. It is of Quincey granite and was made in Quincy, Mass., at a cost of $2,000. The unveiling will take place on Memorial Day with pertinent exercises. General Chamberlain, Maine’s famous war governor, will be the principal speaker.”

                                                                                                                                                                            The Biddeford Weekly Journal, Friday, May 25, 1906

“Gen, Joshua L. Chamberlain, who is to deliver the oration at the dedication of the Soldiers’ monument at York on Memorial afternoon performed a like service at Freeport, Me., on Saturday.“

                                                                                                                                                                                                             Portsmouth Herald May 29, 1906


York's Two Civil War Monuments picture

Post Card from Private Collection

This is one of the few known post cards that show both of York’s Civil War monuments on this piece of ground at the same time. It is the only postcard the author has seen that shows how the grass triangle must have looked on May 26, 1906, the day the monument was dedicated. The post card is from a private collection and the location is misidentified, much useful information can be gleaned from this picture.

The postmark is stamped 1908 but the original photograph was taken shortly after the Soldiers’ Monument was dedicated and we know this for a few reasons. The monument sits on a foundation which once held the 9,672 pound, Parrott Rifle navel cannon and that foundation needed to be modified to accommodate the extra weight of the Soldier’s Monument. The grass around the monument’s base was disturbed to do this job so we can see lighter tone new soil there and not darker grass, like the rest of the island. There are stakes around this new patch of ground and a string tied to the stake tops to protect what was most likely newly planted grass seed.

The left edge of the triangle borders Long Sands Road and you can see the muzzle of York’s Civil War cannon with its bore filled with concrete. The cannon was given to York in 1897 and sat on the same spot the monument occupies in this picture. Both cannon and granite base were moved to the side of the triangular grass island to make way for the Soldiers’ Monument. House mover Frank Ellis moved and reassembled both cannon and base on Gaol (Jail) Hill and was paid $25 on October 29 for that work.

In back, on the road and appearing to sit on top of the granite cannon mount is the round, granite watering trough. York Street runs left to right in the foreground.

Soldiers Monument With Two Horse Drawn Vehicles

Post Card from Private Collection

This postcard is from a private collection and has a 1907 postmark. However, it was probably taken in the summer of 1906, the year the monument was dedicated. We can be reasonably confident of the year this photograph was taken because the cannon and its granite mount still lie on the Long Sands Road (left) side of the triangular, grass island. Records indicate the cannon was moved to Goal (Jail) Hill by York house mover Frank Ellis and he was paid for that work on October 29, 1906. The stakes and string we saw around the monument in the previous picture are gone. We do see that the texture around the monument’s base indicates that at least some new grass is growing there. 

There is another difference between what we see in this and the “York’s Two Civil War Monuments” picture. The leaves in the trees in the right background seem more plentiful and lush than the earlier picture. The shadows from those leaves are darker as well. The monument is in full sun but not for long as the tree shadows on the left are just starting to creep up the lower base.  

One horse is drinking at the trough while another horse-drawn vehicle is seen going away from the monument down Long Sands Road. The photographer appears to be standing on York Street, indicating a less busy time in York’s history.  

. - From The Soldiers' Monument by Michael Dow, 2018

Boys with bubbling trough

Post Card from Private Collection


This card is from a private collection and has no postmark. We can see the grass around the monument’s base looks healthy and lush like the rest of the grass on the triangular island. In fact there appears to be some untrimmed grass sticking up at the bottom of the base. We cannot tell if the cannon is gone because of the camera’s position when the photograph was taken. That multi branch tree to the left has an interesting feature not seen in other early Soldiers’ Monument pictures. There appears to be something wrapped around the trunk of that tree. Perhaps it is a tin belt to keep caterpillars from ascending to eat the leaves. Caterpillar infestations are spoken about in some historic writings. 

Because of the look of the grass around the monument’s base and the metal belt around the tree, the date of this photograph would be after 1906, the year the monument was dedicated. 

A man with his horse and buggy are on the road behind the monument and maybe the two boys in the foreground are his. It is hard to tell from looking at this picture printed on paper but on a computer screen there may be another person in that horse-drawn vehicle partially obscured by the monument. 

The trough has water bubbling up in it, a feature not seen in other post card pictures. A man is walking away from the monument on Long Sands Road as another horse-drawn vehicle is seen coming towards the photographer on that road in the distance. 

.- From The Soldiers' Monument by Michael Dow, 2018

Village Green and Soldiers Monument

Post Card from Private Collection

When comparing this post card with previous ones that show both the monument and cannon, we can see the tree in the left foreground has had its lower branches pruned up. We also notice that the multi branch tree to the left of the monument seems to be lacking for leaves. The cannon has been moved to Goal (Jail) Hill, the stakes around the monument are gone and the grass they once protected appears no different than the rest. The round, granite watering troth is obviously still serviceable and being utilized by a single horse pulling a carriage. 

This post card is from a private collection and there is neither date nor postmark. Coming up with a date this picture was taken presents a challenge. We do know from the 1918 Annual Town Report that the monument at that time was raised 18”. Relative to the stone wall we see behind the monument in both post cards, the monument appears to be no higher than when it was dedicated in 1906. So the date this photograph was taken would probably fall somewhere between 1906 and 1918. 

Since the mid 1920’s, the roads have been widened to accommodate more and larger vehicles and the grass island has been made smaller as a result. Around 1980, York Selectmen had the now smaller grass island completely covered with shrubs to keep young people from sitting on the grass. The shrubs around the monument are now gone but some others remain. The rest of the island is now cared for by the York Garden Club who plant and maintain beds of beautiful flowers. 

. - From The Soldiers' Monument by Michael Dow, 2018