By Darcie Abbene
When the Morristown Civil War Monument, sitting at the bottom of Academy Park, was erected in 1911, chairman of the monument committee W.A. Beebe issued a challenge to the group gathered to celebrate the service of Morrisville’s 172 volunteers and members of the Grand Army of the Republic. “Citizens of Morrisville,” Beebe said, “we entrust to your watchcare yonder granite shaft.”
It was a charge taken seriously by the residents of Morrisville. In the late 1970s, Twigg (William) Farquharson and Mike Lambert took down the bronze statue known as the “Color Bearer” who securely holds the flag atop the twenty-five foot six-inch tall granite base to refurbish it and repair the soldier’s sword which had popped open due to water damage. This spring, a full community effort gave the monument another mending, shoring up the base and another sandblasting revealing beautiful shades of bronze in the soldier’s face, hands, and that all important symbol that marks the color bearer’s position, the flag. While there is an original time capsule buried somewhere under the granite base, now there is also one tucked into the statue’s base and a third one, prepared by local residents and Peoples Academy students, will be buried later this year.
The monument’s inception began at the 1910 Town Meeting when the Honorable C.A. Stafford and Colonel G. W. Doty made a “ringing speech in favor” of raising funds to honor the soldiers. A unanimous vote of approval secured $1,500 toward the construction, providing the remainder was raised by donation. A building committee headed by Professor W. A. Beebe wasted no time in procuring the necessary materials. The Jones Brothers from Barre, VT cut the granite, C.E. Cummings of New Hampshire completed the granite work, the bronze tablets came from the Gohram Co. of Rhode Island and the figure was purchased from W. H. Mullins Co. in Ohio, and for a grand total of $4,089, the monument was installed in 1911.
In the spirit of giving “Honor to Whom Honor is Due” Beebe opened the dedication ceremony describing the local men as, “unaccustomed to military discipline, yet trained in the art of self- control; patiently and courageously they endured thehardships and privations of that bloody war.” The dedication was accepted on behalf of the Grand Army of the Republic by A. A. Niles, who emphasized their call to duty and offered a heartfelt appreciation for the commemoration.
The Honorable Frank Plumley followed, pointing out that of Morrisville’s population of 1,751 in 1860, 172 served in the war. Thirteen of those died in battle or from wounds received in battle. In recounting the spirit of the Vermont warriors, Plumley told the crowd of Colonel Thomas of the 8th Regiment who, atop his horse in the early morning heard a shout from the darkness, ‘Surrender, you d—-d Yankee!’ the voice said. ‘Not just yet; it’s too early in the morning,’ the Colonel responded, adding as he wheeled his horse, ‘besides, your language is not respectful.’
The sense of duty to answer Beebe’s 1911 call to caretake the memorial is strong today. When the Morristown Water and Light lifted the Color Bearer back to its place atop the granite in mid-June, among the crowd gathered were Deana French,author of Spunky Lamoille Boys in Blue and Brad Limoge, who portrays Morrisville Civil War soldier George Drown with the Vermont Civil War Hemlocks, a group of living historians that represent Vermont Civil War Company A of the Third Vermont Infantry. As the statue was affixed, French leaned over to Limoge and said, “You know, we oughta name him.” Agreeing wholeheartedly, Limoge has begun researching the name of the color bearer of the Third Vermont Infantry. Company E of the Third Vermont Regiment was commanded by A. J. Blanchard and comprised of many Morrisville soldiers. When war was declared Blanchard, a Peoples Academy principal, said to his students, “I’m going to war, boys. Who wants to go?” Several of the senior class volunteered and some of the boys who graduated a year or two before joined them.
When Dr. George Bates accepted the dedication of the monument in 1911 on behalf of Morristown, he captured the significance of the moment by saying, “In the ranks of the school children who may pass and repass this monument in the days to come,some future soldier will pause and receive the inspiration that will gain for him his laurels on the field of future warfare; some statesman the inspiration which may lead to fame and favor in public service; some scholar the inspiration that may enter the books he will write, the influence of which may extend down through the ages to come, supporting the principles of a higher type of manhood, a broader plane of existence.” He and Beebe would be happy to know that the Color Bearer, a silent reminder of loyalty, service, and community, has been left in good hands.
*Story originally printed in the News and Citizen, June 29, 2017.