Spencer Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (Worcester County)

SpencerSpencer Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
Location: Isaac Prouty Memorial Park, adjacent to 195 Main Street, Spencer
Coordinates: 42°14’45.5″N 71°59’24.6″W
Date dedicated: April 19, 1911
Architect/contractor/sculptor: Andrew O’Connor, Sr. (1846-1924), designer and sculptor; John J. Kitteridge, Worcester, contractor
Number of names: 319 men who served

Spencer’s original memorial, consisting of mural tablets in the Town Hall building, no longer exist. According to the adjutant of Spencer’s Grand Army of the Republic post in 1910, the tablets were removed when the Town Hall was remodeled (he did not specify what year) and they were not replaced, he wrote, “not being thought good enough.”[1] For many years the town debated the construction of a more elaborate monument but funds were not available. This changed in 1908 when the heirs of Erastus Jones, the late manufacturing company owner and railroad investor, announced a donation for the purpose of a monument to be constructed, in part, as a memorial to their father. This monument was to be located in a new park recently given to the town by Isaac Prouty, another of Spencer’s successful manufacturers.[2]

“The Picket Guard”

Andrew O’Connor, Sr. (1846-1924) designed the monument and sculpted the impressive 8-foot statue of a female allegorical figure representing “The Republic.” Wearing a laurel crown, she grasps an olive branch and a shield studded with a star for each state in the Union. The relief on the front of the monument, entitled “The Picket Guard,” depicts two Union soldiers in a defensive posture. Taken altogether, it is a unique and impressive monument. It has become the focal point of a memorial park featuring monuments to those who fought in more recent wars.

O’Connor, Sr. was an Irish immigrant, brought to the United States at an early age by his parents. He became a stone cutter in Worcester, Massachusetts and his business soon grew from fashioning simple headstones to more monumental work. Among his works related to the Civil War are the regimental monuments for the 15th Massachusetts Infantry (a Worcester County unit) at Antietam and Gettysburg. His work, “The Wounded Lion” for the 15th Massachusetts at Antietam is one of the better known monuments on that battlefield.[3]

O’Connor, Sr. taught his trade to his son, Andrew O’Connor, Jr. (1874-1941) who became one of the most famed sculptors of his generation. O’Connor, Jr. apprenticed with Daniel Chester French (sculptor of the “Seated Lincoln” in the Lincoln Memorial), studied under John Singer Sargent in London, and set up his own studio in Paris. His much lauded works can be found across the U.S. and Europe. He was the second American (after his mentor French) to receive a gold medal from the Paris Salon.

In 1908, O’Connor, Sr. decided to join his son in Paris and resided there periodically until his death in 1924. Before he departed, O’Connor, Sr. submitted a design to the recently formed monument committee in Spencer. They accepted his proposal. O’Connor, Sr. sculpted the statue in Paris and it was cast in bronze there in 1910.[3] Unfortunately, due to his son’s great fame, the statue is frequently attributed to Andrew O’Connor, Jr. Indeed, it more often appears under the son’s name in books and websites than the father’s.

Shipped in the fall of 1910, the statue was held up for some time by the U.S. Customs office in Boston over a disagreement in importation laws and whether the Town of Spencer should pay a duty of $500. The Spencer selectmen were reported to be “considerably wrought up” over the detention.[4] Finally, it was determined that the monuments intended for municipal use were not subject to such charges and the monument was released and installed in time for the dedication ceremony on April 19, 1911. This was the 50th anniversary of the Baltimore Riot and the war’s first Union casualties (men of the 6th Massachusetts).

Pine Grove Cemetery Memorial
Location: Pine Grove Cemetery, North Spencer Road, Spencer
Coordinates: 42°15’20.7″N 72°00’26.2″W
Date dedicated: May 30, 1900

Spencer G.A.R. Plot Memorial

A memorial in the form of a mortar and four stacks of shells was placed on a plot belonging to Grand Army of the Republic, F. A. Stearns Post #37 where several veterans are interred. The lot was purchased by the G.A.R. in 1897 and the town paid for the fitting up of the lot, including the installation of the mortar and shells which were secured from the federal government by Congressman Joseph H. Walker of Worcester. The installation was completed in April 1900 and the consecration ceremonies were held on Memorial Day 1900 at the grave of the first veteran buried there, Elias H. Freeman, a private with the 36th Massachusetts.[5]

[1] Alfred S. Roe, Monuments, Tablets and other Memorials Erected in Massachusetts to Commemorate the Service of her Sons in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, (Boston: Wright and Potter Printers, 1910)
[2] Doris Flodin Soderman, The Sculptors O’Connor: Andrew Sr., 1847-1924, Andrew Jr., 1874-1941. (Worcester, MA: Gundi Publishers, 1975), 22.
[3] Soderman, 45.
[4] Boston Herald, Nov 09, 1910, 10.
[5] Henry M. Tower, Historical Sketches Relating to Spencer, Mass., (Spencer: W. J. Hufferman, Printer, 1903), 229-230.

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