Weston Soldiers’ Memorial Tablet (Middlesex County). See below for a closer view of names.

Location: In Town Hall, 11 Town House Road, Weston
Coordinates: 42°22’09.1″N 71°17’55.9″W
Date dedicated: February 1867
Architect/design: Thomas W. Silloway, Memorial Hall architect; manufacturer of tablet unknown

Weston’s ornate memorial tablet is located in a 20th century building, however it dates to 1867. It has traveled quite a bit during it’s lifetime.

Just months after the end of the war, a committee of five was appointed to develop a plan for a fitting memorial to the town’s war dead. In making their proposal at the town meeting in March 1866, the committee referenced various budgetary constraints that influenced their decision. First, the town had no space for a library and needed one; second, large free-standing monuments were expensive; and third, the town had many war-related expenses to pay off. Therefore, the committee felt that the most practical proposal was to build a modest addition to the old 1847 Town Hall which would house a combined library room/memorial hall. This was accomplished in 1866. The old Town Hall, a wooden building, stood at the corner of Church Street and the Boston Post Road (the site is now part of the Weston Town Green).

Describing their plans, the committee reported:

The object of a monument is not that is not that it may serve as a tombstone on which to record the names and deaths of our valiant soldiers who offered their lives upon the altar of their country. Its design is to honor the fallen by inspiring the souls of the living with their noble deeds and their unselfish love of country.[1]

Their assertion reflects their stance on the dilemma facing all communities as to the proper form of memorialization—particularly right after the war. Should memorials resemble grave markers, sequestered in a quiet corner of a cemetery or should they occupy prominent public spaces where they will be at the center of community activities? Strong arguments were made in various towns in favor of one or the other. The Weston committee evidently was very much against the cemetery monument concept for the reason stated.

The primary inscription reads, “This memorial is erected by the Town of Weston in grateful remembrance of the brave men who gave their lives in the holy cause of freedom.” The wording is noteworthy both for its religious tone and its reference to the destruction of slavery. Not all Massachusetts monuments reference the end of slavery and fewer still explicitly use the word.

The addition was substantially completed in October 1866. The tablet was installed in February 1867.[2] When the town’s first dedicated library building (now the Weston Art and Innovation Center) was completed in 1902, across the street from the old Town Hall, the tablet was moved to the new building. It was, according to the Town Clerk in 1910, “easily the most interesting object in the reading room.”[3] Old town hall, the tablet’s original home, was demolished in 1919 as part of the ambitious Town Green project. Between 1913 and 1920, the center of town was significantly altered with a new town green, a new Town House Road, and a new Town Hall, among other improvements. The tablet was moved to its present location in 2002 when an addition was put on the “new” Town Hall which was built in 1917.

According to local historian Col. Daniel Lamson, 126 Weston men served in the war. Of these, twelve died—eleven of them killed in action or from wounds received in battle and one of disease as a prisoner of war.[4] A large portion, 19 men, served with the 35th Massachusetts Infantry, almost all of them in Company I which was made up of men from Weston, Needham, and Dedham. The 35th Massachusetts fought with the Army of the Potomac in some of the largest battles of the war. They took particularly heavy casualties during their first fight at the Battle of Antietam where they were thrown into the maelstrom as a fresh unit having barely learned to fire their muskets. Private Ralph A. Jones of Weston was among the killed there. He was 18 years old.

The 1847 Town House, the original home of the tablet, is pictured below (image courtesy of the Weston Historical Society). Click tablet image for enlarge view of text.

[1] Daniel Lamson, History of the Town of Weston, Massachusetts, 1630-1870, (Boston: George H. Ellis Press, 1913), 144.

[2] Waltham Free Press, February 15, 1867, 2.

[3] 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), 125.

[4] Lamson, 139-142.

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