Monson Soldiers and Sailors Monument (Hampden County). See gallery below for additional images.

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
Location: Town Common, 3 High Street, Monson
Coordinates: 42°06’09.7″N 72°19’08.1″W
Date dedicated: July 4, 1884
Architect/designer/manufacturer: Rodney F. Carter, design and construction

Monson’s monument is quite imposing for a small town. The benefactor, Cyrus W. Holmes, saw to that by entirely funding the $5,500 cost. It is 46 feet tall overall and surmounted by a granite statue of a soldier at parade rest. The sides bear the names of four battles in which Monson’s soldiers were involved in significant proportion—Gettysburg, Knoxville, New Berne, and Roanoke. The primary inscription reads, “Erected by Cyrus W. Holmes to commemorate the valor and patriotism of the soldier who on land and sea upheld the national cause 1861-1865.” Cyrus Holmes was a wealthy owner of multiple cotton and woolen mills who resided in a large Victorian mansion within view of the monument.

The day of the dedication ceremonies, July 4, 1884, was, according to the adjutant of the local Grand Army of the Republic Post, “the greatest day in the history of the town, as far as crowds of people were concerned.”[1] Twenty five different Grand Army of the Republic Posts participated, mustering close to 1,500 veterans for the procession.[2] Over 10,000 spectators attended, according to one reporter’s estimate.[3] Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the general of Gettysburg fame and ex-Governor of Maine, gave the oration of the day.

The overall design of the monument came from Rodney F. Carter of Ryegate, Vermont.[4] A few years earlier, Carter had been a traveling salesman but, upon visiting Ryegate, was so impressed with the quality of the granite there, he purchased a quarry and went into business. Although the company struggled, Ryegate Granite Works nonetheless supplied the stone for many Civil War monuments, including some on the Gettysburg battlefield.[5]

About 155 soldiers from Monson served in the war. A large number of these, 84 in all, enlisted as a result of a great “war meeting,” or recruitment event, on July 17, 1862 held in the Congregational Church.[6] A significant number of Monson’s men made up a portion of Company E of the 36th Massachusetts Infantry, captained by Stephen Warriner of that town. 29 Monson men died in the war (16 in battle or from wounds and 13 from disease), including Marcus Keep, for whom the local Grand Army post is named. He was severely wounded in the knee during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House on May 12, 1864. He suffered an amputation and battled infection for weeks in Fairfax Seminary Hospital in Virginia where he died on June 9, 1864.

Memorial Town Hall
Location: 198 Main Street, Monson
Coordinates: 42°05’49.9″N 72°18’46.6″W
Date dedicated: May 30, 1885
Architect/designer/manufacturer: George Potter, architect

As the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument was completed, the construction of another town memorial was underway thanks to a different set of donors. The Memorial Town Hall was the gift of Joseph L. Reynolds and his sons, Rice and Theodore Reynolds. Reynolds, another successful industrialist and cotton mill owner, had been active during the war in raising money for bounties for the troops and in recruiting. Together, he and his sons donated $17,000 to the Soldiers Memorial Association and gave the land that the building stands on. A large public meeting hall occupied most of the ground floor. On the second floor were rooms for the use of the Selectmen other town officers as well as the local Grand Army of the Republic Marcus Keep Post No. 155.[7] Originally, the building memorialized those who served and died in the Civil War—as indicated by the large and unique statue of a Civil War color-bearer atop one of the building’s towers. Plaques have since been added commemorating Monson soldiers in other wars as well. It was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1885.

[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), 81.

[2] Boston Journal, June 13, 1884, 2.

[3] Greenfield Recorder, July 7, 1884, 2.

[4] Boston Globe, July 5, 1884, 2.

[5] Edward Miller, History of Ryegate, Vermont, from its settlement by the Scotch-American company of farmers to present time (St. Johnsbury, VT: The Caledonian Co., 1913),

[6] Monson Historical Society, History of Monson, Massachusetts (Monson, MA: Monson Historical Society, 1960), 152.

[7] History of Monson, 55.

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