Agawam

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Agawam War Memorial (Hampden County). Also see images below.

AgawamLocation: Veterans Memorial Green, 689 Main Street, Agawam
Coordinates: 42°04’11.7″N 72°36’52.6″W
Date dedicated: May 27, 1989
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: Thurston Munson of Greenfield, architect
Number of names: 17 men who died in the war (on Civil War plaque)

The bell which is the central element of Agawam’s war memorial dates to about 1900. It was once mounted atop the town’s old Danahy Elementary School. For some 70 years it was rung to signal fire emergencies, curfews, and other important events until the third floor (and eventually the entire school) was condemned. Around 1980, Town Councillor Walter Kerr suggested the bell be removed and placed in a town park as a veteran’s memorial. And so the effort got underway.[1]

Architect Thurston Munson’s design was approved by the town’s Veteran’s Memorial Committee in 1987. The structure replicates the old cupola from the Dahany School in which the bell originally hung.[2] Initially, the monument was to include plaques only for 20th century wars and would list those from Agawam who were “killed, listed as missing in action, or who died from a service-connected disability during active wartime service.”[3] A plaque specifically for Civil War dead was eventually added to the design. The primary inscription on the dedicatory plaque reads, “In honor of all Agawam Veterans who served their country in time of need and especially those veterans whose names are listed hereon who sacrificed their tomorrows for our today.”

It rained heavily on the day of the dedication, May 27, 1989, but ceremonies nonetheless proceeded as planned. During her remarks, Ruth A. Bitzas, town veterans’ agent, member of the Memorial Bell Committee, and a key figure behind the creation of the memorial declared, “From this day forward, this monument shall be hallowed ground for the people of Agawam.”[4]

Agawam volunteers served in many different units during the Civil War but the two largest groups were 27 who served with the 46th Massachusetts Infantry and 15 who served with the 27th Massachusetts Infantry. Both these regiments were formed in Springfield and made up of men from Hampden County. The 46th Massachusetts served a nine month term from September 1862 to July 1863, were based mostly in New Bern, North Carolina and were involved in relatively minor skirmishes. The 27th Massachusetts served a three year term beginning in September 1861 with many volunteering for a second term of service which ended in the summer of 1865 after the close of the war. The 27th Massachusetts saw heavy combat in North Carolina and Virginia. In 1864 they were assigned to the Army of the Potomac and took part in the brutal engagements of Grant’s Overland Campaign.

Click on images to enlarge:

With special thanks to David Cecchi of the Agawam Historical Commission and Agawam Historical Association for supplying the following sources:
[1] Helayne Lightstone, “Agawam’s Old School Bell Could Be New Voice,”Springfield Metro, December 21, 1981.
[2] Cindy Patton, “Veteran Memorial Design OK’d,” Springfield Metro, May 17, 1987.
[3] Gary Frank, “Building of monument begins, Veterans Day listed as target for dedication,” Union News, September 12, 1988.
[4] Nick Katz, “‘Taps’ amid heavy rainfall marks memorial unveiling,” Union News, May 28, 1989.