Blackstone

Blackstone Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (Worcester County). See gallery below for additional images.

Location: Monument Square, 18 Bridge Street, Blackstone
Coordinates: 42°01’01.3″N 71°32’20.1″W
Date dedicated: May 30, 1913
Architect/designer/manufacturer: James V. Murray, design

[Our thanks to the Blackstone Historical Commission for furnishing helpful information for this article]

The Blackstone monument came about through the efforts and generosity of a group of local women, particularly Nettie Matteson who promoted the project for many years. Born Annette Newton in Enfield, Massachusetts in 1853, she was seven years old when the war began. Her father, Charles Newton, enlisted as a private with the 25th Massachusetts Infantry at age 40 in July 1862.[1] He was discharged nine months later due to illness. It was in large part his service that inspired her to push for a soldiers’ monument in Blackstone where she resided for most of her life. Two other women, Misses Ellen and Theresa Keeley (sisters), donated the land in Block Square on which the monument was built.[2] The square was accordingly renamed Monument Square and is so known today.

It was dedicated on Memorial Day 1913 with a procession consisting of 1,800 people. Some 7,000 spectators were in attendance for the ceremonies. The monument was designed by James V. Murray of Woonsocket, Rhode Island.[2] He probably did much of the stone cutting himself although it is difficult to say as he and his father ran a fairly busy granite works company known as Thomas Murray & Son (previously known as the Woonsocket Granite & Marble Works) and other cutters may have been involved. Murray was trained at the Rhode Island School of Design.[3] There is no evidence at present that Murray created any other Massachusetts monuments, although it is more likely that he may have done so for Rhode Island towns. The statue itself, which appears to depict a slightly older soldier, does not appear in duplicate anywhere in Massachusetts.

The monument lists the names of 689 men from Blackstone who served. It is somewhat rare in this regard as larger towns typically opted to list just those who died. Forty-six men from Blackstone did not survive the war. The town’s soldiers served in many different regiments, however the largest group by far (96 men) constituted Company K of the 15th Massachusetts Infantry.[4] The 15th Massachusetts was one of the Bay State’s most war-torn regiments, enduring terrible casualties in many battles including Ball’s Bluff, Antietam and Gettysburg. Company K was organized during a town meeting in the summer of 1861 at which the citizens of Blackstone passed a resolution declaring their convictions. This read, in part, “…In this irrepressible conflict between freedom and slavery, every pulsation of our hearts in for freedom, and in her sacred cause, we are ready to give battle.”[5]

Moses W. Gatchell, who has exerted so much energy in recruiting Company K, was elected its captain and commander during this meeting. Twenty-five years old, he worked in his father’s carriage shop before the war and was the first from the town to enroll when the war began. He was killed just three months after signing up in the regiment’s first major engagement, a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, October 21, 1861.[6]

Click images to enlarge:

[1] Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War, (Boston: Massachusetts Adjutant General’s Office, 1931),
[2] Helen Murray, “Nettie Matteson, ‘Mother’ of the Civil War Monument,” Blackstone Enlightener, May 2014.
[3] Rhode Island Genealogy, “Biography of James V. Murray
[4] Arthur Putnam, “Blackstone”, in History of Worcester County, Massachusetts, (Boston: C. F. Jewett & Co., 1879), v. 1, 292.
[5] Andrew E. Ford, The Story of the Fifteenth Regiment Massachusetts Infantry in the Civil War, 1861-1864, (Clinton, Massachusetts: Press of W. J. Coulter, 1898), 30.
[6] Story of the Fifteenth, 30-31.