Middleborough

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Middleborough Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Location: In front of City Hall, 29 South Main Street, Middleborough
Coordinates: 41°53’30.3″N 70°54’38.6″W
Date dedicated: May 30, 1896
Architect/contractor/sculptor: Monument designed and cut by William T. Spargo; Surry and Spargo, contractors; (the statue may have been carved by a separate contractor)
Number of names: No names

A movement to build a memorial in Middleborough got underway in 1866 but the project was shelved in favor of construction of a new town house. At that time, there was some discussion of dedicating the meeting hall in the new building as a memorial hall (as many other towns did). A local writer, Nellie Brightman, protested this notion, publishing a lengthy editorial in a local paper. Her words shed light on a debate that took place in many, many towns across the Commonwealth. Pragmatic local leaders often advocated for a memorial that would be “useful,” such as a memorial hall or library, accomplishing two goals with one project. Others, typically veterans, objected to memorial halls wherein the solemnity of memorializing would be overshadowed by town debates and dances. Those in opposition to memorial halls called for freestanding monuments. As Brightman wrote:

Can we raise utility to so great a height that sublimity will not become ridiculous in the effort to descend to its level? Does not the idea of commemorating the great deeds of the brave soar beyond and above all thought of earthly use and convenience, carrying the mind away from business, amusements, and the gathering of hundred, onward to the glorious assemblage of our gallant thousands in celestial halls of light?[1]

Perhaps a bit lofty in her language but demonstrative of a common viewpoint. This debate explains why so many towns dedicated memorial halls with tablets in their vestibules and then, often decades later, erected monuments in another location.

Middleborough’s monument was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1896. Former Governor John D. Long, whose grandfather was from Middleborough, gave the dedication address. It was dedicated in honor of 462 from Middleborough who served. The column of Quincy granite is surmounted by a color-bearer carved of Westerly granite. It was designed and cut by William T. Spargo, one of the most successful of the Quincy granite company managers.[2]

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[1] “Soldiers & Sailors Monument 1896,” Recollecting Nemasket: Writing about the History of Middleborough and Lakeville, Massachusetts
[2] “To the Brave and Her Sons Lost in the Great Struggle,” Boston Globe May 31, 1896, 24.