How much thought have you given to the “Soldiers' Monument” that stands to attention in Harbor Park, as you pass by it whenever you go through Main Street in Camden? It took only eight women to call a meeting on September 30, 1889, for the purpose of raising money so that Camden could have a Memorial to our men who served in the Civil War.
Although it was many years ago, these women will never be forgotten. They were: President, Mrs. M.E. Anderson; Vice-President, Mrs. M. E. Richards; Secretary, Mrs. A. F. Beverage; Treasurer, Miss Fannie Dunton; and Directors, Mrs. Heald and Mrs. Schuman.
They met at each others' houses weekly in the afternoon. As membership increased some were not G.A.R., so they gave themselves a name, “The Camden Soldiers Monument Association.”
Dues were 40 cents per year and membership increased rapidly, so instead of meeting in homes they moved to the Firemen's Hall and later to the Cleveland Hall. Their membership increased to about 23 working members, and then some men became interested and were invited to fill some of the offices.
Due to the Great Fire of Camden in 1892, many of their belongings were lost.
Discouraged, like everyone one else whose business was destroyed in that fire, they carried on. As they held fairs and suppers, their bank account grew and finally reached a total of $800. At that point they decided to go ahead, and have the monument built by Bodwell Granite Company of Vinalhaven.
It was a large industry on the island during that time. The Association decided they could then ask the public to help pay for the monument and its foundation.
It was 10 years later on Memorial Day 1899, that they had Rev. Henry Jones give a short prayer, Miss Edith Long unveiled the “Soldiers' Monument,”while school children sang “America.”
Also marching to the monument that day were: The Drum Corp, the G. A. R., The Boys Relief Corp and The Monument Association. The location was where Main, Mountain, High and Central streets meet, ever after known as “Monument Square.”
In the evening Bucklin's Orchestra played in the Opera House and Reuel Robinson gave a splendid speech.
Then the Rev. V. P. Wardwell spoke on behalf of the soldiers.
It was then presented to the town, and First Selectman Alden Miller responded.. The Soldiers Monument Association received the town's gratitude for the work they had done. The total cost was $1,400, and 14 names of Camden's honored dead had been inscribed on one side of the 17-foot tall Union Soldier.
As automobiles became more numerous in the area, the poor Union Soldier was hit several times.
The final blow came on June 9, 1968, when a teenager crashed his car into it. It fell from its base in many broken pieces, so the Soldier asked the town to put him back together and move him out of the danger zone.
After a bit of controversy, an extensive repair job was done.
He was then moved to Harbor Park, on the corner of Main and Atlantic Avenue. It is only a few feet from the sidewalk so the passerbys may pay their respect to him.
After Memorial Day, quite a few years ago, I was in the Ayer's Fish Market, which was next door. They told me that the Civil War Soldiers' Monument had four flags placed, one at each corner of the statue, but the Spanish American War boulder, a few feet away had none.
They knew I had a great deal of respect for all veterans, so I took one flag from a back corner of the statue and gently placed it in front of the boulder. A plaque shows the names of the Spanish American War Camden men who served. Now they, too, were honored. It was just an oversight that I corrected.
If you have not yet paid your respect to these courageous war veterans, don't let it be another oversight.