The same sense of memory and honor that Iolans felt more than 90 years ago when a Civil War statue was erected at Iola Cemetery was prevalant Saturday, Iolan Clyde Toland said under the bright, sunny sky.
Toland was the guest speaker at a rededication ceremony for the newly refurbished zinc statue.
The ceremony marked the end of a $3,000 renovation project for the statue, dubbed by local Veterans Day Committee members as "Ol' Zachary."
Steel rods and foam were used to make up the statue's skeleton, and its exterior was coated with weather-proof sealant.
The statue, built in 1903 or 1904, was one of only four white bronze, or zinc, Civil War statues in Kansas built by the J.W. Fiske Foundry. It was dedicated at Iola Cemetery shortly thereafter.
Also taking part in the ceremony was a flight crew from Forbes Field in Topeka who flew a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. The helicopter landed in a vacant area just south of the cemetery for a public viewing.
The helicopter took off for home at the end of the ceremony, passing over the cemetery in a makeshift fly-over.
Toland's speech follows:
Scattered throughout this cemetery are the graves of soldiers of several of our country's wars, including the grave of 91-year-old Latimer Alder, a veteran of the War of 1812. One of the most hallowed parts of our cemetery is the soldiers' plot where we stand today. The majority of those buried in this plot are soldiers of the Civil War, but also included is one woman, Victoria Cowden. Affectionately known as "Granny" Cowden, her body lies interred here with a marker that reads simply "Granny Cowden Army Nurse."
Although there lie buried here in this cemetery many of our patriot dead other deceased Union soldiers were never returned to their homes but lie buried far away. The need for a monument to commemorate the memory of the Union soldiers who fell in the battles of the Civil War and who lie buried beneath southern skies on land or sea was finally fulfilled nearly a century ago with the dedication of the statue that watches over us today. The occasion was Decoration Day, now known as Memorial Day.
That day began with a parade from the Iola public square to this spot. The parade was headed by the members of the Roberts' band followed by various dignitaries, including members of the McCook Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, the organization of veterans of Union service during the Civil War. Marching behind the veterans were the members of the Women's Relief Corps, an auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic, and hundreds of children from the Sunday schools of the churches of the city of Iola. Following these marchers was a second division headed by the Workmen of the World band and followed in turn by members of the local lodge of the Knights of Pythias. Following all of these marchers were hundreds of people in carriages and motor cars.
Today there are many persons who are fascinated by the Civil War, some of whom become emotionally involved with the issues and tragedies of that great war. Perhaps some of you here today have a great depth of emotion for what occurred during that epic struggle, but no matter how deeply we may feel today about those who fought and died during that conflict, there is no way we can fully comprehend and feel the deeply personal, deeply private emotion that must have been felt by many of those in attendance on that Decoration Day in 1909. Undoubtedly among the throng in attendance were still living Civil War veterans; widows of those who had died in the struggle; and now grown children who had lost fathers during the war. Even after so many years, the emotion felt by each was perhaps at times almost overwhelming.
Before the monument was unveiled, those who had raised the construction funds publicly entrusted it into the care and keeping of the members of the McCook Post of the Grand Army of the Republic. This message of delivery and entrustment 92 years ago captures the spirit of what this monument represents then and now, and thus I quote to you the words spoken at that time:
"To the patriotic citizens of Iola and vicinity, we owe our heartfelt thanks for your liberal donations, you have given up to pay for this monument. We feel a duty has been performed, a work accomplished of this undertaking, and to indulge afresh in the recollections of the great event which it is designed to commemorate. Meeting here today on this occasion for two purposes, as of old to decorate the graves of our beloved soldiers, another to unveil this monument, and dedicate it to the keeping of McCook Post No. 51, G.A.R. and to the memory of those who lie buried beneath southern skies on land or sea, whose lives went out, a sacrifice for their country, far from home, friends, and loving care, we have raised this monument, like the finger of faith pointing to a better world, and upon it we place tenderly and reverently, our chaplets of evergreen of hope, crowning their loyalty and courage. Let us ever keep in mind their patriotic devotion, their immense sacrifice. 'For greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for another, or his country.' We all know, for it is part of our recorded history, how fearlessly and ably they served their country, and the cause of freedom until the union was saved, and how richly they have earned the monument we here unveil to them today."
This soldier monument was then unveiled, a public act of memory. That same moral imperative of remembrance exists today as we recall the ultimate sacrifice of those patriots who died to preserve the union. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Veterans Day Committee of Iola, which raised approximately $3,000, this now gleaming, seven-foot tall white zinc statue was refurbished and a new pedestal erected. Although the Union soldiers buried here and far away are long since dead, they are not forgotten and today we rededicate this soldier monument to their memory and to their great sacrifice for the union that we are blessed with today -- these United States of America.
To view full size photo of statue click here: Iola Cemetery Statue