Civil War Monument Dedication
Written By Allan H. Keith
Used with permission
September 19, 1903 was a red-letter day in Greenville.
On that Saturday, thousands of people trekked to the courthouse square to see Illinois Gov. Richard Yates dedicate the newly-erected Bond County Soldiers' Monument.
The monument, which still stands just southeast of the county courthouse, is in honor of the 1,200 Bond County men who served in the Civil War.
The events of that day in 1903 started at 8:30 a.m. with a meeting of the 130th Regiment at the Grand Army of the Republic headquarters. The G.A.R. was an organization composed of Civil War veterans of the Union Army.
Then at 9:50 a.m. there was a band concert by the Greenville Concert Band. It was conducted on a large speaker's stand erected near the new monument.
At the same time, many "old soldiers," veterans of the Civil War, were lining up in the corridor of the courthouse to register their names.
(The Civil War ended in April of 1865, some 38 years earlier.)
Coinciding with the dedication was the Bond County Soldiers and Sailors' Reunion, as well as the reunion of the 130th Regiment and members of other regiments. The Greenville Advocate remarked that the old soldiers "were present to grasp again the hands of their comrades."
The huge platform for the band, the speakers, the veterans and others was built at the south of the monument and seats were placed on three sides, but the Advocate said the seats "were not adequate for the accommodation of the throngs and hundreds were compelled to stand throughout the program."
The interior of the courthouse, as well as the platform, was draped with bunting and three arches placed near the center of the platform had signs welcoming visitors to the city.
"The city was decorated throughout its business portion in honor of the day and many residences flaunted the stars and stripes," according to the Advocate.
At 10 a.m. Illinois Lt. Gov. William Northcott (who was from Greenville) addressed a meeting of the Bond County Soldiers and Sailors' Association.
He proclaimed: "The theme today will be patriotism. You boys made the greatest history in all (the) ages."
Before the main program, veterans marched around the square, headed by the band, and with sons of veterans at the rear.
At 1:45 p.m., the audience sang "America" and at the beginning of the second stanza the monument was unveiled by Miss Helen Reid and Miss Bessie Toms. The two pulled the ends of a rope which was attached to a flag which enveloped the statue of the Civil War soldier at the top of the monument.
"A deafening cheer went up from thousands of throats," reported the Advocate. The monument was unveiled on the signal of Col. J. B. Reid, who was a key figure in promoting the monument project.
A prayer was offered by Rev. Thomas W. Hynes,a Presbyterian clergyman. The address of welcome was given by C. D. Hoiles who challenged the crowd to "place patriotism above partisanship" and resist "the encroachments of political corruption and of personal greed, alike destructive of the prosperity, well-being and integrity of our country."
Also speaking was Illinois Supreme Court Justice J. W. Wilkin of Danville. Lt. Gov. Northcott introduced Gov. Yates, who arrived at the train station from East St. Louis at 1:52 p.m. and was whisked to the courthouse.
Northcott noted that by coincidence Yates was the son of the state's governor during the Civil War, also named Richard Yates.
The governor spoke for two hours from atop a table used by newspaper men and stenographers. He spoke on a number of topics and congratulated the county on completion of the monument project.
After his speech the Advocate said there was prolonged cheering and "the clamor to grasp the young governor's hand was so great that further exercises were abandoned and the meeting broke up, the people being formed in lines to file past the governor and shake his hand."
At night a "campfire" was held in the courtroom, featuring the band and a quartet, plus speeches by Judge C. J. Lindly, Congressman W. A. Rodenberg of East St.Louis and Col. Benson Wood, who headed the state G.A.R.
The monument was swung into position a month prior to the dedication. It weighs 45,090 pounds. Just prior to being put in place the cards of many Greenville businessmen, as well as copies of Greenville and St. Louis newspapers, were placed within the monument.
An association for the purpose of erecting the monument was formed in 1899. President was Dr. W. D. Matney. Col. J. B. Reid was vice president and W. W. Lowis was secretary. Treasurer was C. W. Watson.
The association decided that the total cost should not exceed $3,500.
The extensive inscription on the monument notes that it was erected by the G.A.R., the Women's Relief Corps, sons of veterans and other patriotic citizens of Bond County.
In giant letters near the base are the names of the four principal Civil War battles in which Bond County men participated: Belmont, Chickamauga, Vicksburg and Shiloh.
(Allan H. Keith, formerly of Greenville, is a free-lance writer and lives in Mattoon. firstname.lastname@example.org)
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