Williamsport, Pa. -- Atop the pedestal in front of the old City Hall building on Pine Street is a lone figure dressed in the uniform of a northern soldier. He holds a bugle to his lips to honor those who answered the call from President Abraham Lincoln. It was a call for men to hold a country together that was not even “four score and seven years” old.
For over a century, this lone figure still holds his vigil on the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial. Recently, in Lycoming Joy and Memories, a Facebook group dedicated to Lycoming County history, writer Mark Garverick researched the statue and put its history in three posts.
“I was interested in posting a bit of the history of a well-known Williamsport landmark based purely on contemporaneous newspaper reportage,” Garverick wrote on Aug. 22. He said he researched several newspaper articles, and his efforts have created a trail for other local history enthusiasts to follow.
In an article headlined Our Dead Heroes, found in the Dec. 5, 1879, edition of the Daily Gazette and Bulletin (now the Williamsport Sun Gazette), a meeting was held Dec. 4 by the Grand Army of the Republic, or G.A.R., Reno Post No. 64, “in reference to the erection of a monument to the soldiers of the county who fell” in the Civil War. It was attended by many Lycoming County notables.
Judge Hugh Hart Cummin called the meeting to order: “We owe a debt which we all recognize. We owe a debt which you will say we ought to pay. Indeed, speaking ‘officially,’ the court says to you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it is your duty to pay this debt.” His comment was met with applause.
Lawyer J.O. Parker said the purpose of the monument served a “three-fold purpose.”
“First, to remind us of the past and to cement our reverence for these acts, which they commemorate; second, to educate us in the present; and third, to be a reminder of posterity,” Parker said.
According to former city Councilman Abraham Updegraff, interest in a Civil War monument for Lycoming County began as far back as 1866.
Updegraff said, “Mr. James B. Montgomery, in 1866, had tendered him $100 for a monument. It had been deposited with a certain (local) clergyman, and one year later subsequently withdrawn.” There was hope of “still getting it (the money) by communicating with Mr. Montgomery.” In his post, Garverick said it would be worth over “$1,700 in today’s money.”
The rest of the meeting was dedicated to elected monument committee members and getting subscriptions to begin funding the statue. All together, Garverick said over $2,300 was collected.
However, it would take almost a decade and a half for the statue to become a reality.
“It required over 14 years to raise the necessary amount to pay for the monument. The project died several times (during those 14 years), but was brought to life again and finally made a success,” said a reporter from the July 2, 1906 edition of The Daily Gazette and Bulletin.
In that period, Garverick explained that the Grit publication would regularly criticize the slow pace, or no pace, of the movement of the project.