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Monument to Clara Barton, 1962

Antietam 1962 Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


Monument to Clara Barton Will Symbolize Character Of "Angel Of Battlefield"

The monument to Clara Barton which will be unveiled on Antietam Battlefield in public ceremonies this coming Sunday afternoon promises to be one of the big surprises of the Antietam Centennial.

Although no advance photographs have been permitted, facts released by the local Red Cross chapter regarding the nature and the form of the monument indicate that it will be unique in a number of respects. It will be one of the "most modern" on the battlefield, from the design standpoint, yet one of the simplest.

In deciding on a fitting monument to the Civil War nurse who later was to found the American National Red Cross, the local Red Cross chapter studied many suggested forms and concepts during the months that it made preliminary plans for the commemorative project. A committee headed by A. Lesley Gardner considered proposals to have a statue commissioned, a building erected and various types of shafts erected.

Study of the character of the woman who had nursed the wounded on the battlefield at Antietam finally seemed to dictate the nature of the monument that best would memorialize her work. A rugged individualist, strong of feature and serious of mien, Clara Barton could not be epitomized in retrospect by a monument that was either slender, graceful or delicate of line. She had been short of stature, resolute as a rock when she had decided upon a course of action: and unwaveringly dedicated to her principles and her beliefs.

What better, the committee finally asked itself, than to erect a monument in the form of a single, rough-hewn rock — symbolic of the Barton character.

Finding such a rock, one that would be "recognizable" as Clara Barton, was another matter entirely. The committee sent out queries to other states, other centennial committees and other Red Cross chapters. From Georgia there came an offer of a giant boulder; from Gettysburg, Pa., a proffered, slab of granite; from countless other communities, still more offers of mammoth rocks and chiseled stone blocks.

Somehow, though, none of them "sounded quite like Clara". The committee was in a quandary when it finally heard a proposal that did have the right sound to it. Park W. T. Loy, executive director of the Maryland Civil War Centennial Commission, wondered aloud if maybe a massive chunk of marble that had been quarried right here in Washington County wouldn't fill the bill. It sounded fine, of course, but who ever had heard of marble being quarried in this area? Not only had Park heard of it, but he recalled years ago having seen huge blocks of marble piled along a railroad siding near Trego. He went for a drive in that area and, almost hidden by tangled honeysuckle vine, found the pile of marble. So he did some investigating.

Not only did Park locate the present owner of the land on the marble blocks are piled, he also tracked down the man who had cut the marble more than half a century ago. Axel Steele, now 85, had been the "channeling machine" operator at the old Washington Marble Co. quarry, along Eakle's Mill Rd., when that last pile of marble blocks had been cut back in 1906. Now living in semi-retirement with his wife on a small, farm along Locust Grove Rd., he recalls distinctly channeling (or cutting) some of the large slabs of marble that were used on Antietam Battlefield shortly after the turn of the century.

When the Clara Barton memorial committee of the local Red Cross chapter visited the spot where giant chunks of marble once were loaded aboard trains for shipment to marble finishing yards all over the East, its members had no difficulty in spotting that one "stone" that would be suitable for the monument. Standing out from others that were; either rectangular or cubistic in shape was one that was "ruggedly individual", with a multi-faceted surface that would defy polishing.

You couldn't escape it: that stone WAS Clara Barton. Even though it weighed more than eight tons, somehow it would have to be moved to a spot along Mansfield Ave., on Antietam Battlefield, overlooking the Poffenberger farm, where Clara had tended the wounded heroically as the…

James Ward, owner of the land on which the abandoned marble blocks rest, agreed to donate the mammoth stone if the Red Cross could arrange to have it hauled away. The National Park Service gave approval for erecting the monument in the desired spot, near the memorial figure of a Pennsylvania soldier and in full view of the house, smokehouse and barn where Clara Barton had nursed and fed the wounded a century ago.

Bester-Long, Inc. undertook the task of moving the stone to its new site — an all-day task entailing the use of a big crane and a tractor-trailer. Its base had been readied and into that base was set a Red Cross emblem, fashioned with pieces of a brick from the chimney of Clara Barton's birthplace in New Oxford, Mass. Park Loy had procured the brick; Victor Cushwa & Sons re-fired it and cut it into the segments needed to form the cross.

Axel Steele, the Swedish immigrant who unwittingly more than half a century ago cut the marble stone that was to become a monument to "The Angel of the Battlefield", regards it as "yoost fine" that the stone shall serve such a worthy purpose. He also was "yoost amazed" that the Red Cross committee happened to pick out the finest piece of marble on that almost-forgotten pile of stone. They picked out ("and not knowing at all about marble yet") a piece that he calls "cream marble", the top quality, from the center of the vein.


Hagerstown Daily Mail

Newspaper cutting provided by Phil Haynes, grandson of Axel Steele.


Collection Location:
Williamsport, Md.

Quarries and quarrying, Maryland; Marble, Maryland; Washington County (Md.), history

Washington County (Md.), 1900-1950

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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