Students spark restoration of Civil War Soldier’s Monument in Deerfield
DEERFIELD — By springtime, the stone Civil War memorial on the Deerfield Village Common will be buffed and restored, overgrown shrubbery removed and an iron fence replaced.
The grant to do the restoration was the work of Deerfield Academy students Peter and Lauren Stobierski of Deerfield, who spent last spring and summer combing through old newspaper articles and documents on the monument and writing a grant proposal.
As a result, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association has received a $4,000 matching grant from the state Department of Veterans Services to restore the Civil War Soldier’s Monument, which sits amid the Deerfield Academy buildings in Old Deerfield.
Like most of the prep school’s students, the Stobierskis pass by the historic stone figure every day on their way to class or to their dormitories. The monument sits in front of the school’s administration offices and next to the historic Brick Church.
“We saw it and didn’t give much attention to it,” Peter Stobierski said.
But they noticed the 38-foot-tall, brownstone structure was discolored, deteriorating, cracking and covered with lichen.
The 18-year-old twins decided to look into how they could fix the statue.
“It started off with just an idea. It turned into a huge project,” Peter Stobierski said. “Hopefully by restoring it, we can restore some of its respect.”
The project involves cleaning and restoring the monument, reconstructing the wrought iron fence around the statue and removing the undergrowth and shrubs blocking it.
During their research, the Stobierskis also discovered local newspaper reports that identified a time capsule within the cornerstone of the statue that could contain a letter from Abraham Lincoln and photos and letters of the fallen soldiers.
The time capsule is not the goal of the grant, however. They do not know the exact location and they won’t be digging for it, said Tim Neumann, executive director of PVMA . But, Neumann said, the museum organization will keep an eye out for it.
This will be the first time there has been any preservation work on the monument since it was dedicated Sept. 4, 1867.
With the monument’s 150th birthday approaching in 2017, Neumann said the PVMA may consider setting aside money for the time capsule.
The iron fence is rusting and broken away. The upper tier of the base is cracked and the rifle the soldier is supposed to hold has disappeared except for the barrel in his hand.
Work recently began on the monument, which started with removal of the shrubbery.
The memorial is believed to be one of the first Civil War monuments erected in the state. The monument sits on the site of the original Deerfield Meetinghouse, which stood during the French and Indian Raid of 1704.
The monument is also one of the first fully developed Civil War memorials depicting a human being. At the time, most monuments were simple obelisks.
Much of the work will be completed with donated equipment and services.
Deerfield Academy is donating a lift. And Ralph’s Blacksmith Shop of Northampton will attempt to replicate the wrought iron fence for $7,500.
Gravestone Services of New England, a restoration specialist, will restore the monument for $4,000.
The total cost will be $8,000 plus in-kind work. An anonymous donor promised to match the $4,000 state grant.