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September 28, 2002

 

 

Restoration Plan for Historic Lawton Statue

By Nancy Vendrely The Journal Gazette

For 81 years, the imposing statue of Maj. Gen. Henry Ware Lawton (1843-1899) has claimed a corner of Lakeside Park. Thousands of people see him each day - or would if he wasn't at their backs as they cruise past on the one-way street. But even if more people took notice, they might not know who Lawton was or even care.

Not so with Maurice Cline.

A retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, Cline, 78, wants to rally support for cleaning and restoring the Lawton statue because, "we're letting history fade," he says.

And history, in Lawton's case, is impressive. He was a genuine military hero, starting with service in the Civil War at age 18, when he joined an Indiana company of volunteers. Later with the 30th Indiana Volunteers, he reached the rank of lieutenant colonel and received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic leadership under heavy fire.

Lawton said he felt he had found his vocation - "the life of a soldier" - and decided service to his country would be his life's work.

At war's end, he returned to Fort Wayne, where he had lived since 1858, moving from Ohio with his father some time after his mother died. He studied law for a time but what Lawton really wanted was a military career, and as soon as Congress reorganized the Army, he enlisted.

Service in the cavalry took him West, where his fame grew when he led a band of men in the capture of Geronimo, a notorious Apache who had escaped from an Army troop. Lawton later saw action in the Spanish-American War, giving backup support to Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders at San Juan Hill.

In 1899, Lawton was sent to the Philippines when insurgents attacked Manila after Spain ceded the islands to the United States. Promoted to major general, he commanded the First Division, Eighth Army Corps, in the islands, and as usual, put himself in the thick of the fighting.

That practice brought his end. The 6-foot-3 Lawton, standing on a ridge in a yellow slicker, was an easy target for a sniper. Hit Dec. 19, 1899, he died as he fell to the ground.

Lawton came home a military hero, lauded from California to Washington, D.C. When the funeral train stopped in Fort Wayne on the way to Arlington National Cemetery, Lawton's unopened coffin was carried from the train station to the Allen County Courthouse on a gun carriage. Bands played dirges as the cortege moved between the rows of mourners on the street.

The casket was carried into the courthouse and placed on pedestals with a guard of honor in attendance. It was the first time the then-unfinished courthouse had been opened to the public.

Some memorial honors came quickly - Lawton, Okla., where he had been stationed at Fort Sill, was named for him in 1901, and an artillery battery at Puget Sound in Seattle was named Fort Lawson in 1900.

And some took awhile. Fort Wayne's statue was dedicated Oct. 22, 1921, with music, speakers and remarks by many dignitaries. Indianapolis also commissioned a statue in Lawton's honor; it stands in Garfield Park. Roosevelt spoke at the dedication there.

Cline, a pilot who lost his B-24 crew in World War II, knows how important it is to remember service to country and the losses suffered.

"I lost eight of my best friends," Cline says. "They were on an assignment I wasn't on. All there is is a marker in a cemetery in Italy."

About a year ago, Cline, who served 25 years in the Air Force Reserves after six years of active duty, tried, unsuccessfully, to interest a couple of veterans' organizations in helping restore Lawton's statue. Still, he's convinced there are people or organizations that would be willing to help.

"Some young, active group," he says. "I'd ask them to come together to help. They all need projects; they all need a cause.

"In my military experience, I learned if you don't have a mission, you don't have a reason for (action)."

Cline contacted Jerry Byanski at the Fort Wayne Parks Department before soliciting help, and Byanski welcomed Cline's interest. The department has no budget for such a project, but Byanski made some preliminary queries about costs and learned some restoration could be made - except for replacing a missing sword - for $9,000 to $10,000.

"What replacing the sword would cost we don't know, but maybe we could get someone to make it for us," Byanski says.

Both Byanski and Cline would welcome help and support.

Honoring a patriot is reason enough, but the statue has an additional distinction worth saving. It was sculpted by master sculptor Frederick C. Hibbard (1881-1950), whose monumental works stand at significant historical sites throughout the United States.

Among them are the equestrian statue of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at the Vicksburg National Military Park; a 12-foot statue of Jefferson Davis in Frankfort, Ky.; the Mark Twain Monument and the Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn Monument in Hannibal, Mo.; and a five-ton granite group of Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln - said to be the only statue of the two together - in Racine, Wis.

In Fort Wayne, Hibbard also did the statues of Perry A. Randall in East Swinney Park, David Foster on the grounds of Swinney Homestead, and the Memorial Park statue of a woman at the Olen J. Pond Memorial. Hibbard did a model of a statue of Roosevelt, which was to be made for Roosevelt Park on West Main Street around 1921. But the project never went forward.

To learn more about Hibbard and Lawton, check these Web sites: www.raymondms.com/history/hibbard1.htm; www.LittleColonel.com/Walton.htm; www.culbertsonmansion.com/Lawton; and http://www.arlingtoncemetery.com/.

To help with the Lawton restoration, send donations to the Board of Park Commissioners, 705 E. State Blvd., Fort Wayne, IN 46805; or to the Fort Wayne Parks Foundation, P.O. Box 13201, Fort Wayne, IN 46867. Be sure to designate donations are for the Lawton statue.

To offer other help, call Byanski's office at 427-6400.

 

 

2002, by The Journal Gazette
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