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Feature on Sgt. Baker. TOPIC: CIVIL WAR, PEOPLE, DOWNTOWN
Written by Barbara Adams in September, 1998

FRAGMENTED IN 1976, SGT. BAKER TWIN IN RICHLAND COUNTY RESTORED TO DUTY

A legend persists that the Fiske Company cast three Civil War soldiers from the same mold. When the third soldier was removed, so the story goes, the mold was accidentally broken. If true, then somewhere there may be another replica of Sgt. Baker.

In the town square of Mansfield, Ohio, is a statue of a Civil War soldier standing at parade rest. He looks very familiar. If you look closely, you will see a marked resemblance to Shelby County’s Sgt. Baker who stands guard atop the Monumental Building in Sidney. The Monumental Building, finished in 1876 to honor the county’s Civil War dead, received its crowning touch in 1900 when the statue of a Civil War soldier was hoisted into place 83 feet above Ohio Avenue.

Looking even more closely at the Mansfield soldier, you will see that the statue was cast by the same company as his Shelby County counterpart, J.W. Fiske of New York. The Richland County Soldiers’ Monument was unveiled on November 10, 1881. It was donated to the citizens of Mansfield and Richland County by Michael D. Harter, a local business man, as an enduring memorial of the valor and sacrifices of the men who had lost their lives in the various wars to that year.

The soldier guarded Mansfield’s Central Park and town square for nearly 100 years. In 1976, it was being removed to facilitate a change in the route of downtown streets when it was dropped and fragmented into about 40 pieces.

For 20 years the pieces were stored, almost forgotten. Then the teacher of the Madison High School welding shop, Paul Blanton, developed a method to weld the statue back together. Brad Tilton, of the McLaughlin Camp 12, Soldiers of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, volunteered as chairman of a committee to raise funds to restore the sculpture.

Blanton’s idea was to weld the original statue together as well as it could be done, then use it as a pattern to make a mold to cast an exact duplicate. The statue, dignified and impressive despite its missing parts and welding scars, was on display at several local exhibitions, including the 1997 Richland County Fair. For a Shelby Countian, aimlessly walking through the many exhibits, it was a bit of a shock to suddenly look up and find a replica of Sgt. Baker.

Tilton, after seeing newspaper pictures of Sgt. Baker, came to Sidney to take more pictures. He and his committee members agreed the two statues were probably made from the same mold by the Fiske Company.

In October 1997, Michael G. Kraus, sculptor of Creston, Ohio, and a Civil War re-enactor, was selected to continue with the work. Using clay to fashion the missing pieces, Mr. Kraus then made the mold and cast an exact duplicate in bronze. Foundry work started in January 1998. Cost was estimated at $35,000.

On May 25, 1998, the re-dedication ceremony was held. McLaughlin Camp 12 proudly unveiled the reconstructed statue before a huge crowd in Mansfield Central Park. After an absence of 22 years, the Richland County Memorial was back where it belonged.

 

 

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sgtbakerblackandwhite.gif (62538 bytes)

Shelby County's "Sgt. Baker."
Photo courtesy of Tom Homan.

richlandcountysoldier.gif (97383 bytes)Richland County's soldier.
Photo courtesy of Barbara Adams

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