May, 2010

About the same time that Mike Peters solved the mystery of Headless Billy, several readers, including David Woodbury, sent along links to information. Two different readers sent links to this article from the Toledo Blade from July 2008, which solves the mystery of Headless Billy. The photo is of Headless Billy before he became headless.

Billy, with his head

Ohio park, ‘Mount Rushmore of folk art,’ collection of statues to be auctioned

FRAZEYSBURG, Ohio — A man who owns a hillside park with giant sandstone sculptures of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and other famous Americans said he’s selling the property so the artwork can be better preserved.

The sculptures in Baughman Memorial Park need to be restored and repainted, said Kevin Morehouse, 35, who bought the park for $310,000 in February. A statue of Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman is missing its head, and other statues show varying degrees of wear and tear, he said.

Morehouse, who owns a logging company, said he bought the park to serve as his family’s private retreat but soon realized he had no idea how to care for it.

The park, its sculptures and oil and gas rights are all scheduled to be auctioned by Russ Kiko Associates Inc. Auctioneers in Canton on Saturday.

Duff Lindsay, a Columbus gallery owner who specializes in folk art, said it’s hard to determine what the statues might be worth at auction. Taking them out of their environment might lessen their value, he said.

Local undertaker Daniel Brice Baughman carved the statues of Ulysses Grant and others between 1898 and around 1930 on land that was once a stone quarry. He started with William McKinley, a former governor of Ohio who was elected president in 1896. The collection also includes the likenesses of George Washington, Sherman, Warren Harding, James Garfield and a World War I doughboy.

From the 1920s through the 1940s, the 62-acre Baughman Memorial Park, about 60 miles east of Columbus, was a destination for families from across Ohio who flocked to see the larger-than-life stone sculptures.

Some locals and historians are upset that the statues will be auctioned separately.

“It’s the Mount Rushmore of folk art,” said Aaron Keirns, who wrote a book about the carvings and Baughman. “To split it up would be a tragedy.”

Baughman also created bas-relief images in rock formations that honored the Republican Party, as well as various animals and a depiction of a stereotypical American Indian chieftain.

The park was dedicated by the state in 1931. Baughman died in 1957, and the property eventually served as a campground and a religious retreat for troubled teens. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Dave Longaberger, founder of Newark-based Longaberger Co., the nation’s largest handmade basket-maker, bought the park in 1996. His family sold it to Morehouse.

Morehouse said he looked into whether the Ohio Historical Society, which is dealing with a shrinking budget, or another state entity would take on the park’s preservation. He also considered opening it to the public, but finding someone to operate the place and keep it open year-round was too much of a challenge, he said.

When art like the Baughman statues are preserved, it’s usually because volunteers do the work and a large foundation picks up the tab, said Michael Hall of the Columbus Museum of Art.

“It’s not just the costs, but the commitment,” he said. “Who’s going to saddle themselves with the responsibility of the upkeep?”

And so, the primary mystery has been solved. I’ve already ordered a copy of the book referenced in the article.

Now, I need to track down the owner of the shopping center to see what he or she has in mind for Headless Billy, and to see whether he or she might be willing to allow us to move him and repair him.

Stay tuned. More to come.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

“It gets curiouser and curiouser,” Alice said to the Cheshire Cat.

The mystery of Headless and Handless Uncle Billy gets curiouser and curiouser.

Last night, I mentioned that one of the attorneys in my office is a lifelong resident of Pickerington, where the monument is located. So, too, is his father, who is in his 70’s. Rick asked his father about it last night. It turns out that before the shopping center was built in the 1980’s, Rick’s father farmed that precise ground. He has never seen Headless Billy, even to this day. One would think that a farmer on a tractor would notice a white monument on a pedestal in the middle of a farm field, so it’s a reasonable assumption that Headless Billy was moved to his present location after the shopping center was built sometime between 1980 and 1985.

Also, when Mike Peters was investigating Headless Billy yesterday, he found a link on a website that indicates that Headless Billy was auctioned off in 2008 for the sum of $2500.00. I had no idea that things like monuments are auctioned off, but apparently they are.

So, the mysteries now are: who actually owns Headless Billy, and where was he located before he took up residence at the shopping center. Unravelling those two questions may prove to be a real challenge. We remain dedicated to the idea of both restoring Headless Billy’s head and hand, but also to relocating him to a place where he can be seen and appreciated.

And so, it gets curiouser and curiouser.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

My office is located in a suburb of Columbus called Pickerington. There’s a strip shopping center in Pickerington where there’s a Mexican restaurant that Susan and I like. We had dinner there on Sunday, and then we walked a block to a Rita’s Italian Ice store for dessert.

I have been to that shopping center previously, and I knew that there was an odd open spot in the middle of it. I never noticed what fills that odd opening before Sunday night. As we walked by it, I noticed a white column that said “Sherman”, so it got my attention. I went to look at it, and it was a monument to William T. Sherman that I have never seen before. However, the monument is missing its head and the figure of Sherman is missing its left hand. The monument indicates that it was placed in 1918, and mentions the names of four members of the Union Veteran Legion who placed the monument.

After thinking about it for a couple of days, I called my friend Mike Peters today, and Mike turned up some interesting information. Thanks to Mike for sharing it with me.

I had never heard of the Union Veteran Legion. Mike found that the Union Veteran Legion was formed in 1884. The requirements for membership was that UVL members were to have “volunteered prior to July 1, 1863, for a term of 3 years, and were honorably discharged”. Service in the military had to be of at least 2 years in duration if the discharge was due to wounds encountered on the battlefield. Given these requirements, the membership of the UVL was many times smaller than that of the G.A.R. So, this monument was erected by some of Sherman’s boys.

Mike also ascertained that the monument was vandalized in 1968, meaning that Uncle Billy has been headless and handless for 42 years.

One of the fellows I practice law with has lived in Pickerington for his entire life and had absolutely no clue that that monument exists.

The poor condition and poor security for the monument bothers me a great deal, so Mike and I agreed that we’re going to see what we can do about (a) relocating the monument to a place where it can be seen and have some security (it has NONE now), and (b) fixing it so that Uncle Billy is no longer headless or handless. We’re going to see what we can do.

I will keep everyone posted as to our progress.

The following pictures were taken by Nancy Peters, and are used with her permisson:

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Spotted in the gift shop of the new Visitor Center in Gettysburg…..

This is just wrong!!!

This is wrong in more ways than I can count…..

Scridb filter

Continue reading

I will be signing books on Saturday May 22, 2010, from 1-3 at the Battlefields and Beyond Military Book Shoppe in Gettysburg. If you’re in the area, please come by and say hello!

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Mike Noirot has posted a review of my Brandy Station book on his blog. Please check it out.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

I am a charter member of the Central Ohio Civil War Roundtable. I attended the first meeting in 1988, and I was its second president and second program chair. I have been involved with the organization from the very beginning. The organization has grown and evolved over the years, and it has now launched its own website, which I invite you to check out. I have added a link under the Civil War Sites of Interest section. Kudos to CWRT president Tim Maurice for getting this site launched.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

My friend Mike Block, who is a member of the board of trustees of the Brandy Station Foundation, and who is researching a book on the winter encampment of the Army of the Potomac during the winter of 1863-1864, has launched a new blog called Today at Brandy Station, which follows events that took place at Brandy Station on a day-by-day basis. There’s lots of interest here, so enjoy. I’ve added this blog to the blogroll.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Mike.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

In: Blogging | Tags:

I want to endorse the efforts of the Monterey Pass Battlefield Association to raise money to acquire battlefield land and to develop a visitor’s center for interpretation of the battlefield, and I encourage you to donate to their efforts, too. The following article appeared in the May 7 issue of the Waynesboro Record Herald newspaper:

Washington Township’s preservation efforts for the Battle of Monterey Pass receive strong support, but there’s still more to do

By Matt McLaughlin/The Record Herald
Fri May 07, 2010, 12:17 PM EDT

Blue Ridge Summit, Pa. –

Significant strides have been made since Washington Township agreed to raise funds to purchase land and establish an interpretive site dedicated to the Battle of Monterey Pass in January.

During a Jan. 29 meeting between the Monterey Pass Battlefield Association and Washington Township supervisors, the board agreed to seek funding and be the recipient of donations for purchasing a property near the Lions Club’s Rolando Woods Park and establishing it as an interpretive site, complete with a visitors center.

Once established, the township would own the site, but the Battle of Monterey Pass Committee — made up of the association and its partners — would be responsible for its planning and operation, Washington Township Manager Mike Christopher said in January.

The Battle of Monterey Pass, fought July 4 and 5, 1863, began in Fountaindale as Confederate forces limped back to the South after the Battle of Gettysburg. It was the second-largest conflict fought on northern soil during the Civil War and the only one fought on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.

A step forward in preserving a piece of the Monterey Pass battlefield was the signing of a sale agreement for the .83-acre property near Rolando Woods Park April 21.

The property, owned by Mary Rae Cantwell, is located at 13325 Buchanan Trail East and was the location of the last Confederate defense during the 1863 battle.

Supervisor Elaine Gladhill, an advocate of preserving the history of the battle, said the township has already received more than $1,000 in donations.

Gladhill also recently received a donation of artifacts found where the Battle of Monterey Pass was fought. Two Minie balls — one fired and one unfired — were given for display in the future visitors center.

Moral support

About $100,000 is needed to buy all the property and township recently applied for $49,950 from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant for purchasing the property. The township would provide matching funds of $52,900.

More than 75 letters of support for the grant were submitted.

“To me, that just says how valuable this initiative is,” Christopher said. “I’m amazed by the support.”

Agencies that wrote letters of support include the Monterey Pass Battlefield Association, Franklin County Board of Commissioners, Franklin County Visitors Bureau, Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, Franklin County Area Development Corp., Greater Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce, Franklin County Planning Commission, Borough of Waynesboro, One Mountain Foundation, Franklin County Historical Society, Waynesboro Area School District, Greater Area Emmitsburg Historical Society and Cumberland Valley Rifles.

Letters of support were also received from state Sen. Richard Alloway II, a Republican who represents Franklin, Adams and parts of York counties, and state Rep. Todd Rock, a Republican who represents Franklin County, as well as a number of individuals.

“What makes our situation unique and wonderful is that we’re going to be able to interpret it … which means it can come alive for the public,” Christopher said. “Instead of reading a sign or marker, we can bring this site to life because of having the historian already in place.”

John Miller, historian and founder of the MPBA said recent support and efforts to establish a battlefield are the culmination of 12 years of work.

“I’m very excited about how far things have come,” Miller said. “We are very pleased with the township’s efforts and their support for this project. The township has been the driving force behind obtaining grants for the project as well as obtaining support from our local and state officials.”

The next step

The township plans to continue looking for money to develop a site that will serve the community historically and economically as a tourism destination. If it receives the DCNR grant, the township hopes to raise the matching funds through donations.

“We need to raise the money to buy the property, and we need to raise the money to build the interpretive center,” Christopher said. “There are people out there that donate to this kind of thing and we’re looking for them.”

Christopher hopes businesses in the area will see the advantage of supporting the site financially, because “they’re going to be paid back tenfold.”

Miller and members of the Battle of Monterey Pass Committee met with Civil War historian Ed Bearss Thursday to discuss, in part, ways to gain financial support.

“The meeting is basically to gain a better understanding about what type of preservation grants are out there as well as kind of figuring out how to gain more national support, taking it past the local level,” Miller said prior to the meeting.

Donations can be made at the township office at 13013 Welty Road, Wayne Heights. Checks should be made payable to Washington Township.

Donation forms also are available at MPBA interpretive programs.

The Battle of Monterey Pass was the second largest battle fought in Pennsylvania during the Civil War, and it deserves our support.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Thanks to help from several of you, and especially from fellow Buckeye Chris Van Blargan, the mystery of Paul von Koenig and of his brother, Lt. Gen. Goetz Friedrich Wilhelm Ulrich, Freiherr von Koenig, has been solved. Lt. Gen. von Koenig was a cavalry officer–he commanded a German cavalry corps during World War I, and was awarded the Blue Max in 1915, which was Imperial Germany’s highest military decoration.

Paul von Koenig was apparently something of a soldier of fortune who was wounded in combat five times while fighting in Mexico before the Civil War. He and his brother Robert von Koenig both fought during the Second Bull Run Campaign, and Paul von Keonig became good friends with future president James Garfield in New York City during the fall of 1862. I also have von Koenig’s service records coming from the National Archives.

I will now be able to give this brace and capable officer the sort of detail and tribute that he deserves when I start writing my work on the Battle of White Sulphur Springs in a few weeks. I am extremely pleased about that, and grateful to all of you who helped me to unravel this particular mystery. Thank you for your help. I am in your collective debt.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Copyright © Eric Wittenberg 2011, All Rights Reserved
Powered by WordPress