Led by the Joint Veterans Council of Genesee County, local veterans will host a rededication ceremony Saturday morning marking the centennial of the city's gateway monument at the junction of routes 5 and 63 that pays tribute to the Union Army's Emory Upton, the military service of men and women of Genesee County, and its war dead.
It starts at 10:30 a.m. and everyone is welcome.
Commonly referred to as the Upton Monument, for the statue of the colonel of the Fourth Regiment of Artillery, Army Brevit Major General Upton, it is officially known as The Soldiers and Sailors Monument. The actual marker at the base of the bald-eagle-topped pillar is engraved: In Memory of The Soldiers, Sailors and Marines of Genesee County.
Doug Doktor, chairman of the Joint Veterans Council, said that James Neider, of the Glenn S. Loomis American Legion Post 332 in Batavia, will provide a brief historical overview of Upton, one of the nation's foremost military strategists of the 19th century. Then Elijah Monroe, of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln Camp 6 in Rochester, will speak on that organization's instrumental role in fundraising and getting the monument constructed.
There will also be a rifle salute.
The dedication held a hundred years ago took place on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 1919.
According to City of Batavia Historian Larry Barnes, there was a morning footrace from Le Roy to Batavia, followed by the dedication ceremony at which a relation of the Upton family, Col. Upton, served as the keynote speaker. The special occasion was capped off by a grand display of fireworks at the old Genesee County Fairgrounds, where Tops Friendly Market is now on West Main Street.
Proposals for the monument were bandied about as early as the 1870s. But getting it funded and built was not a given. Its price tag of about $15,000 was considered steep. Funds were sought from the county, the city and fundraising campaigns were launched by Batavia City School District Superintendent John Kennedy and Sarah Upton Edwards, sister of Emory Upton.
In 1907, city voters nixed spending $5,000 as their share of the monument's cost. It was not until World War I that action was taken that would finally pave the way for the planned monument to become reality.
In 1917, city fathers managed to get the city's funding share approved by a bit of political maneuvering -- slipping language for the monument expense into a sewer and water appropriations bill.
The architect chosen to design the monument was C. A. Worden, a local company responsible for many monuments at Gettysburg.
Once built, there was controversy as to whether the statue of Emory Upton was based on the actual likeness of the man himself. And the question, some local historians say, has never been wholly resolved.
To read more about Emory Upton from an 1885 biography, click here.
(Editor's Note: Publisher Howard Owens had planned to complete a video of the history of the monument in time for tomorrow's rededication. That is no longer possible, but he does hope to finish it very soon.)