“Mayor Hill then came forward and said it was not fitting that the Post should have a burial place for their dead without a shaft or tablet to mark the spot. He would be proud to head a subscription list for the purchase of a monument. The suggestion was at once carried out and in few minutes nearly $600.00 was pledged.” The Saginaw Evening News, January 5, 1887
One of the defining landmarks of Oakwood cemetery is the monument in the center of the Veterans’ section. Featuring a statue of a Union soldier, the memorial was dedicated on August 10, 1888. One of the lead donors in the campaign to raise funds for the monument was Aaron T. Bliss, a Civil War Veteran and future governor of Michigan.
Born in Peterboro, New York, Bliss donated an almost identical monument to the city where he was born.
The Oneida Post, described the July 4, 1893, dedication of the Peterboro monument in great detail :
“I present to you,” said Col. Bliss and paused while a young lady, Miss May Osborne, daughter of one of the Smithfield veterans, clad in the national colors of red, white and blue, deftly drew the cords which held the canvas in place and allowed it to drop at the base of the monument, revealing the statue of a soldier at rest, with his musket standing before him. Cheers burst from the lips of the assembled populace as they beheld it and every heart went out to Col. Bliss in grateful acknowledgement of the honor he had bestowed upon his native town in presenting them with such an elegant and fitting testimonial of love and remembrance. Taking up the thread of his remarks where it had been interrupted by the casting aside of the veil, Col. Bliss concluded:
“I present to you this slight token of my love and remembrance for my native town and county, with the earnest hope that it may perpetuate the memory of the “boys in blue” of Smithfield and Madison county, who rendered such valiant service to their country in its hour of need, and may its luster and their valor, self-sacrifice, patriotism, devotion to flag, loyalty and heroism never fade from the memory of a grateful people.” Oneida Post, Oneida, NY, Saturday, July 8, 1893, p. 1
Located on the town green, the monument remains a community landmark.
Aaron T. Bliss would donate other memorials to those who served during the Civil War. One of these was a fountain for Federal Park. The Castle Museum now has an exhibit about the Federal Park fountain.
Thank you to Donna D. Burdick, Smithfield Town Historian, who made us aware of the Peterboro, New York monument and shared her research and photographs.