My Town Monday: A Remembrance for Memorial Day

English: Paul Laurence Dunbar (June 27, 1872 –...

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Yesterday, my daughter and I had a mom-and-daughter afternoon and visited a local historical site neither of us had yet visited: the Paul Lawrence Dunbar State Memorial. Dunbar was a celebrated writer who was born in Dayton in 1872 (died in 1906) and is a significant literary figured not only for his work’s own sake, but because he was an African-American who wrote both in black dialect and in standard English.

Dunbar’s parents were both former slaves, and his father enlisted to serve the Union in the Civil War. Dunbar was always proud of his father’s military service, and his first poem was published when he was only sixteen! It’s particularly relevant today as we remember those who served and sacrificed their lives.


“Our Martyred Soldiers”
by Paul Laurence Dunbar (public domain)

Dayton National Cemetery at the Veterans Affairs grounds

In homes all green, but cold in death,
Robbed of the blessed boon of breath—
Resting in peace from field and fray,
Our martyred soldiers sleeping lay.

Beneath the dew, the rain, the snow,
They heed no more the bloody foe,
Their sleep is calm, to them alone
‘Tis giv’n to lie without a moan.

The sun may shine in all his might—
They know no day, they know no night,
But wait a still more lasting ray,
The coming of eternal day.

No longer marches break their rest,
Or passioned hate thrills through the breast,
They lie all clothed in calm repose,
All safe from shots of lurking foes.

The grave’s a sacred place where none
Of earth may touch the sleeping one;
Where silence reigns, enthroned, sedate,
An angel guarding heaven’s gate.

The wind may blow, the hail may fall,
But at the tomb is silence all;
Man finds no nobler place to pray,
Then o’er a martyr’s lifeless clay.

Sleep on, ye soldiers, men of God,
A nation’s tears bedew the sod;
‘Tis but a short, short time till ye
Shall through the shining portals flee.

And when this memory lost shall be,
We turn, oh Father, God, to thee!
Oh find in heaven some nobler thing
Then martyrs of which men can sing.


I’ll share some photos and more interesting facts we learned about Dunbar in future posts.

What are you doing this Memorial Day? Or, if you’re not in the U.S., does your country have a similar day of remembrance? Do you have a friend or family who served that you’d like to tell us about? Please feel free to do so in the comments!

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My Town Monday: Dayton’s Mostly-unknown War Memorial

Happy Memorial Day! To those in the U.S., before you head out for cookouts, games, parties or whatever, please take a moment to remember and be thankful for the men and women of our armed forces, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

A lot of people don’t know it, but we have our own war memorial statue in Dayton, Ohio. Well, okay, maybe if one really looks, it’s obvious the man atop the 85-foot column is a soldier, but I’m guessing that the vast majority of the people who pass by have no idea who he was, or why he’s been immortalized in stone.

Soldiers Monument, Dayton Ohio ca. 1902

Soldiers' Monument in Dayton, Ohio, circa 1902

The statue was erected in 1884, as a memorial to the many men from Dayton and Montgomery County who served in the U.S. Civil War. The original plan was to place a Lady Liberty statue atop the 85-foot column, but the veterans’ organization who started the fundraising and legal efforts to have the statue built, wanted a Union private instead, someone who symbolized the rank and file who fought in the war. After a lengthy search, they selected lifelong Dayton resident George Washington Fair, in part because he was tall and good-looking. A modest man, his wife had to talk him into modeling for the sculpture.

The column was built in Dayton, with a base of local limestone, but the statue was commissioned from an Italian sculptor. It arrived in the U.S. On May 27 , 1884, two weeks ahead of schedule, and was shipped by rail and arrived in Dayton on June 1st. The statue was assembled at the corner of Main and Water Street (now Monument Avenue) and was dedicated as part of a big celebration and parade on July 31.

By the end of World War II, the streets had become congested and the city commission decided to relocate the statue to Riverview Park. It was replaced in its original location in 1993.

If you’re from the Dayton area, did you know the story behind the statue? Or if you’re from somewhere else, does your town have a war memorial, and do you know its story?

Check out other My Town Monday posts at the My Town Monday Blog

Soldiers’ Monument photo – Library of Congress, ca. 1902, via Dayton History Books Online