Civil War Memorial in Cattaraugus County, New York, Under Threat

Mark Dunkelman, historian of the 154th New York Infantry, has alerted me to disturbing news of plans to demolish a civil war memorial- the Cattaraugus County Historical and Memorial Building- and is seeking readers assistance in highlighting the issue.

Mark has published extensively on the 154th New York, with his books covering everything from the compelling story of Amos Humiston to an analysis of the Esprit de Corps of a Civil War regiment. His works are far more than simple histories- his exceptional knowledge of the unit and it’s men has allowed him to explore the social aspect of the conflict in a compelling and often unique way. If you have not read any of his publications, I advise you to consider doing so, as they may get you thinking about the conflict in new ways. In the past, the survivors of the regiment which Mark has brought so vividly to life were also extremely keen to remember their comrades. In 1914, many veterans of the 154th were present in Little Valley as the Cattaraugus County Historical and Memorial Building was dedicated to stand in memory of those from the county who had served during the Civil War. A recent vote by the Cattaraugus County Legislature means that this Memorial Building will soon be demolished, destroying one of the county’s major monuments to the era. Mark is trying to raise awareness of this fact and is asking that others consider voicing their concern to Cattaraugus County Legislators.

Mark has described the building’s significance as follows:

On September 7, 1914, more than two hundred Civil War veterans gathered on Court Street in Little Valley to dedicate the Cattaraugus County Historical and Memorial Building. Among them were many veterans of the 154th New York, holding their 27th annual reunion in conjunction with the dedication. Joining the old soldiers was a large crowd of citizens. James S. Whipple gave the main address. He was the son of First Sergeant Henry F. Whipple of Co. H, 154th, who was captured at Gettysburg and died as a prisoner of war at Andersonville. Whipple opened his main address with these words: “One need only to observe the number of people who have assembled here to appreciate the fact that all of you consider this more than an ordinary occasion. The day, the purpose for which you are here should and will be long remembered.” And so Cattaraugus County’s most representative and significant Civil War monument was dedicated. The veterans meant for their memorial to stand for the ages.

Cattaraugus County Memorial and Historical Building at it's Dedication in 1914 (Mark Dunkelman Collection)

Cattaraugus County Memorial and Historical Building at it’s Dedication in 1914 (Mark Dunkelman Collection)

The Cattaraugus County legislature voted to demolish the Historical and Memorial Building on 23rd October 2013. The building has been vacant since the county historical museum was moved from Little Valley to Machias some five years ago. The Olean Times Herald have reported on the planned demolition here. If you are interested in voicing concerns to the local legislators their official contact details are available on their website here. The letter that Mark has sent is as follows:

To the Legislators, Administrators, and People of Cattaraugus County, and the Descendants and Friends of Cattaraugus County’s Civil War Soldiers and Sailors:

Cattaraugus County is on the verge of making a big mistake. On October 23, 2013, the county legislators voted unanimously to use $125,000 in casino funds to demolish the Cattaraugus County Memorial and Historical Building and the adjacent Board of Elections building on Court Street in Little Valley.

Six days later, in an Olean Times Herald article about the planned demolition, County Public Works Commissioner Joseph Pillittere stated, “The county submitted a State Environmental Quality Review, which looks for any significant impacts to the area, including historical. The results showed that there were no significant findings from a historical standpoint.”

To the contrary, as its name implies, the Cattaraugus County Memorial and Historical Building has tremendous historical significance as the county’s most prominent and significant Civil War memorial. More than two hundred Civil War veterans and a large crowd of citizens were present on September 7, 1914, to dedicate the memorial. The building’s purpose was stated in a plaque above the entrance: “To the memory of its soldiers and sailors in the War of the Rebellion, this building is erected by Cattaraugus County.”

 Almost a hundred years later, why does Cattaraugus County want to betray the memory of its Civil War soldiers and sailors by destroying their memorial?

In his statement, Mr. Pillittere observed that the building has been significantly altered since its construction, that it is functionally obsolete, and that it does not comply with the American Disabilities Act. But those conditions do not negate the fact that the building was dedicated as a Civil War memorial, and it will remain a Civil War memorial until the county destroys it.

Civil War veterans were a driving force behind the memorial. They announced plans for it at a gathering in Salamanca in October 1909. Two years later, in September 1911, the memorial’s cornerstone was laid.

At the 1914 dedication ceremony, James S. Whipple delivered the main address. He was the son of First Sergeant Henry F. Whipple of the 154th New York Volunteer Infantry, Cattaraugus County’s most representative Civil War regiment. The elder Whipple was captured at Gettysburg and died as a prisoner of war at Andersonville, Georgia. In his dedicatory oration, James Whipple stated, “We dedicate this structure with our hearts full of love and loyalty for our country, and wish it ever to stand, signifying the deathless patriotism of American soldiers and sailors and their loyalty to the Stars and Stripes.”

Why does Cattaraugus County want to spurn that loyalty and love and deny the patriotism of its Civil War soldiers and sailors by tearing down their memorial?

Some questions for Cattaraugus County legislators and administrators:

What does the county propose to do with the site when the memorial is razed?

Is the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation aware of the county’s decision? Has the county presented the State Environmental Quality Review to the NYS Office of Historic Preservation, as required?

Is any Federal funding or permitting involved in the memorial’s destruction or the re-use of the site? If so, has Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 as amended been followed?

Why has the county neglected to maintain the memorial, in defiance of New York State General Municipal Law 77-A, “Construction and Maintenance of Memorial Building or Monument by county or city”?

Are county veterans’ groups—American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, Vietnam Veterans of America chapters—aware of the county’s decision? What do they think about the plan to destroy the Civil War memorial?

 Mark H. Dunkelman

Providence, Rhode Island

Great-grandson of Cpl. John Langhans,

Co. H, 154th New York,

President (1916) of the Cattaraugus County Veterans Association

www.hardtackregiment.com

The 154th New York Infantry was not an Irish regiment, but should still be of interest to those who wish to explore the Irish experience, as it had number of Irishmen in it’s ranks. The most notable of these was Westmeath native (and later Brigadier-General) Colonel Patrick Henry Jones, who Mark wrote about on the site here. Other Irishmen from the 154th covered on Irish in the American Civil War include Co. Clare’s ‘Senior Citizen Soldier’, Private Barney McAvoy  and Private Richard O’Neill from Limerick, who died as a results of wounds sustained at Chancellorsville. Mark has kindly given his permission to reproduce the details of all the Irishmen he has identified in the regiment, who are listed below:

Members of the 154th New York born in Ireland

William Bailey: Age 33 years. Enlisted August 22, 1862, at Westfield, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. E, September 24, 1862; wounded in foot, slight, in action May 2, 1863, at Chancellorsville, Va.; mustered out May 26, 1865, at Chattanooga, Tenn.

Thomas K. Bambrick: Age 45 years. Enlisted August 22, 1862, at Portland, to serve three years; mustered in as corporal, Co. E, September 24, 1862; mustered out May 16, 1865, at Louisville, Ky.

Edward Behan: Age 26 years. Enlisted August 28, 1862, at Allegany, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. G, September 24, 1862; deserted September 26, 1862.

Edward Brown: Age 44 years. Enlisted August 30, 1862, at Olean, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. I, September 25, 1862; mustered out with company June 11, 1865, near Bladensburg, Md.

Thomas Chanley: Age 28 years. Enlisted at Kinderhook, to serve one year, and mustered in as private, Co. K, January 6, 1865; transferred to 102nd Infantry, June 9, 1865, while absent without leave.

Francis C. Clark: Age 31 years. Enlisted September 1, 1862, at Westfield, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. E, September 24, 1862; captured in action May 2, 1863, at Chancellorsville, Va.; paroled May 14, 1863, at City Point, Va.; deserted June 18, 1863, from Convalescent Camp, Alexandria, Va.

Peter Colivan: Age 29 years.  Enlisted August 30, 1862 at Olean, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. I, September 25, 1862; captured in action May 2, 1863 at Chancellorsville, Va.; paroled May 14, 1863 at City Point, Va.; promoted corporal April 30, 1865; mustered out with company June 11, 1865 near Bladensburg, Md.

Richard Corcoran: Age 31 years. Enlisted August 5, 1862, at Allegany, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. C, September 24, 1862; mustered out with company June 11, 1865, near Bladensburg, Md.

Robert Davis: Age 44 years. Enlisted July 24, 1862, at Mansfield, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. B, September 24, 1862; discharged for disability January 5, 1863, at Washington, D.C.

Patrick Dillon: Age 35 years. Enlisted August 8, 1862, at Allegany, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. G, September 24, 1862; died of consumption January 26, 1864, at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Central Park, N.Y.

James Donegan: Age 34 years. Enlisted August 30, 1862, at Olean, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. I, September 25, 1862; captured in action July 1, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pa.; died November 2, 1863, at Richmond, Va.

John Douglass: Age 21 years. Enlisted August 22, 1862, at Westfield, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. E, September 24, 1862; captured in action May 2, 1863, at Chancellorsville, Va.; paroled May 14, 1863, at City Point, Va.; mustered out with company June 11, 1865, near Bladensburg, Md.

Hugh Erwin: Age 30 years. Enlisted August 28, 1862, at Charlotte, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. F, September 25, 1862; promoted corporal November 1, 1863; died of fever June 4, 1864, at corps hospital, Acworth, Ga.

Patrick Foley: Age 23 years.  Enlisted August 30, 1862 at Persia, to serve three years; mustered in as corporal, Co. K, September 25, 1862; captured in action July 1, 1863 at Gettysburg, Md.; paroled September 16, 1864; mustered out with company June 11, 1865 near Bladensburg, Md.

Richard Foley: Age 21 years.  Enlisted August 30, 1862 at Olean, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. I, September 25, 1862; wounded and captured in action May 2, 1863 at Chancellorsville, Va.; paroled May 14, 1863 at City Point, Va.; transferred to Veteran Reserve Corps March 14, 1865.

Patrick Garvey: Age 28 years.  Enlisted August 28, 1862 at Ellicott, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. F, September 25, 1862; captured in action May 2, 1863 at Chancellorsville, Va.; paroled May 14, 1863 at City Point, Va.; wounded in thigh in action May 8, 1864 at Rocky Face Ridge, Ga.; wounded again slightly in hand June 28, 1864 near Dallas, Ga.; mustered out with company June 11, 1865 near Bladensburg, Md.

Patrick Griffin: Age 18 years. Enlisted August 30, 1862, at Portville, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. I, September 25, 1862; wounded in action July 1, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pa.; killed by guerillas October 2, 1864, at Fort Rosecrans, near Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Thomas Haffren: Age 21 years.  Enlisted August 5, 1862 at Randolph, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. A, September 24, 1862; wounded severely in leg and captured in action July 1, 1863 at Gettysburg, Pa.; paroled, no date; killed in action June 15, 1864 at Lost Mountain, Ga.; buried in Section H, Grave #8878, Marietta National Cemetery.

Hugh Harper: Age 27 years. Enlisted August 27, 1862, at Charlotte, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. F, September 25, 1862; mustered out with company June 11, 1865, near Bladensburg, Md.

John Harper: Age 32 years. Enlisted August 28, 1862, at Charlotte, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. F, September 25, 1862; wounded slightly in action May 2, 1863, at Chancellorsville, Va.; discharged July 8, 1864.

Thomas Harper Jr.: Age 22 years. Enlisted August 22, 1862, at Westfield, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. E, September 24, 1862; captured in action May 2, 1863, at Chancellorsville, Va.; paroled May 14, 1863, at City Point, Va.; discharged for disability September 6, 1863, at Camp Convalescent, Va.

Samuel Hogg: Age 23 years.  Enlisted August 15, 1862 at Great Valley, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. H, September 25, 1862; promoted corporal, no date; wounded in action November 24, 1863 at Chattanooga, Tenn.; promoted sergeant October 17, 1864; mustered out with company June 11, 1865 near Bladensburg, Md.

Andrew Hollister: Age 33 years.  Enlisted August 23, 1862 at Portland, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. E, September 24, 1862; promoted corporal prior to February 29, 1864; wounded slightly in the face in action July 20, 1864 at Peach Tree Creek, Ga.; on detached service in division hospital at Savannah, Ga., September 25, 1864; no further record.

Patrick Henry Jones: Late major, 37th N.Y. Vols.; mustered in as colonel, 154th N.Y., October 8, 1862 at age 31; wounded in right hip and captured in action May 2, 1863 at Chancellorsville, Va.; paroled May 15, 1863 at United States Ford, Va.; injured in action May 8, 1864 at Rocky Face Ridge, Ga.; discharged May 19, 1865 for promotion to brigadier general.

Richard H. Kerr: Age 20 years.  Enlisted July 30, 1862 at Franklinville, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. D, September 24, 1862; promoted corporal January 1, 1863; wounded slightly in the head by a shell and captured in action July 1, 1863 at Gettysburg, Pa.; paroled, no date; wounded in foot in action July 20, 1864 at Peach Tree Creek, Ga.; transferred to Co. A, 5th Regiment, Veteran Reserve Corps, June 12, 1865; mustered out July 5, 1865 at Burnside Barracks, Indianapolis, Ind.

William Lennon: Age 23 years. Enlisted August 30, 1862, at Olean, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. I, September 25, 1862; captured in action July 1, 1863, at Gettysburg, pa.; paroled November 20, 1864; mustered out with company June 11, 1865, near Bladensburg, Md.

Barney McAvoy: Age 44 [sic] years. Enlisted August 4, 1862, at Olean, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. G, September 24, 1862; discharged for disability February 7, 1864, at Lookout Valley, Tenn.

Malcolm McKeig: Age 28 years. Enlisted August 22, 1862, at Westfield, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. E, September 24, 1862; mustered out June 23, 1865, at Elmira, N.Y.

Patrick McNamara: Age 40 years. Enlisted at Villanova, to serve three years, and mustered in as private, Co. B, May 12, 1864; mustered out June 9, 1865, at Elmira, N.Y., as McNara.

James McStay: Age 21 years.  Enlisted July 26, 1862 at Franklinville, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. D, September 24, 1862; promoted corporal December 27, 1863; sergeant, November 1, 1864; mustered out with company June 11, 1865 near Bladensburg, Md.

Richard O’Neill: Age 40 years. Enlisted August 29, 1862, at Ellicott, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. F, September 25, 1862; wounded in scalp, slight, in action May 2, 1863, at Chancellorsville, Va.; died of his wounds May 22, 1863, at hospital in Virginia.

Thomas Regan: Age 23 years.  Enlisted August 16, 1862 at Allegany, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. G, September 24, 1862; wounded badly in the left lung in action May 8, 1864 at Rocky Face Ridge, Ga.; mustered out with company June 11, 1865 near Bladensburg, Md.

Michael Walsh: Age 38 years.  Enlisted August 29, 1862 at Humphrey, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. I, September 25, 1862; wounded and captured in action May 2, 1863 at Chancellorsville, Va.; paroled, no date; absent, in Elizabeth Hospital, Washington, D.C., since December 5, 1863, and at muster-out of company.

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Categories: Memory, Preservation

Author:Damian Shiels

I am an archaeologist based in Ireland, specialising in conflict archaeology.

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12 Comments on “Civil War Memorial in Cattaraugus County, New York, Under Threat”

  1. November 6, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    Thank you for broadcasting my plea, Damian. I appreciate your support. I hope your readers will see fit to protest the plan to demolish Cattaraugus County’s most prominent Civil War memorial. Imagine what the veterans in the photograph would think of that proposal!

    • November 7, 2013 at 8:42 am #

      Hi Mark,

      No problem at all. I find it hard to imagine how this building can be earmarked for demolition when the plaque above the door so clearly states it’s purpose in remembering the Civil War veterans of the county. I truly hope they do not proceed with its destruction. Fingers crossed for a positive outcome.

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

  2. November 7, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    Little Valley, NY is not in an economically thriving area of the state, that’s for sure. What puzzles me is that based on the pictures (http://bit.ly/191Qv4v) it looks like someone spent money restoring the columns and the panel with the inscription above the main entrance.

    I’m always in favor of preserving these testaments to history, but if the local people can’t find a use for the building it will only become derelict and a danger. I hope that Mark’s campaign builds enough momentum to allow the building to be saved.

    What are the locals going to do with the site anyway? It doesn’t look like the type of place where land is at a premium.

    The biggest controversy in the area is the proposal to allow fracking (hydro-fracturing to extract oil/gas from deep below the earth’s surface). So far the Governor won’t license fracking despite the fact that the locals are mostly in favor, at least from what I can tell. Maybe Mark should approach one of those fracking companies and ask them to use the building as an office if they get licensed to frack in the area. Too cynical?

  3. November 8, 2013 at 2:47 am #

    I’ve never been to Little Valley, but Google Street View let me take a virtual tour. Like a lot of Western New York, its better days were a half century ago. Unfortunately, a lot of landmarks in the area are being lost to lack of development.

    • November 8, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

      As a resident of the county, I can say, you are completely correct. A lot of work is being done by a lot of people to try to turn it around.

  4. November 8, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    I encourage you to read this opinion piece I have written. The building has fallen into such a state of disrepair that no hope of renovation exists. http://fedorascotch.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/losing-a-piece-of-history-but-gaining-a-new-chance-to-save-it-in-return/

    • November 12, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

      Thanks for sharing this- I will pass it on to Mark as well, it is an interesting insight.

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

  5. Brad Lockwood
    November 30, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    This building simply must be saved.

    As the author of “Tested XX: The Case Cutlery Dynasty” I have drawn interest near and far from fans of the infamous Case clan of knifemakers, of which I am a descendant. However, when collectors come to Little Valley to see ‘where it all began’ our local officials have nothing to offer them – instead sending them to Bradford PA to spend their money.

    Relatedly, my great-great grandfather, Joseph Lockwood, and his brothers fought in the Civil War, signing up in Elmira, Company H, 27th NY, engaged in the Seven Days Peninsula Campaign, Mechanicsville, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness and, of course, Gettysburg. We have letters from him and I plan to write a book about his adventures.

    Our town needs not a museum few tour but a ‘draw’ for outsiders to spend money and celebrate our history. Consider me on-board with any efforts to spare this important building. Demolishing this building will actually cost more than saving it — We should perhaps focus on restoring the original glass roof on the museum and at last giving Little Valley a source of pride for locals, veterans, and tourists eager to learn, explore, and spend their money locally.

    As the County Seat, Little Valley has since lost our school, most county service departments and jobs, the county museum, and now it seems, one of our last links to our past. Left with only the jail, it is long overdue that county leaders recognize that Little Valley brought this area to greatness and deserves more respect instead of another demolition.

  6. November 30, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    This building simply must be saved.

    As the author of “Tested XX: The Case Cutlery Dynasty” I have drawn interest near and far from fans of the infamous Case clan of knifemakers, of which I am a descendant. However, when collectors come to Little Valley to see ‘where it all began’ our local officials have nothing to offer them – instead sending them to Bradford PA to spend their money.

    Relatedly, my great-great grandfather, Joseph Lockwood, and his brothers fought in the Civil War, signing up in Elmira, Company H, 27th NY, engaged in the Seven Days Peninsula Campaign, Mechanicsville, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness and, of course, Gettysburg. We have letters from him and I plan to write a book about his adventures.

    Our town needs not a museum few tour but a ‘draw’ for outsiders to spend money and celebrate our history — Civil War devotees and, yes, knife collectors, definitely offer a serious economy to boost WNY’s very rusty prospects. Consider me on-board with any efforts to spare this important building. Demolishing this building will actually cost more than saving it — We should perhaps focus on restoring the original glass roof on the museum and at last giving Little Valley a source of pride for locals, veterans, and tourists eager to learn, explore, and spend their money locally.

    As the County Seat, Little Valley has since lost our school, most county service departments and jobs, the county museum, and now it seems, one of our last links to our past. Left with only the jail, it is long overdue that county leaders recognize that Little Valley brought this area to greatness and deserves more respect instead of another demolition.

  7. Brian Zimmer
    February 14, 2014 at 6:05 am #

    What has happened to the memorial? My great-great-great grandfather, Augustus Cradler was a member of the 154th NY.

    • February 15, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

      Hi Brian,

      Thanks for the comment- its future remains under review as far as I am aware. Do you know of Mark Dunkelman’s site on the 154th New York? He does a newsletter on the regiment and I know is always keen to hear from descendants if you have not been in touch already- he has updates on the memorial in the newsletter as well. His books on the 154th are in my view among the best published on any regiment in the Civil War. His site is at http://www.hardtackregiment.com/

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. November – Month for Writing and for Remembering | hqinsights - November 7, 2013

    […] ” Little Valley, a town in upstate New York plans to demolish the Cattaraugus           County Historical and Memorial Building — its Civil War Memorial. “Mark Dunkelman, historian for the 154th New York regiment, (http://www.hardtackregiment.com/) conveyed this news to Damian Shields, an Irish archeologist who researches the stories of the Irish who fought in the American Civil War.    You can read the details on Damian’s blog site:  http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2013/11/06/civil-war-memorial-in-cattaraugus-county-new-york-under-… […]

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