WWI Memorial Trees
At the Annual town meeting in March of 1920, the town appropriated two hundred dollars to plant thirteen memorial trees to remember the men who had died in service during World War I. The trees were set out on the north side of Main Street between High and School Streets. On Memorial Day, 1920, services were held here as well as at the Soldiers' Monument in Isaac Lothrop Prouty Park. The trees were decorated with wreaths, flowers, and flags. In 1923 James Donovan, janitor of the Pleasant Street School, was appointed caretaker of the trees.
The narrow strip between the hand packed sidewalk and road proved to be a poor location. One tree died in the first year, and others had to be replaced during the next ten years. Several were replaced in 1932. Those that did well and were fairly large were badly damaged or blown down in the hurricane of 1938. Finally, in 1939 the widening of the road made it impossible to keep the trees at their present location, and plans were made to set out thirteen trees at Isaac Lothrop Prouty Park.
The trees were set out in the park by a committee from the Gaudette-Kirk Post of the American Legion. They were arranged in a large circle around the Civil War Monument. (Fiske, 530-534)
In February of 1907, the associate members of the G.A.R. Post formed a committee to see what could be done to erect a monument for the veterans of the Civil War. This activity to erect a soldiers' monument was most certainly caused by the donation of the park. Here was the perfect site for the monument. Two months after the committee had been formed, Everett Starr Jones, son of the late Erastus Jones, informed the committee that the family wished to erect a monument in memory of their father. The offer was formally made at the annual town meeting of April 6th, 1907.
Several designs were considered by the committee, and it was not until the fall of 1908 that they decided in favor of a design by sculptor Andrew O'Connor, Sr. In August of 1909 John O'Gara poured the concrete for the foundation of the statue. A foundation six feet six inches square and five feet deep was put in to support the granite base from the Westerly Quarry. This quarry was known for the finest and most expensive granite. On the front of this granite base a bronze relief of Union soldiers named "The Picket Guard" was attached, and on the other sides were bronze plaques with the names of the 319 men from Spencer who served in the Civil War.
The monument is seventeen feet, nine inches high. The statue at the top, a woman symbolizing the Republic, is a little more than eight feet in height. Though wearing the laurel wreath of victory, she holds an olive branch indicating her desire for peace, as well as a shield showing her readiness to defend herself. Even the soldiers cast in relief on the granite base reflect a defensive posture and are meant to show a country that is not aggressive, but willing to defend itself. The statute was a departure from sameness of most Civil War Monuments, which are generally rather somber and heavy, and often feature a soldier leaning on a rifle.
The monument was set in place during the second week in December of 1910. The John J. Kittredge granite works of Worcester did the work. They were also responsibe for the granite base of the monument. Both remained covered until the dedication on Patriots Day, April 19th, 1911. (Fiske, 530-534)
The Park Grounds
In the Fall of 1903 Isaac Lothrop Prouty purchased the Nathan Hersey home on Main Street in Spencer and there was a great deal of speculation as to why he had bought the property, but most thought a park would be forthcoming. When Isaac Lothrop Prouty died unexpectedly in 1904 at the age of seventy-three, his plans for the Hersey estate had not been realized; however, he apparently had told his daughter Emma and her husband Myron A. Young of these plans. In March of 1905, his heirs announced that the Hersey house and barn would be moved and the land graded. A landscape architect would then be employed to create a park for the town.
Once the buildings were removed, the hillside was leveled and a stone retaining wall was built at the north end of the park. In the center of the wall, a granite tablet was inserted with the inscription: "The Isaac Lothrop Prouty Park, presented to the town of Spencer 1905." An ornamental iron fence was also put on the top of the wall.
The lot was graded, and paths of gravel topped with cinders were laid out. Two paths, or walks, entered the park from Main Street. One was at the southeast end of the park and led to the west door of the high school. The other entered at the center of the park, then divided after fifteen feet, circling the park, but leaving a large round grass plot in the center. The two walks joined about halfway up the east walk. Various trees and shrubs were planted throughout the park. A hedge of shrubs was planted on the western border of the park, separating it from the adjoining residence. Approximately eighty varieties of plants and shrubs were set out in the park.
In 1940, the badly washed paths of the park were graded and seeded to grass. Today, the original entrance to the cinder paths can be identified by two low granite stones next to the Main Street Sidewalk. (Fiske, 530-534)
The dedication of the Soldiers' Monument was an elaborate affair. A parade began at the corner of Pleasant and Main Street at one o'clock. It moved East to Mechanics Street, south to Chestnut Street, west to Elm, and back to Main. Here, Company K of the Hibernian Rifles provided an escort for the G.A.R (Grand Army of the Republic) veterans for the march up Main Street to North Street and over the terrace in front of the high school to the monument site.
The town was decorated with red, white, and blue, and practically every citizen wore a small flag as a boutonniere. At the park a platform had been erected just west of the monument. Here were seated the members of the Jones family; officers of the local and national G.A.R.; the selectman; J.J. Kittredge, who had been responsible for the cutting of the granite and assembling and erecting the monument; the momument committee; clergy; and G.A.R. guests. The Civil War veterans were seated directly north of the monument.
The weather had been threatening, and it began to sprinkle as the ceremonies began with a medley of Civil War songs by the Worcester Brass Band. Everett Starr Jones then formally presented the monument to the town in memory of his father Erastus Jones. At the finish of his address two grandchildren of Erastus Jones pulled a cord that released the flags covering the statue.
Selectman Charles A. Lazell accepted the monument for the town, and the G.A.R. dedicated the statute according to their prescribed ritual. By now the rain had become a steady downpour, and the meeting was adjourned to the Congressional Church where an address was given by Corporal Tanner, a well known Civil War veteran who had lost both legs in the war. After ceremonies at the church, the veterans formed up and marched to the Town Hall where 250 meals were served. (Fiske, 530-534)
Isaac L. Prouty Memorial Park
All Historical Information Sourced from:
*Fiske, Jeffrey H. "History of Spencer, Massachusetts 1857-1975". Spencer, MA: Harrington & Associates, Print Management, Copyright 1990 by the Spencer Historical Commission.
Brian David Sweeney 9/11 Memorial
Brian David Sweeney, born in Spencer, Massachusetts to Leonard H. and Luise A. Sweeney on August 10, 1963.
Brian was born and raised in Spencer, Massachusetts, his mothers’ hometown. He attended David Prouty High School, graduating in 1981. He played many sports. His favorite, football, lead him to play at Boston University on a full scholarship. He graduated from Boston University with a degree in Public Relations & Mass Communications.
Brian followed his dream to fly for The United States Navy shortly after graduating from college by attending the navy’s Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida. Graduating first in his class, Brian spent most of his naval career in San Diego, California at Miramar Naval Air Station as a Radar Intercept Officer with various squadrons of F-14D fighter jets. Brian served our country in the Middle East, protecting the no fly zone during and after Desert Storm. He was asked to study at Top Gun, the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School and upon graduation Brian was asked to stay on at Top Gun as an instructor. After being injured while training a student he was forced to retire from the Navy.
His career lead him to work with defense contractors and back east. He settled in Barnstable, Massachusetts with his wife, Julie. He travelled extensively for work, testing the weapons systems that he helped design in real world fighter jet applications.
On September 11, 2001 Brian flew to Logan Airport in Boston from Barnstable and boarded United Airlines Flight # 175 headed for Los Angeles, California. Shortly into that flight he realized that he was on a plane that had been hijacked and selflessly made two phone calls from the back of the plane. He left a message for his wife and he spoke to his mother. He was aware of his situation and of the outcome and he called to pass on his love to all.
His spirit and courage lives on in his family, friends and comrades. We hope that this memorial to the victims and families of those affected by the events of that day serves to bring peace and solace to all who visit while also reminding us to remain united and vigilant.