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The Statue Scuffle

What local decisions sparked conflict in late nineteenth century Stamford?

The year 1891 marked the 250th anniversary of the founding of Stamford, but unfortunately, planning got off to a late start and the celebration was immediately postponed until the summer of 1892. According to many accounts, this was only the beginning of a commemoration fraught with tension and misunderstandings.

A Committee of 50 was formed to plan the commemoration and the Committee proposed a monument on the town green. In a history of Stamford published for the 250th anniversary, Edward T. W. Gillespie describes the project as “a permanent memorial of the event: a group of bronze statuary on granite base, representing salient points in the town’s history — its first settlement, its part in the Revolutionary War and in the Civil War of 1861-’65.”

Sculptor John Rogers designed the monument: two large bronze figures depicted a Puritan man and an American Indian woman. Two smaller figures on either side showed a Revolutionary War soldier and a Civil War soldier.

Rogers was well known in his day as the sculptor of small, inexpensive figurines.  His studio was located in New Canaan for some time and today, the building is preserved as the the John Rogers Studio and Museum.

The Committee of 50 initially planned to fund the monument through $13,000 from a tax levy and $20,000 from private donations — this was the largest private amount to be raised in Stamford up until that point. John Clason, a former state representative, made a large donation to the commemoration.

A special town meeting held in May 1892 raised conflicts over the project and its projected cost. Some believed that the statue’s design “elevated the Puritan and slighted the veteran.” These disagreements caused the town to postpone the celebration from June until the fall.

It is believed that in May, Clasen and the Committee of 50 actually decided that the money would be better spent on a community hospital than on the statue.

Some reports indicate that Henry Towne, a prominent citizen and a supporter of plans for the statue, was left out of these discussions and didn’t find out about the new plan until July. Reports tell that he left on a trip abroad soon after and settled in New York upon his return.

From Oct. 16-23, 1892, the 250th anniversary of Stamford was finally celebrated with special church services, choral and band concerts, a parade and rocket displays.

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