- Associated Press - Monday, November 28, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Atop a 50-foot column, a bronze statue linking Minnesotans to the Civil War stands tarnished.

Pollutants have taken their toll on the more-than-a-century-old Soldiers and Sailors Memorial in Summit Park overlooking downtown St. Paul, marring what was once a pristine metal monument.

“It is stable, but there is a lot of corrosion from 110 years of exposure,” said Colleen Sheehy, executive director of Public Art Saint Paul.

Now, help is on the way.

The Minnesota Historical Society awarded $60,000 earlier this month to renovate the memorial. Public Art Saint Paul, the group who will be working on the project, says the fixes will help revive the tale of Josias King, who is said to be the first Minnesotan who enlisted in the Civil War, the St. Paul Pioneer Press (https://bit.ly/2geBo4d ) reported.

Though Minnesotans drive by the statue every day, many don’t know much about its history, Sheehy said. The project will include an educational assistant on site during the fixes in order to answer any questions about the memorial, Sheehy said.

Dedicated in 1903, the statue is attributed to John Karl Daniels, a prominent Minnesota sculptor. It is a cast bronze image of King atop of 50-foot pedestal of Vermont granite. It stands just below the Cathedral of St. Paul.

The bulk of the renovation work will be done on the statue, which has seen considerable wear, Sheehy said. Along with the corrosion, the monument’s chipped stone column and bronze plaques at ground level will also be tended to. The overall cost is estimated at $120,000.

With the Historical Society’s contribution set, Public Art Saint Paul is working on raising the other half of the costs, Sheehy said, which will also cover scaffolding, viewing sites, promotional materials as well as the educational program.

“We don’t see a lot of other entities that fund these types of projects,” said Carolyn Veeser-Egbide, grants manager at the Minnesota Historical Society.

Not everyone initially believed that King was the first Minnesotan to enlist for Civil War Service.

Some have claimed that Aaron Greenwald of Anoka was the earliest to sign up for the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, though historical documents have backed up King’s claim to the title, according to MNopedia, an online resource about Minnesotan history that is curated by the Minnesota Historical Society.

King quickly rose through the ranks in one of the first state regiments offered for federal service. The group suffered massive casualties during the war, especially during the Battle of Gettysburg. In 1870, King resigned to care for his sick wife.

He was later appointed to Inspector General of the Minnesota National Guard in 1885 and has been called the “Father” of the group.

Still, his storied history has been largely forgotten.

Historian and Minnesota Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said he has had people ask him who the person is atop the monument and its meaning. He said that upping the public’s knowledge about a historical figure like King is a benefit to Minnesotan culture.

“When you are the first of anything in the Civil War, it’s important,” Urdahl said.


Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com

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