Saving History Saturday: How One Group of Passionate Preservationists Saved a New York Civil War Memorial

In 1914, over two hundred Union veterans gathered in Little Valley, New York for not only their annual reunion, but to dedicate their community’s newest Civil War memorial. A two-story octagonal structure made of brick, wood, and plaster, the beautiful memorial was finally constructed after a five-year fundraising effort. It was the county’s most significant Civil War monument. Not only would the building honor the sacrifices of Cattaraugus County veterans, but it would also house the community’s archives so history could be preserved for generations to come.

Veterans at the Cattaraugus County Memorial Dedication in 1914. Courtesy of Mark Dunkelman.

James S. Whipple, the son of a veteran of the 154th New York Infantry who had died at Andersonville, gave the main address at the dedication. He spoke to what the memorial meant for the community: “Yet to us in Cattaraugus County it tells of the early days, of our soldiers living and dead, and represents the thought, the patient work of those who conceived and built it. It will become the shrine of soldiers and sailors living, and the registry of those who have died.” As they all commemorated the veterans’ services and sacrifices that day in 1914, they believed their precious memorial would be around for hundreds of years so future generations would never forget.

But in 2004 the county historical museum was moved more than twenty miles away, and since then the memorial has sat vacant. In 2013, the county legislature voted to demolish the memorial. Luckily, there have been widespread protests by descendants, input from the Landmark Society of Western New York, and a group of passionate citizens trying to preserve this irreplaceable artifact.

In November 2014, Citizens Advocating Memorial Preservation (CAMP) was formed with the mission to “preserve the Memorial and urge its restoration and reuse.” This group has received praise and support by preservation groups, including the American Battlefield Trust. But, most importantly, CAMP was able to purchase the memorial from the county for $1,079.00 in 2017, effectively saving the building from its doomed fate.

The Cattaraugus County Memorial in its hayday (right) and what it looked like in 2014. Courtesy of Mark Dunkelman.

As of 2019, CAMP is raising funds to restore and reuse the memorial. They are working with the Clinton Brown Company Architecture firm to create a strategic business plan, including goals and preservation work. They are also continuing to maintain the property and host descendant reunions for the community’s 154th New York Infantry.

So, how can you help?

“If you see fit, make a donation to help our cause! Spread the word about our mission to restore this long-neglected Civil War Memorial!” says Mark Dunkelman of CAMP. In 2018, a new historical marker was installed on the property, so if you are in the area, check it out. Please visit cattcomemorial.com for more information and to donate to this important cause.

Have a few minutes to spare? Please help support CAMP by filling out their 2019 planning and fundraising surveys!

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Read some of ECW’s previous coverage of this story:

Cattaraugus County Memorial Preservation Update by Dan Welch

Historic Preservation Crisis in Western New York by Mark Dunkelman

Breaking Trust with Civil War Vets in Catt Co., New York? by Chris Mackowski

CAMPers Making Progress in Memorial Preservation by Mark Dunkelman

The Men of Cattaraugus County: Why They Fought by Chris Mackowski

Paving Over Civil War Memory in the Sesquicentennial Season by Chris Mackowski

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2 Responses to Saving History Saturday: How One Group of Passionate Preservationists Saved a New York Civil War Memorial

  1. Thomas Place says:

    Please join us in preserving this monument to their sacrifice alive .. I f you love your country and what it stands and should stand for take a stand . For their past becomes your present and your present becomes the next generation future . Thank You

  2. Pingback: Week In Review: March 3-10, 2019 | Emerging Civil War

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