MOUNT GILEAD — Morrow County pride was on display Saturday as friends and neighbors came from every corner to experience the re-enactment of the Victory Shaft dedication of 1919.
A really good feeling was present among the crowds as people greeted friends and neighbors.
“I talked to friends I hadn’t seen in years,” said Mount Gilead resident Nancy Grossman. “So many people came out for this program.”
The sweltering 86-degree heat didn’t curb the crowd’s enthusiasm as 300 gathered for the Veterans’ Banner recognition at the First Baptist Church. Several hundred more came to watch the parade, while more than 500 sat in lawn chairs on the square or stood to view the re-enactment of the dedication of the Victory Shaft.
Between events people strolled along the downtown Mount Gilead streets and got a bite to eat in restaurants. Sidewalks were filled with people who visited with friends and enjoyed the parade that featured three county high school bands, several antique tractors and civic groups.
The Libraries of Morrow County sponsored Uncle Sam on stilts from the Amazing Giants in Columbus. He was a real crowd-pleaser as he walked along the streets and led the parade.
Centennial Committee Chairman Donna Carver said the parade was very much a part of the re-enactment of the day. News reports from 1919 estimated that thousands had come out to see the first parade and unveiling of the monument.
“It is a great day for the community, and to just be together and enjoy friends and neighbors,” said Marty Barnett, whose husband Ken and granddaughter Carolyn Barr participated in the re-enactment.
Little Theatre participation
The Morrow Little Theatre’s re-enactment was introduced by Morrow County Commissioner Warren Davis. Davis also announced that Phil Warburton from Hudson, Ohio, was present. He is the son of Betty Johnston, who unveiled the Victory Shaft at its dedication in 1919.
Stirring remarks were given about “patriotism and civic pride” by State Rep. Riordan McClain and U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson’s staff member.
The program of dedication opened with Jaimie Zeger singing the Star Spangled Banner with rousing emotion. Event Emcee who was Vice Chairman Of the Morrow County War Savings Committee, E.M. Willis played by Ken Barnett.
Actors read and spoke the parts of the men who were in the program 100 years ago. Jamie Brucker gave the invocation of Rev. D.H. Cramer, Seth Jackson read the speech of Honorable William Graves Sharp with gusto and Joey Powell was a crowd favorite, speaking the part of then Sen. Warren G. Harding.
While the speech by Sharp was scholarly and more formal with quotes from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Harding’s words were both personal and inspirational. Sharp was the distinguished former U.S. Ambassador to France and Harding was a U.S. Senator and had recently announced that he was running for President. Both men were natives of Morrow County.
Powell gave Harding’s words some warmth as he greeted “neighbors and dear friends” he recognized in the crowd. He saw his roommate from Ohio Central College in Iberia, Frank Miller and named others in the crowd including “Dr. Nathan Tucker, Mr. Mark Cook, Mr. Fate, and Dr. Millard — Leaders all.”
Harding recalled grist being taken from his family farm near Blooming Grove by his great-grandmother to a mill in Lexington. He reminisced about swimming in his grandfather’s creek and his good experience in attending Ohio Central College in Iberia.
Harding recognized the Farm Bureau and farmers in the community. He noted that 25 percent of those who went to war came from farms.
“You took to yourselves the responsibility of feeding not only our own people, but our allies across the sea,” Harding said.
Carver said that Sharp’s speech was verbatim to that of the 1919 dedication. Harding, on the other, had spoken extemporaneously and the speech that Powell gave was a combination of the newspaper reports of the day and speeches that Harding had given a few weeks prior.
Carver thanked all of the groups and the committee that took part and contributed. She closed the service by reading the names of the 29 World War I veterans whose names are inscribed on the west side of the victory shaft.
“Positive, that’s the word for everything today,” said Bill Hershner who came from the Johnsville area. “The parade, the veterans program, the reenactment. It’s all very positive for the county.”