Obelisks, thought to have represent rays of the sun, are narrow, four-sided, tapering monuments topped by a pyramid-like shape, erected by ancient civilizations around the world, but are most often associated with ancient Egypt. This form is common to monuments built in many countries to honor great leaders. One of the best known examples, the Washington Monument in Washington DC, constructed in 1884, is the world’s tallest true obelisk, standing just over 555 feet. Many Maine towns commissioned much smaller obelisks, as somber memorials to the local men and boys who fought and died in the Civil War. While most appear to be similar, their inscriptions lend local importance to this simple monument form.
This simple obelisk on the hill west of downtown Bath is topped by a single eagle at rest, a sign of the country at peace. At some later point, artillery and cannon balls were added to the small park around the base of the monument, muting its peaceful message.
This monument was erected by brothers Oliver Otis (O.O.), Charles Henry and Rowland Howard of Leeds. General O.O. Howard, for whom Howard University is named, directed the Freedman’s Bureau following the Civil War. Though all three brothers studied for the ministry, O.O. and Charles Henry became Civil War generals, and, after the war, the brothers wanted to erect a monument in honor of the Leeds men who served the Union. Their brother Rowland, a minister very active in the world peace movement, suggested a peace monument rather than a war monument. The thirty foot granite obelisk is inscribed “Peace was sure then.” The monument is reached by a short, easy hiking trail described in the Maine Gazetteer.
This simple obelisk, a replica of the monument honoring the Sixteenth Maine Regiment at Gettysburg, was presented to the town of Farmington by a local soldier, George W. Ranger, in memory of his comrades who were killed in the War. It sits in a small park on the north side of Farmington, and, like so many others erected before 1930, served as a landmark for auto tourists, in this case, on their way to the mountain and lake resorts of western Maine. By 1924, tour guide directions omitted the reference to the monument when this spot became simply “Main and Broadway.”
Maine Street & Broadway
Hermon is not a notable tourist destination now, but in the early decades of the 20th century, it enjoyed the benefits of a good main road and trolley lines that served the village. In small towns like this, the trolley tracks followed the main road and, in the early days of auto tourism, that was enough to put Hermon—and its Soldiers’ Monument--into the guidebooks’ recommended driving routes.
Route 2 & Route 100
While some monuments were ornate and included human figures or lengthy inscriptions, Norridgewock’s monument is typical of many in Maine. It has minimal ornamentation and a very simple inscription: “In Memory of Our Fallen Heroes And To Our Honored Veterans 1901.” An undisclosed amount of money was raised for the monument by the Village Improvement Society, which suggests that the people of the town desired or could only afford something small and plain.
Main Street & Bridge Street