Ohio’s American Civil War soldiers and civilians sought to commemorate the troopers’ devotion to and service with the United States by constructing monuments and other memorials.
During the American Civil War, Ohio provided the federal government with 260 regiments of men, including infantry, artillery, and cavalry units. Ohioans also served in several other regiments from other states, most notably from Kentucky, West Virginia, and Massachusetts, as well as in federal units. Almost 330,000 Ohio men, including 5,092 African Americans, served in the Union military during the conflict.
Ohio’s soldiers and civilians sought to commemorate the troopers’ devotion to and service with the United States by constructing monuments and other memorials. Ohioans completed the first of these commemorations during the Civil War, with hundreds more being built after the conflict. Ohioans have built at least 295 monuments to commemorate Civil War veterans, civilians, political leaders, and war-related events in the state. Eighty-six of the state’s eighty-eight counties contain Civil War monuments, with Hamilton County, Lucas County, Lorain County, Brown County, and Franklin County each boasting ten or more memorials each. Only Clinton County and Noble County do not contain Civil War monuments.
In 1888, Mrs. Mary Freer decided to erect a monument to honor Ashland, Ohio’s deceased Civil War soldiers. Her husband, Jonas Freer, had died on January 31, 1886. He had been the president of Farmers Bank in Ashland. Upon Jonas’s death, Mary Freer became a major community philanthropist, donating $2500.00 for construction of this memorial. She also paid for a clock in the tower of one of Ashland’s Methodist churches. Upon Mary Freer’s death in 1901, her will ordered that her ninety-one acre farm be donated and made the site of the Ashland County Children’s Home.
The monument stands eighteen feet tall and is made entirely of granite, including the six-foot tall soldier standing at parade rest that tops the memorial. Inscribed on the front of the monument is: “Erected by Mr. and Mrs. Jonas Freer to the Memory of Our Dead Soldiers 1888.” Behind the memorial are a cannon and an artillery limber.
The monument was formally dedicated on November 15, 1888. Mary Freer hosted a dinner party for thirty-seven guests, including former President of the United States Rutherford B. Hayes. After the lunch, the Ashland City Band and a Grand Army of the Republic Color Guard escorted the guests, who rode in carriages, to the monument site. Hayes gave a speech and thanked Mrs. Freer for the construction of the memorial, stating, “It is rare that a woman would give a Civil War statue and this showed her American patriotism.”
The monument remains in excellent condition and is located on the lawn of the Ashland County Courthouse, at the intersection of Second Street and Church Street. Two additional veterans’ memorials are located nearby to this monument. Near the steps of the courthouse is a tablet that honors all Ashland County veterans, as does the Ashland County Veterans Memorial, which is located at the intersection of Main Street and Claremont Avenue.