The beauty that is the current foliage amid the trees at Park Square and the newly refurbished Civil War monument that proudly stands at the western edge of the square's circle might make a stranger actually consider moving into this economically challenged area of the state.
Maybe I caught the monument on a good day. With the western setting sun hitting the color sergeant atop just right, and the base reflecting that sunlight, for that one moment, at least, it looked every bit the polished tribute we all hoped it would be. Of course, a makeover was due more than 130 years after it was introduced to the downtown, but kudos are belatedly offered from this corner to those involved in making it happen.
It is, as they say, a beautiful thing.
There are 108 names of Civil War veterans listed at the base of the monument who either were killed in action or passed from illness during the war. I mention that distinction -- and it's certainly not an attempt to compromise the efforts of any soldier -- because diseases were as much the enemy in those days as was the leaded bullet of the enemy. Both, over time, proved equally fatal. Being killed or having died during the conflict were two separate categories. Both should be recognized and honored.
The 108 casualties listed on the monument may seem to be a small number, and when compared to the carnage the city suffered during the Great War and World War II it probably is. But Pittsfield boasted a population of only 8,000 prior to the Civil War, and if you eliminate women and children, that 108 cuts heavily into the adult male population. It was no small hit.
I like writing about the monument, because I like writing about Parthenia Dickinson, which I've done before and gladly will again today. It was through her passion and diligence that we have a monument at all. I think we've all met people like Parthenia -- I would love to know if she went by any sort of nickname, I mean what do you do to shorten Parthenia -- who was a go-getter whose approach to life was, "Why wait until tomorrow when we can do it today?"
She married Curtis T. Fenn, and while I don't know if her husband served during the Civil War, I do know that Parthenia was in charge of the Ladies' Aid Society, which raised more than $10,000 during the conflict, funds designed to help the families of local soldiers who were serving.
I'm going to assume that Mrs. Fenn stretched that 10 grand the best she could and I'm sure it was much appreciated from the quarters the funds reached.
Parthenia, her fundraising skills now sharp, didn't let up when the war ended. She lobbied for a monument to honor both those living and ones who had passed during the conflict. The woman worked up another $10,000 for the monument -- recent renovations went for more than $40,000 -- which compelled the city to ante up about another $7,000 for improvements at the square.
Trees were felled, grass trimmed and the edges of the oval graded in advance of the dedication, which after the usual red tape and political wrangling finally occurred on Sept. 24, 1872.
So, Parthenia Dickinson Fenn was a great woman in city history. We have both Dickinson Avenue and Fenn Street in Pittsfield, but I can only guess. Anyone know for sure?
Brian Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.