Ex-Mayor Spearheads War Memorial
Barbara Hall has researched records in her effort to get a memorial stone for borough residents who died in the Civil War installed at Memorial Park.
The park's first memorial was dedicated on July 5, 1920 to honor Chatham residents who died in World War I. "That was the first war after Chatham became first the village, then the Borough of Chatham," Hall said.
Over the past 92 years more monuments were added for additional wars, including World War II. The park was rededicated on May 31, 1997 for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Chatham Borough. In 2011 the plaques were refurbished and a new stone and plaque were added to honor Vincent Sullivan, a Chatham resident who died in the second Gulf War.
Hall now wishes to have the council's support in "including a memorial stone for the villagers who died during the Civil War. There appears to be sufficient space for one or two additional stones along with the markers that currently exist at Memorial Park," Hall said.
A Civil War plaque for Chatham Borough casualties is tricky, since, as Mayor Bruce Harris pointed out, "Chatham Borough didn't exist during the Civil War." Until 1897, the borough was part of Chatham Township.
Hall said local churches are a primary source for records dating back to the Civil War era, and that she has conducted a great deal of research already. However, she said, "I'm not going to spend much more time on it if it's not approved." So far Hall said she has about 10 names, which she needs to confirm before finalizing.
Hall said she believes the stone and plaque could be donated from an external source, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Florham Park, because they have donated plaques in the past. "I'm not asking for money," she told the council.
The next step, Hall said, would probably be to add a stone honoring residents who died in the Revolutionary War. "We will never be able to look up names, but we should probably have a dedication, because that's when we came into being," she said.
Part of Hall's plan is to construct a separate garden for the outdoor landscaping in Memorial Park which helped the borough earn the McFlower Town award. The large flowers, she said, have obstructed memorial plaques for trees planted in honor of Chatham residents such as Jan Westfall.
The council did not reach an official decision, but most, including Councilman John Holman and Council President James Lonergan, seemed in favor. Lonergan said he didn't realize the park was dedicated primarily to those who died in World War I. "I assumed Memorial Park was a memorial for all war veterans," he said.
"My sense is there's probably no objection," Harris said. "It seems like a good idea."
Hall, a member of the Chatham Borough Historical Society, has been researching names of borough residents who fought and died in the Civil War for her own gratification for some time. Susan Allen of the Historical Society said they support Hall's efforts.