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March 29, 2020

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Once upon a time in Ada

By Leland Crouse
Excerpt from Small Town Sampler by Betty Miller
29 Sep 1993 - A target date of December 1993, for the completion of the restoration of the Pennsylvania caboose in Railroad Park would mark the 90th anniversary of another Ada Community project. The old Civil War cannon resting on its granite base in Railroad Park was dedicated in 1903.

It took 21 years to find a fitting centerpiece for the Pennsylvania railroad Park. As the village began to grow, the railroad-owned land from Main Street to Johnson Street (with the track on one side and the alley on the other) was often used for piles of  staves waiting to be shipped from the stave factory. It became an unsightly spot.

In 1882 the village decided it wanted to honor its war veterans, and in 1882 that meant those who has fought in the Civil War. The citizens erected a 15 foot wooden memorial. It withstood the Ada weather for only 10 years.

In 1887 the railroad had given Ada a beautiful new depot closer to Main Street. In 1892 the town replaced the dilapidated wooden monument with a brick monument “stuccoed with cement.” It too could not weather the rain and snow and lasted only a few years.

In 1902 the citizens and town officials decided it was time to make the park a place of beauty and build a fitting war memorial that would last.

Agnew Welsh records that “when an act of Congress gave G.A.R. posts the privilege of claiming a condemned cannon. The Carman Post asked for one for Ada. The secretary of war sent a siege gun from Fort Mifflin, below Philadelphia.”

Members of the post took up a collection of $50 for the cost of loading the gun, but the Pennsylvania Railroad brought the cannon to Ada free of a freight charge. Perhaps it took the same track route from Pennsylvania the 1941 caboose took when Conrail brought it to Ada, freight free, on October 18, 1989.

The cannon was put in the northwest corner of the park while the Carman Post appointed a committee of members and citizens: Colonel N.R. Park, S.W. Nixon, Jacob Leinard, William Lantz, and Agnew Welsh. In November 1902, the committee signed a contract with J.B. Weber of Leipsic for “a Barre granite base, die,  and gun rest.” The cost was $575 and Agnew Welsh reports that “200 individuals and business firmsributed from one dollar to five dollars each.”

On Memorial Day, 1903, Ada Mayor L.A. Greer presided at the dedication and presented the monument on behalf of the donors to Carman Post, 101 Grand Army of the Republic for safekeeping “In Memory of the Soldiers of 1861-65.”

Railroad Park has changed since the cannon took its central position. After Ada citizens voted to buy the park from the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1958, part of the land became a village parking lot. The stone bandstand council built for the village is gone, and so are the sounds of the Wednesday night band concerts. The Ada garden club’s bed of pink petunias is gone and so are the green parl benches.

The world has changed too. The Civil War is only one of many wars recorded in our history books. A red caboose no longer brings up the rear of the trains that pass through Ada.

In spite of the changes, treasurers from the past, the depot, the cannon, the caboose, are surrounded and cared for by a new generation.

Those who worked for their lasting monument in 1903 would be glad to know that 90 years later, Railroad Park is still a pleasant place to rest, surrounded by the beauty of the past and present.

Looking at the cannon, it is time to address painting the cannon again.