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Published: Monday, 7/16/2001

Lafayette's citizens rally around statue

LAFAYETTE, Ohio - A nearly century-old stone statue dedicated to an unknown Civil War soldier and long the target of high school pranks and vandals, is in line for a face-lift.

Lafayette, an Allen County village of three churches, a post office, and beauty shop, has rallied around plans to raise $30,000 to repair the 18-foot-high statue and restore the masonry base and iron fence.

Fund-raisers have collected $11,000, and more activities are in the works, said Jennifer Palmer, chairwoman of the restoration committee. Plans call for an auction and dinner theater in the fall.

The project is a joint effort between the village of 400 and Jackson Township.

"The community has really got|ten behind this and has been sending in donations," Ms. Palmer said.

The fund-raising has extended well beyond the village limits and has touched former residents, Ms. Palmer said, noting the recent receipt of a check and old newspaper clippings sent by a former resident living in Arizona.

After nearly a century guarding the village square, the statue is ready for renewed attention, Ms. Palmer said. The statue was erected in 1903 as a tribute to the Civil War dead. Other wars have broadened its significance.

Villagers have taken an intense interest in their community, which was founded in the 1830s as Herring, and incorporated in 1868. Jackson Township was founded in 1834.

"We very much want to preserve our history," Ms. Palmer said. "We've been uncovering a lot of historical data about the village by going through old township and village records.

The statue is the focal point of the community at the intersection of Main and High streets. Memorial Day activities and a parade are centered around the soldier who stands at parade rest.

The stone has discolored, the soldier's bill of his cap and his scabbard are missing, and the masonry around the base is crumbling. The original iron fence has been removed and will be stored. Landscaping will grace the surrounding area.

The statue has been painted by vandals and suffered other indignities by high school students from Allen East, just up the street, Ms. Palmer said.

"When we've caught the guys, we made them clean it with toothbrushes," she said.

Restoration is to begin in Oc|tober, when Mike Major, an expert from Urbana, Ohio, starts his work.

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