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CLYDE - Passing through this Sandusky County city on U.S. 20, motorists are more likely to notice the commanding figure of Gen. James B. McPherson standing guard at the McPherson Cemetery than the white clapboard house across the street.
Still, a group of local historians is working hard to make sure the boyhood home of the Civil War general is preserved and his story told.
Pat Gill, president of the Clyde Heritage League, said the group just completed a $50,000 renovation of the 1833 Federal-style house where General McPherson, the highest-ranking Union officer to die in the Civil War and Clyde's most noted native son, spent his formative years.
Normally open by appointment only, the house at Maple Street and McPherson Highway - as U.S. 20 was designated in 1941 - will be open to the public from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for Winesburg Weekend, an annual Christmas celebration sponsored by the downtown businesses.
The Clyde Historical Museum, 124 West Buckeye St., also will be open for Winesburg Weekend, an event named for another famous Clyde native, author Sherwood Anderson, whose 1919 short-story collection, Winesburg, Ohio, was based on life in small-town Clyde.
The McPherson House, which was closed for much of the past year, was scraped and painted on the outside after workers replaced nearly 1,000 lineal feet of wood siding, said Mrs. Gill's husband, Bob, who oversaw the project for the heritage league.
Chimneys that had been leaking were reflashed; two upstairs windows and the side porch were replaced, and the front stoop was rebuilt with sandstone slabs.
The history inside the simple home is a fascinating look at a man whom both Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman predicted would go on to great achievements, even becoming president of the United States, said Brenda Stultz, curator of the home and the local history museum.
"He had those kinds of qualities," she said, adding that McPherson was remembered by many as a humanitarian.
"He liked the enemy as well as his own side," Mr. Gill said.
"He made sure they had food to eat."
General McPherson graduated in 1853 from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point at the top of his class.
He taught at West Point for a year after his graduation, then became an Army engineer.
He drew up plans for a military fortification on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay that later would become the well-known federal prison.
It was while he was out West that he met Emily Hoffman, a Baltimore woman he planned to marry until the Civil War intervened.
Placed in command of General Grant's Army of the Tennessee in 1863, he led the occupation and capture of Vicksburg, Miss., then served with General Sherman as he advanced on Atlanta.
In 1864, General McPherson was killed at age 35 in the Battle of Atlanta.
While there are numerous photos, documents, books, and other items that belonged to General McPherson or his family inside the home in Clyde, most of the antique furnishings were donated by people in the community, Ms. Stultz said.
Visitors can see drawings of Alcatraz, the general's sword, and even a plaster of Paris bust believed to have been used as the model for the statue of General McPherson that stands in Washington.
Ms. Stultz said there are some indications that the east parlor was the original kitchen, but it was difficult to ascertain how the house looked when the McPhersons owned it.
"We did not take the home back to a certain date because so little was known about it," she said. "The main purpose of the renovation was to keep it structurally sound for the future."
The heritage league recently christened the remodeled house with a bronze plaque dedicated to Wanda and Harry Meyer, a deceased Clyde couple who donated the home to the heritage league in 1995 with the provision that it be preserved.
The Meyers also created a trust fund for maintenance and renovation of the McPherson House, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974.
Mr. Gill said the Meyers easily could have sold the property along the busy commercial strip. He's glad they didn't.
"We didn't want it torn down to become a gas station," he said.
For more information, go to clydeheritageleague.org.
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