Gettysburg Civil War Women’s Memorial
Dedication Nov. 16
By Kathryn Jorgensen
GETTYSBURG, Pa. — When the Gettysburg Civil
War Women’s Memorial is dedicated on Nov. 16, the audience
will include descendants of Elizabeth Thorn, the woman depicted
by the statue.
She was a pregnant mother of three, about 30 years old, when
war broke out in Gettysburg. Her husband Peter, the caretaker
of Evergreen Cemetery, was off with the 138th Pennsylvania Infantry.
She, her parents and children fled from their gatehouse home.
When Elizabeth Thorn returned she was ordered to start burying
the dead — and she did — 91 of them. She managed
the cemetery until her husband’s return in 1865 and the
family remained at the gatehouse until 1874.
The bronze memorial depicts a weary Thorn, wiping her brow,
leaning on her shovel. Sculptor Ron Tunison says the larger-than-life
figure is about 7 feet tall and will weigh over a ton. It will
be transported from the foundry in New York on a flatbed truck
in early November and installed on a footing slightly higher
than ground level.
Brian Kennell, current superintendent of Evergreen Cemetery,
who has lived there since he was 13, conceived of the idea for
the women’s memorial and has led the fundraising.
“Seeing the exhaustion in her face is an indication of
what all the women endured and accomplished in those days,”
he says. “I think it will touch a lot of people as a work
of art and as a tribute.” Of Tunison he says, “Ron
is a true artist. He’s giving the town of Gettysburg a
Kennell looks forward to welcoming Thorn descendants who are
coming from all over the country. An open house and cemetery
tour will be held for them the day before the dedication.
The gatehouse has been restored. Descendants will see Elizabeth
and Peter’s bedroom with its oval top windows and hemlock
floors. Family members are bringing old photos for Kennell to
copy for his archives. In the 1980s a family member donated
the Thorns’ clock which Elizabeth found hanging on the
outside of the gatehouse when she returned after the battle
and found her food and other possessions gone.
The 10 a.m. dedication ceremony will last about 35 minutes,
giving people plenty of time to take part in Re-membrance Day
activities. Speakers will include women who have written about
women of Gettysburg: Juanita Leisch, Eileen Conklin and Sally
Tunison and cemetery association president John Schwartz, a
member of the memorial committee, will do the un-veiling. From
3 to 5 p.m. Tunison will be at the gatehouse to meet people.
Small statuettes of Elizabeth Thorn will be sold to benefit
the memorial fund.
Kennell says he’s $8,000 shy of the needed funds. The
goal was to raise more than $100,000 that will include a trust
to pay for maintaining the statue and give it annual cleaning
and waxing and to maintain the gatehouse.
The cemetery has installed new sidewalks and moved a road leading
through the gatehouse away from the statue that will stand 50
feet southeast of the gatehouse. By moving the road eight feet
space has opened for 70 burial sites on what Kennell calls most
historic land — 150 yards from where the Gettysburg Address
was given, 100 yards from where the first soldiers to die in
the battle were buried, 40 yards from the gatehouse and 30 to
40 yards from the me-morial.
Kennell plans to publish a book that will document the women’s
memorial from concept through dedication. It will share the
story of Elizabeth Thorn and how she represented the women of
Gettysburg. Sales proceeds will also go to preservation of the
statue and gatehouse.
Anyone interested in the memorial is invited to a celebration
sit-down dinner Nov. 15 at the Carriage House in Emmitsburg,
Md., a short distance from Gettysburg. Reservations should be
made with Kennell at (717) 334-4121 before Nov. 10.
Memorial donations may be sent to Evergreen Cemetery, 799 Baltimore
St., Gettysburg, PA 17325.