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Gettysburg Civil War Women’s Memorial Dedication Nov. 16
By Kathryn Jorgensen
November 2002

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 gift.”

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 Thomas.

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.

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