Of Railways, Families, and Tourists: The Origins of the Lewis and Clark Monument


The influence of the City Beautiful movement made its way into Charlottesville during the summer of 1912. On July 1, 1912, the Charlottesville and Albermarle Railway Company changed hands over to two men by the names of Norman W. James and Frederick C Todd. As new owners of the railway company, they expressed interest in improving and beautifying the local community. At the first officer's meeting, Todd stated his intention to do all in his power to advance the interest of this community. (CDP 9-8-12) In less than a month, the general manager of the railway, John L. Livers, requested permission from the city of Charlottesville to beautify Midway Park by planting trees and shrubbery and installing a fountain, "as it is a passing point for our cars and would be observed by our patrons". (CDP 9-8-12)

The City Council of Charlottesville approved the beautification of Midway Park in November of 1912 and the improvements began the following spring. The Charlottesville Daily Progress suggested a monument of some sort be placed in Midway park because,

"There is a very general desire, although no leader has come forward to champion it, for a monument in the little park in Main Street at Midway School. Nothing more appropriate could be done than to erect a monument to Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville....it should be placed in nearness to the public school, because he was the originator of the thought which eventually produced the system in this state. It would be a fine thing if a replica of some statue of Jefferson could be procured for use in this improvement." (CDP 4-4-13)

However, within six weeks of this editorial, the Daily Progress reported that the railway company had decided to seek a monument honoring the Meriweather Lewis and William Clark western expedition in preference to a statue of Jefferson stating, "It is a matter of regret that no suitable memorial has been erected to these brave men, and it is peculiarly fitting that an appeal be made to the National government by the citizens of Charlottesville and people of their native county [sic] for funds to provide a monument. (CDP 5-24-13) A question immediately presents itself, what caused this drastic change in Midway Park's design? The answer lies in the manner in which funds for public monuments were normally obtained. Monuments obtained financing primarily on the basis of private funds from individuals or groups of people interested in promoting a local issues. (Park E-3) However, the people of Charlottesville started on the national level - Judge Richard T.W. Duke submitted a $20,000 contribution to pay for the monument. (CDP 5-24-13) The request was denied. The railroad company continued to seek financing for the monument but was forced to look more on the local level for funding.

Interestingly enough, later correspondence between executives of the railway company and other supporters for a monument in Midway Park suggests that wealthy families in Albermarle County were more than willing to contribute to a monument of a certain kind - perhaps one which honored their ancestors. The Lewis and Clark families had a historic presence in the Charlottesville and Albermarle communities, especially the Clarks whose land title dated back to the colonial era. Alonzo Church of Michigan, married to Carlotta Clark (granddaughter of William Clark), suggested that the railway company seek possible funding from the Clark family because they possessed "thousands of dollars". (Church 7-16-15) In a later letter to W. O. Watson, John Livers asked to "stir up interest for a monument with the Clark heirs", noting they were "very wealthy", and "might donate the monument and relieve us of the burden...don't expect any trouble". (Livers 9-10-15) Additionally, General J. Walls Kearney, who was a descendent of Clark and a man of "considerable means", promised to leave money for a monument in his will but with the stipulation that it had to honor the Lewis and Clark expedition. Kearney noted that there existed no monument honoring the explorers in the East. A commemorative monument would bring honor to these men and to Charlottesville. (Livers 4-26-16) This correspondence suggests the tension that existed between the initiation of a public monument honoring to the community and obtaining the needed funds to start such a project. Not surprisingly, the idea for a monument honoring to Thomas Jefferson dropped from sight.

Despite the presence of wealthy descendents to Lewis and Clark present in the Charlottesville area, funding for the statue remained a problem for the railway company. In a letter to Watson, R.C. Bellard Thurston commented, "It is often discouraging to those who start a movement like this for there is apparently so little interest shown that the burden must necessarily fall on a few. Our country is still so new in comparison with the European countries that we have not yet reached the point where the general man feels the need for those patriotic reminders of deeds of their ancestors." (ACHS records) Indeed, the lack of patronage for the monument concerned many Charlottesville residents. At this point, funding had to be secured from a private individual for the project to continue. An editorial in the Daily Progress asked for additional help,

"A land without monuments is a land without memories (quotation from Father Ryan) and this is true of Albermarle County which is the birthplace and scene of some of the activities of so many great and splendid men of the past who have helped to make history of this county" and that the community must, "furnish support moral and otherwise for local improvements to bring the community up to the high place and standard which it should occupy, [there is] no beautification adornment present". (CDP 12-9-15)

The editorial continued to report that 'a report [was] quietly made by certain enthusiastic individuals to secure the monument for two of Albermarle's most distinguished sons - Lewis and Clark." Finally, the editorial stated that an estimated five thousand dollars was pledged by a private party but a "disappointing" amount remained. It called for anyone in the city who "feels pride in local history" to come to the forefront and donate money for the cause which represented the "starting point in the beautification movement" . The editorial article also blatantly mentioned the likely prestige attached to the person who donated the full sum, "the monument will give honor where honor is due" and that any citizen could "make for himself and enduring name, couple his own with great and glorious ones...will anyone come forward?" (CDP 12-9-15) A man by the name of Paul Goodloe McIntire answered the editorial's call.

Introduction/City Beautiful/Origins/Paul G. McIntire/Process/Interpretations/Conclusion/Works Cited