Friday, Oct. 12, will mark the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the 18-foot tall granite Civil War Monument in the Poland Riverside Cemetery. It was in 1887 that the former Army major and future president of the United States, William McKinley Jr., spoke at the dedication ceremonies. The festive occasion started at the Village Green with the G.A.R. veterans marching to the Poland Cemetery. There they formed a hollow square around the veiled monument as was a military custom of honoring the missing soldiers who were killed in battle.
A martial band provided music while Cook Fitch Kirtland, chairman of the monument committee and grandson of Poland's founder, Turhand Kirtland, unveiled the handsome monument. A large crowd pressed forward to hear McKinley give an eloquent address paying a warm tribute to the heroic dead whose names were inscribed upon the pedestal supporting the life size statue of a Union veteran. Nine of the 39 inscribed names are those of soldiers from the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Company E, being the same company in which McKinley first served as a private in 1861.
History has not recorded McKinley's speech that October day, but on similar occasions he has been quoted as saying: "The storm and siege, the bivouac and battle lines, have given place to the administration of peace and the manifestations of affectionate regard for fallen comrades. The service of the day is more to us, far more to us, than to those in whose memory it is performed. It reminds us what our stricken comrades did and sacrificed and won. It teaches us the awful cost of liberty and the price of National unity, and bids us guard with sacred and sleepless vigilance the great and immortal work which they wrought."
Each year Post 15 of the American Legion in Poland places a small American flag beside the grave of every war veteran in the Riverside Cemetery. Of the more than 900 flags now in the cemetery there are 128 flags beside the veterans who fought in the Civil War.