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Behind the Beards
The Men We Decided to Make Statues of
By Greg McNabb
Fort Wayne Reader
Several months ago, a plan to move the statue of General Anthony Wayne to the courthouse square generated a lot of controversy. We’re not weighing in on that issue here, but it got us thinking — while we know the reputation and of our city’s namesake in general, we don’t know all that much about his story. And to go even further, we have no idea who some of these other statues dotted across Fort Wayne are meant to honor. In fact, you’ve probably assumed the statues are of boring rich men from the 1800’s who built a park for orphans or something. And maybe that’s the case. Still, someone spent a lot of time, money, and effort to erect massive monuments to these guys, so we decided to take a closer look at a few of them and discover why…
Major General “Long Hank” Henry W. Lawton
If there were plans to move the statue of Henry Lawton to the courthouse green, you might not care. But that’s just because you don’t know how ridiculously cool Henry Lawton is.
Location: Lakeside Park
Some background: Henry Ware Lawton is pretty much Fort Wayne’s action hero. He was introduced to military life when he began marching to the music of his fife-playing neighbor as a little boy, and he continued this tendency as a teenager, marching for clubs such as the Fort Wayne Wide-Awakes, and the Zouave company at his school; however it wasn’t until 1861 that Lawton, after volunteering to fight for Lincoln, first revealed to the world a glimpse of his future knack for action greatness.
For his first mission as a volunteer in the Civil War, Lawton and his regiment met up in Goshen to begin their pursuit of some Confederate forces, who they followed all the way to West Virginia. Along the way, Lawton caught a case of the measles; he was hospitalized in a boxcar. While healing, an intense storm came through and completely destroyed the boxcar Lawton was in. After emerging from the wreckage, Lawton responded to the disaster by demanding that he continue marching with his men.
When the regiment finally saw the Confederate troops they’d been tracking, the commanding officers planned an attack strategy. Not possessing the unmanly trait of patience, Lawton and a few others snuck away from the strategizing and just charged the enemy troops. One of Lawton’s buddies was shot in the heart, and Lawton ran over to save him despite the enemy fire (it is unclear whether or not this happened in slow motion). As if that wasn’t classic enough, after Lawton was imprisoned in the stables for his insubordination, he intimidated the guards into letting him leave.
Later on Lawton would pursue Geronimo and his band of Indians through Arizona and Mexico, eventually facilitating their surrender. When asked about his strategy, Lawton replied, “No tactics at all, just went after him and got him. There was no room for tactics.” I can’t confirm this, but I’d wager a guess that Lawton could drink a half gallon of whiskey and not feel anything at all.
Lawton also fought in the Spanish-American War. He commanded an attack against El Caney, a town nearby Santiago de Cuba; as Lawton was on the verge of victory, he received an order from General Shafter’s messenger that his troops were to withdraw. Knowing that General Shafter was eight miles away, Lawton told the messenger that such an important order would need to be in writing. By the time the messenger returned with the written order, Lawton’s men had taken El Caney, and Lawton had effectively stuck it to the Man without breaking any rules.
Lawton later died from a gunshot to the lungs in the Philippines. Some time afterward, Fort Wayne erected a statue in his honor at Lakeside Park.
Verdict: The statue of Lawton is somewhat heroic, but it does not seem to capture Lawton’s grandeur.
Recommendations: Give Lawton a horse in the statue; Have his hair be blowing in the wind; Perhaps have him arm-wrestling, and winning, against Geronimo; Surround his statue with several other statues of scantily clad women reaching towards him; Have large amounts of chest hair protruding from his collar; Make the statue literally twenty times bigger.
Major General Anthony Wayne
Location: Freimann Square
Some Background: Though once the leading American tanner, “Mad” Anthony Wayne is much better known for his military exploits, especially the one that led to Fort Wayne’s creation. He fought in the American Revolution where he earned a reputation for himself; once that was over, he moved on from killing the British to killing the Indians.
After the 1783 Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War, the British still encouraged some of their old Indian allies to attack settlements in what is now Ohio and Indiana. General Wayne was dispatched to get rid of these Indians, which he accomplished after much suffering, violence, starvation, etc.
Fun Fact about Anthony Wayne: Wayne’s body was buried at Fort Presque Isle, but was later dug up and boiled, so that Wayne’s son, Isaac, could transport the bones back to Pennsylvania, where Anthony was from. However, Isaac only had two saddlebags to put the bones in, which meant he really had to stuff the bones to make them fit. Legend has it that on his ride to Pennsylvania, a path that is now U.S. Route 322, Isaac dropped many of Anthony Wayne’s bones; now, on his birthday, the ghost of Anthony Wayne is said to haunt the highway in search of his old bones. However, legend does not address what would actually happen if he found them.
Another Fun Fact: Bruce Wayne (a.k.a Batman) is a descendant of Anthony Wayne, according to Bill Finger, co-creator of the character.
Verdict: The statue has a pretty epic look, which is obviously a good thing. Wayne’s statue just screams chivalry, thanks a lot to the horse.
Recommendations: The inscription on the statue is pretty boring, and the inclusion of the Fun Facts I provided earlier would definitely spice it up. The inscription should also mention that Wayne was once America’s leading tanner. Also, why not replace the statue of Anthony Wayne with another one of Lawton? In the same vein, why not rename Fort Wayne as Fort Lawton? Lawton’s superiority to Wayne would outweigh the historical inaccuracies of doing so.
Perry A. Randall
Location: East Swinney Park
Some Background: The statue of Perry A. Randall has just about the vaguest inscription possible. It reads: “ERECTED BY THE CITIZENS OF FORT WAYNE AS A MEMORIAL TO PERRY A. RANDALL IN RECOGNITION OF THE HIGH EXAMPLE OF CIVIC PATRIOTISM HIS LIFE AFFORDED. FROM EARLY MANHOOD HE WAS CONTINUALLY A RESIDENT OF THIS CITY. IN INITIATIVE AND EXECUTIVE ABILITY HE POSSESSED RARE GIFTS FOR THE PERFORMANCE OF PUBLIC SERVICE. EVERY PROJECT FOR THE BENEFIT WELFARE OR ADVANCEMENT OF FORT WAYNE FOUND IN HIM A DEVOTED, UNSELFISH AND EFFICIENT SUPPORTER.”
So he could have been anyone. It ends up Perry A. Randall was a Fort Wayne lawyer and entrepreneur who was quite successful; interestingly enough, it was Randall who came up with the idea of naming the Lincoln National Life Insurance Company after Abraham Lincoln, feeling that the reminder of “Honest Abe” would inspire trust.
The Verdict: The statue is quite nice, with great attention being given to his bushy mustache. The marble base of the statue is equipped with both stairs and what appeared to me to be matching bird baths, making Randall seem more like a Roman emperor than a lawyer/entrepreneur.
Recommendations: At least from where I parked, it was an inconvenient walk to Randall’s statue. By the time I got there I had worked up a bit of a thirst; it would have been very nice if the empty bird baths had contained some water, or maybe something with electrolytes.
Location: Memorial Park
Some Background: Art Smith may be the only other Fort Wayne hero who can stand against Lawton. When Smith was twenty years old, his parents mortgaged their home so Smith could build a plane. Smith then crashed and completely wrecked the plane on his first flight.
Presumably after Smith became better at flying, he made quite a name for himself as one of the pioneers of skywriting, which is the art of attaching flares to your plane at night and then flying in the shape of letters.
As a stunt pilot Smith made several trips to Asia and inspired both Korea’s first male pilot and first female pilot. Later on he tried to join the Army during WWI but was refused; his shortness is legitimately a possible reason for his refusal.
Smith’s final accomplishment was flying overnight airmail between New York and Chicago. It was during this business that he crashed and died.
Fun Fact: Art Smith inadvertently played a role in the creation of Honda; a young Soichiro Honda felt a strong interest in mechanics and vehicles after watching Art Smith’s flying act.
Verdict: The actual statue, “The Spirit of Flight,” is a bit... abstract. Though one of the coolest looking statues, it’s a pretty goofy representation of Smith. First of all, Smith is naked except for a pilot’s cap. Secondly, he has wings. Thirdly, there is a strange cloudy substance that wraps around his legs and covers his junk. Nearly all of these things need a serious explanation.
Additionally, the four engravings along the base of the statue don’t make any sense. The first has a brief inscription about who Smith was. The second is a picture of a topless angel holding the hand of a Native American and pointing towards a steamboat and a train. The second engraving is of a horse drawn carriage. The third is of a Native American wrapped in a robe, standing amongst some hills, looking at a train.