ANGOLA — Gary Fair wanted to make sure he “got it right” when he sent out the soldiers from the Steuben County Soldiers’ Monument for repairs this summer.
“This is my first time (working on the Monument). I wanted to make sure I got it right, so I called Jeff (Counterman) in,” said Fair, the maintenance supervisor for Steuben County government.
He relied on the metals expertise of Counterman, owner of Steuben County Welding & Fabrication, Angola.
It looks like they got it right.
Counterman and employee Logan Gary returned the statues to the Monument on Tuesday morning, working early so traffic did not have to be disrupted long.
Work started at 6 a.m. with John Day Services using a crane to help lift the statues so they could be placed on their four corners of the Monument. The Public Square was reopened to traffic about 50 minutes later and Counterman and Gary worked for about another hour reattaching the statues.
Counterman not only repaired damage in the statues — torn metal, ears that were falling off and tiny holes — but he changed the way the soldiers depicting the branches of military from the Civil War were mounted on their granite base.
Instead of using bolts going through the base and into the granite, that was reversed, with stainless steel threaded rods getting epoxied into the granite then attached through the bases using brass washers and brass cap nuts that were oxidized in the shop to look weathered.
“That just wasn’t a good setup,” Counterman said of the original method that had the bolts connected to the Monument using lead lag shields. The bolts had worked themselves loose and could actually be removed by hand, without the assistance of wrenches or much force at all.
Hagerman Group, Fort Wayne, worked on cleaning the granite and tuck pointing the mortar joints.
In addition, Hagerman employees attached pyramid-shaped pieces under the soldier statues so water could be shed off the granite.
Drainage holes under the soldiers through the granite had clogged and could not be reopened. Also, granite had been wearing away, creating pockets where water could pool and damage the surface through freezing and thawing.
After repairs were made to the soldiers, S&K Building Services, Indianapolis, brought the patina to life and applied five coats of a protective lacquer.
The soldiers — which depict the army, cavalry, navy and artillery — being back in downtown Angola should put social media rumors to rest. Literally days after they were removed on Aug. 7 the conspiracy theories started, with people claiming the soldiers were taken down as part of some politically correct movement about the Civil War. Commenters reminded the conspiracy theorists that the Steuben County Soldiers’ Monument was for Union soldiers, not the confederacy.
Steuben County Commissioner Jim Crowl characterized the conspiracies as “bull” and the work of the uninformed.
There were 1,278 men from Steuben County who fought in the Civil War. All of whom, including the 280 who gave their lives, are listed on tablets on the four sides of the Monument.
Steuben County sent more men, per capita, to the Civil War than any other county in Indiana.
The Monument itself was built by Angola Monument Co., on land generally where McCool’s Tap Room now resides on the corner of West Gillmore and North Elizabeth streets.
Owner of Angola Monument was E.M. Hetzler, who would go on to become elected mayor of Angola after the Monument was erected in 1917, right when Steuben County was sending its sons off to another war, World War I.