History & Tourism

Richland Roots: The Monument Maker

23 Jun , 2020  

By: 1812Blockhouse

1812Blockhouse shares posts in our “Richland Roots” series to reveal stories of the less-commonly known people born here, or who lived here, and then went on to make significant contributions to state, regional, or national history. Other posts in the series are available here.

There are recognized experts in many artistic endeavors that have produced one significant, known work, be it a piece of music or work of art.

Such is the case with a Mansfield man who was an obviously talented architect of granite monuments, but who has only one major commission known to have been built. That particular work, the Steuben County Veterans Monument in Angola, Indiana (pictured above), is a towering column that is currently seeing a major restoration effort take place.

James Clifton Ayres was born in October, 1878, and by the age of 25 was working in the offices of W.A. Hambleton, a Mansfield seller of granite monuments. He and his family lived at 35 Helen Avenue, and he was obviously well-respected for his work. Trade magazines of the mid-1910s mentioned him often as not only showing at regional competitions for marble and granite design, but in winning many of them. At the 1916 National Retail Monument Convention in Cleveland, for instance, he took top prize in all three of the classes.

His major surviving work in Angola was a high profile commission. Over 1,900 Steuben County residents had petitioned for the creation of the monument, designed to recognize the contributions of the 1,278 county men who served in the US Civil War, of which 240 lost their lives.

The monument is of Barre granite from Vermont, and is faced at the base with four large bronze statues. It is 19 feet, 6 inches square and soars to 70 feet. Total cost of the monument was $16,000.

Not only has Ayres’ work survived now for 104 years since it was erected, it is undergoing its second major restoration this summer. This article entitled “Monument scheduled for a tuneup” profiles the work which is being undertaken.

James Ayres died in an automobile accident just five years after the monument was dedicated. He is buried in Piqua, but obviously his work lives on.

Sources: Wikipedia, The Steuben Republican, Find-a-Grave, various trade journals

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