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A LOOK BACK: Wadsworth Monument Connects Springville to U.S. History

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By Derek M. Otto

On the recent cemetery tour in Maplewood cemetery, I noticed one of the more interesting monuments there. The General John B. Wadsworth monument is very unique. According the description in Briggs History of the Original Town of Concord 1883, the monument stands 31 feet and six inches above ground.  It was manufactured by Rose and Lautz of Buffalo and is composed of Maine granite. Not only is it a monument to the Wadsworth family, it is to freemasonry with its symbols and emblems.

On the north side the inscription reads:  “In memory of Gen. John B. Wadsworth, son of Richard, born in Buffalo, NY, 1823, Dec. 26. Died in Springville, NY, 1877, Nov. 7.  After extensive travels in the four quarters of the globe he came to the home of his youth to die here and rest by the side of his parents.  His respect for his ancestors incited him to provide for the erection of this family monument.”

The west side of the monument memorializes the Wadsworth family’s role in saving the Connecticut Charter in the bottom of an oak tree.  “Memorialized Hon. William Wadsworth came from England 1632, settled in Hartford Conn, 1636 and died there 1675.  Captain Joseph Wadsworth, son of William. Preserved the Charter of Connecticut in the historic oak, 1687, Oct. 31 and died in 1729.  Sergeant Jonathan Wadsworth son of Joseph died 1729.”

Beneath a figure of a Bible on the south side reads:

“Captain Jonathan Wadsworth Jr. Son of Jonathan, was killed near Saratoga, 1777, Sept. 19.  Henry Wadsworth son of Jonathan Jr. died 1821, Oct. 13.  Richard Wadsworth son of Henry died April 1, aged 76 years.  Ann McClean wife of Richard died 1859, Oct 15 aged 72 years.”

The east side of the monument is blank.

The inscriptions had me curious about John Wadsworth. A little research led me to look deeper in to the four quarters of the globe. I learned that in 1842, John left Springville with his brother Frederick and went to Vicksburg, MS where he worked as a clerk and in a mercantile. In 1849, he got a case of gold fever and went to California by sea.   According to Briggs, Wadsworth was nearly shipwrecked off the coast of South America.   For several years, John worked in gold mines. He later found himself back in the mercantile business in Oregon, supplying the United States Army during the Indian wars. It was here he was given the title Assistant Commissary General.   

In 1859, John Wadsworth returned to Springville when his mother, aunt and father died in a brief span of a few years.  In 1861, John moved to Washington and once again supplied the Army with supplies.  The Civil War made Wadsworth very rich; with money to burn, he began his tour of the globe. First he traveled extensively in the United States and Canada. In 1869, he ventured off to Europe and the Middle East; he was reported to have been at the opening of the Suez Canal. He traveled the Greek islands and holy lands before going back to Europe. In Germany, he contracted a very bad cold and suffered from asthma the rest of his life. After being ill, he returned to Springville in 1872. He died from an asthma attack in 1877.

When you are a single man with no heirs, what do you do?  You build the largest monument in the cemetery and give your buddies money to care for it. And that what General Wadsworth did.

With all his money not quite spent, John made plans for his monument before his death for the cost of $3,000. Five hundred dollars went to the local Springville Masonic lodge to perpetual care for the grounds around the monument.

Its dedication was a spectacle. It began with a parade in Buffalo to the train station.  With train all loaded, it arrived in Springville. (At that time, the train station was where the old fire hall is.)   With over 100 Masonic leaders in Springville, they had lunch in the Hall’s Opera House and then paraded through Springville to the cemetery.   

When it was dedicated in 1878, it was estimated that 5,000 people were in the cemetery.    

  When you venture into Maplewood cemetery and see the Wadsworth monument, you now have little more information on General  John B. Wadsworth.

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