Remember Wyoming! That was the battle cry of the American Revolution after the Battle of Wyoming (fought in Exeter) and massacre that followed. More than 300 patriots were slaughtered by Tory soldiers and their Iroquois allies. It was reported that 227 were scalped. Survivors were tortured to death. The event was so appalling that in 1809 Scottish poet Thomas Campbell wrote “Gertrude of Wyoming.” It described an idyllic Wyoming Valley before the battle and then the horrors of the aftermath. The poem was widely read throughout Europe and the U.S., influencing Congress to name a new western state Wyoming and even reached as far as Australia, where a landowner chose the name Wyoming for his community in New South Wales.
Now, I must confess that a Facebook page, Wyoming Commemorative Association, renewed my interest in this history. Specifically, in the history of the Wyoming Monument. I grew up in Wyoming, so I’ve passed the monument thousands of times, even examining it up close and climbing on the canons when I was a kid, but it really has quite a history that I didn’t realize.
We all know that after a few months, the bones of the fallen that could be found were taken to a common burial site. By 1809, people began advocating for a marker or monument but had no success. Another attempt failed in 1826, but in 1832 a competition between two Democratic clubs led to the excavation of the bones and artifacts, followed by the construction of a permanent vault and foundation for the monument. Granite was quarried from Kingston Mountain.
In 1833, Morgan and Blanchard were hired as the main contractors. By now stone was being taken from a site on the east side of the Susquehanna and ferried across the river. On June 10, 1834, the monument was 20 feet high, but the money dried up and the contractors stopped work. In 1841, the Ladies Luzerne Monumental Association (now the Wyoming Monument Association) was formed and raised enough money from dinners and picnics to finish the project.
Philadelphia architect Thomas Ustick Walter’s design is Egyptian Revival, popular in the early 1800s when Egypt was crawling with European, especially French, archaeologists. The obelisk shape represents burial and memorial. Walter was later named the fourth architect of the United States Capitol where he was responsible for adding the two wings and a new dome. The original dome, made of copper, leaked.
The Wyoming Commemorative Association held the first ceremony at the monument on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Wyoming, July 3, 1878. The speaker was President Rutherford B. Hayes. Throughout the years, only two events prevented the ceremony. The first was the Agnes Flood. The second was COVID in 2020. This year, on Saturday, July 3, at 10 a.m., historian William Tharp, of Richmond, Virginia, will be keynote speaker. Tharp wrote his master’s thesis on the public memory of the Battle of Wyoming in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Thank you to the Wyoming Commemorative Association and to local historian William Lewis for providing us with so many interesting bits of history. The Facebook page led me to a YouTube video interview with Lewis where I learned two more very interesting facts. The Wyoming Monument Association is one of the oldest all-female historical associations in the nation. They own the title to the grounds and the monument. Also, there is a bronze door in the U.S. Capitol building, in the east portico leading to the chamber of the House of Representatives, which has panels depicting important events of the American Revolution. These include the reading of the Declaration of Independence, the Battle of Yorktown, the signing of the Treaty of Paris, and the Battle of Wyoming. That’s a pretty big deal. We may take it for granted, but there’s a lot of history in our little towns. On July 3, remember the brave patriots who died on our Great Road, Wyoming Avenue, for American Independence.
Wyoming U.M. Church wimpie sale
Wyoming United Methodist Church, 376 Wyoming Ave., will have a wimpie dinner from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 26. Cost of the meal is $10. Additional wimpies are available for $2.50 each. The event is takeout and drive-thru only. Call 570-655-4742 or 570-693-2821 for information.
Wyoming Free library is kicking off a Virtual Read Aloud fundraiser. Local business owners are asked to make a tax-free donation of $100 to support the library and advertise their businesses. For this event, business owners will record themselves reading a favorite children’s book and it will be shown on the library’s Facebook page. The idea is that the business would be introduced to a new group of potential customers through the video and story chosen. For example, a chef could show his kitchen and read Eric Carle’s “Walter the Baker.” A construction owner could show a work site and read Donald Crews’ “Trucks.” Camera shy? A reader will be provided and librarian John Roberts can help choose an appropriate book. The cost of the video is far less than traditional advertising. It will be a gift to the children of our community and help fund one of our most important institutions, part of the character of our community — our library. Forms are available on the library Facebook page, or contact John Roberts at 570-693-1364. The event goes live Monday, July 5.
Wyoming Free Library is accepting book donations for a pop-up book sale. The sale will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, July 16, and Saturday, July 17. The library welcomes hardcover and paperback fiction and children’s books; no non-fiction. Book donations may be dropped off at the library during normal hours. Please do not leave books outside.
The library has resumed in-person services. Some services are limited. Curbside pickup still can be requested by phone for patrons who do not want to enter the library.
The library is selling tote bags for $10 each. Bags may be purchased during normal business hours.
Barbara Bullions writes about Exeter, Wyoming and West Wyoming every week. To list an item, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 570-301-2185 by Monday.