'Boy with the Leaky Boot' to return to Wadsworth, Ohio for city's bicentennial

WADSWORTH, Ohio — He has been missing for more than seven decades.

But come Memorial Day, the city will once more have its Boy with the Leaky Boot statue.

The statue, a depiction of a boy with a leaking boot taking water to Civil War soldiers, was installed in the Medina County community in the late 1800s.

City officials say it was taken down at the beginning of World War II when scrap metal was needed to help the war effort.

Sandusky officials agreed last year to allow one of its two Boy with the Leaky Boot statues to be used by the Toledo Area Sculptors Guild as a model to remold a new one for Wadsworth, said Wadsworth Mayor Robin Laubaugh.

“When finished, the sculpture will look like the statue in Cleethorpes, England, which has a French brown patina rather than being painted,” said Jim Havens, 76, of Woodville, a retired ironworker and member of the sculptors guild.

The new statue, he said, will be cast from Everdur Silicon bronze — “a metal that will last for hundreds of years,” Havens said. “Many museums in Europe have bronze sculptures two and three thousand years old.”

The statue is expected to be finished in mid-May, Havens said. The Sandusky statue will be reinstalled this spring.

The new statue in Wadsworth will be put in place in May in East Park near the gazebo along Broad Street. It will be officially dedicated over the Memorial Day weekend.

The Wadsworth Bicentennial Committee has been raising $17,000 to reproduce the 4-foot-tall statue and $6,000 for the fountain that will be its base, said the mayor.

The Wadsworth American Legion Post 170 has raised about $9,500 for the project, which includes $2,000 to purchase plaques with the names of soldiers from Wadsworth who were killed in World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam that will be placed at the base of the statue, said Joe Rodgers, post commander.

“I am so hepped up on this,” said the 72-year-old Vietnam veteran.

Along with the money raised, the post’s sergeant at arms, Bill Alexander, of AK Construction, is donating labor and material to help with construction, Rodgers said. Wadsworth VFW Post 1089 also raised $500 for the project.

“I think it is a wonderful tribute to the soldiers but also a tribute to our community to remember our roots and the early days of Wadsworth,” Laubaugh said.

Dan Freeman, a member of the city’s Bicentennial Committee, said the whole town is excited about the return of the statue.

“Everybody who finds out about it and gets involved is extremely excited,” said Freeman, 57.

The 200th anniversary of the city that is being celebrated this year includes a number of activities throughout 2014 including a penny drive to be held in the Wadsworth city elementary schools the week of March 10 to 14 to help raise a goal of $2,000 for the statue project. First Night Wadsworth will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. March 15 in downtown Wadsworth with food, entertainment and fireworks.

A time capsule buried in Woodlawn Cemetery 50 years ago will be put on display in the city during First Night and will be on display in other locations during the coming months and opened over Founder’s Day Weekend Aug. 7 to 10, the mayor said.

According to an August 1998 article by the late Beacon Journal columnist Fran Murphey, Ellie Damm, president of the Old House Guild of Sandusky, said all of the statues of the Boy with the Leaky Boot in the country “were made by J. W. Fiske or J. L. Mott of New York City between 1879 and the first quarter of the 20th century. There are about 30 boys that I know of in the United States, Mexico and Canada.”

The Sandusky statue was purchased in 1893, Murphey wrote.

The original Sandusky statue is under glass in city hall, Laubaugh said, and the replica, made in 1991, is on display in Washington Park in Sandusky.

Roger L. Havens, principal of Franklin Elementary and a co-chair of the Bicentennial Committee, who has written a book about the statue called The Legend of the Boy with the Leaky Boot, said the original statue once stood in the North Park in downtown Wadsworth.

“There were several war memorials located in the downtown area that over the years were sacrificed to the war efforts or removed to another location,” said Havens. “The Civil War monument, which once stood in front of the gazebo, was moved to the Woodlawn Cemetery. The Spanish-American War rock with a porthole cover from the battleship Maine was moved to the same cemetery. It was located in the East Park [same as the gazebo]. A Civil War cannon was once located in the North Park, near the Boy with the Leaky Boot, and it was donated to the war cause for its metal. The Boy with the Leaky Boot suffered a similar demise.”

Havens said he is thrilled that “a war memorial is again being located in a prominent position close to the center of town. This new memorial will be a visual reminder of all who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It will provide an area where locals and visitors can reflect and remember all the soldiers that once served, or who currently serve, in our military forces.”

According to the Wadsworth Bicentennial website, the city was founded in 1814 on land owned by the Connecticut Western Reserve. The first tree was cut down in what would become Wadsworth on March 1, 1814, by Benjamin Dean and Revolutionary War Hero General Elijah Wadsworth, for whom the town was named.

For more on the Wadsworth Bicentennial or how to donate to the Boy with the Boot project, visit www.wadsworth200.com or call the mayor’s office at 330-335-2705.


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