A Memorial to
Thomas Francis Meagher
Join us on the levee at
Fort Benton, Montana
June 28, 2009
Why a Memorial?
After a spectacular and colorful life, first as a patriotic leader in
Ireland, then as a dauntless commanding general of the Irish Brigade in
the American Civil War, finally as a progressive statesman on the early
Montana Territorial political scene, this remarkable man met his fate in the
late hours of July 1, 1867 while on a river boat tied up at Fort Benton,
Montana. Since that time nothing has been put in place to mark the site
of the untimely death of one of the most active Montana men in the 19th
century. So the Helena Hibernians, the Thomas Francis Meagher Division,
is now planning to establish an appropriate memorial to their namesake.
The monument will be of a slim, black granite base, around 6’ 7”
tall, and comes from a local quarry with a heroic sculpted bronze upper
torso and head of Meagher, about 2’ 9” tall, in civilian dress of the time.
A bronze plate will front the stone with an appropriate proclamation.
The sculptor is Ron Herron, a Montana artist, who has done a number of
extraordinary bronze works.
The site for this testimonial is a lovely spot on the levee, nearly directly
across Main Street in Fort Benton from the Baker House, where Meagher
spent his last hours prior to boarding the riverboat steamer, G.A. Thompson.
The Missouri River and distant bluffs provide a fine Montana backdrop.
Eventually, several benches will be placed near the site to provide a
pause for reflection on what the memorial represents.
Dedication of the testament to Meagher will take place on Sunday,
June 28, 2009. Although the anniversary date of his death is July 1,
the date chosen is part of an annual three day Fort Benton observance of
their Summer Celebration. The undertaking has the enthusiastic support of
the Montana Historical Society.
Fort Benton, Birthplace of Montana
The original fort was first established as a fur trading
center in 1847, when Montana
was an unexplored wilderness.
The village really began to
prosper with the growth of
steamboat traffic, beginning in
1859. River traffic increased
dramatically when Fort Benton
became the unloading place for all kinds of commodities for the
new territory. The fort was sold to the Military in 1865.
Today, Fort Benton is a thriving, small Montana community with a great historical past and a desire to preserve all that it represents. There is continued effort to reconstruct the old fort and to enlarge the town’s heritage complex and museum. Several fine monuments exist on the levee of the Missouri, including a marvelous heroic size statue of Lewis and Clark, as well as Shep, the famous sheep dog.
It was here in Fort Benton on July 1st, 1867 that Thomas Francis
Meagher, on a journey to pick
up military rifles for a militia
being formed in Virginia City,
Montana Territory, of which he
was commanding officer, met
a mysterious end that’s never
The Pitch for Funds
After getting better informed about Meagher and knowing the reasons
for a memorial to his name and his status in Montana history, now’s the
time for us to ask for contributions to this worthy cause. The Hibernians of
Helena are seeking to raise $40,000 in order to appropriately honor the
man with a monument at Fort Benton. We are asking for any donation
you can and wish to make. For those who can afford it, and have Irish
ancestry, for a $200 donation or more we’ll send you a beautiful, 8”x
10”, art-crafted family crest of your heritage, suitable
for framing, created in Celtic lettering by Marty
Lord of Helena.
Donations are tax-deductible. Please make checks payable to
“Meagher Memorial” and send to the address below.
In addition to having a dolmen-like, black
granite stone with a sculpted likeness of Meagher,
the Hibernians will have cast up to 50 miniature size
bronze replicas of the original. This will constitute
a limited edition signed by the sculptor that will eventually be offered for
sale or provided as gifts for sizeable donations to the project.
Meagher Memorial at Fort Benton
- Chair, Hank Burgess
- Mike O’Connor
- Dan Sullivan
- Dan Gruber, CPA
- Joe Calnan
- P.J. McHugh
- Tom Pahut
- Bob Morgan
- Gary Forney
- Paul Wylie
- Lenore Puhek
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Thomas Francis Meagher Division of AOH
P.O. Box 1916
Helena, Montana 59624