From Pittsfield travel West on Highway 54. Travel about 6-7 miles. Once you reach the community of Summer Hill the monument will be on your right.
Summer Hill Civil War Veterans Monument
Samuel Hays G. A. R. Post 477 Monument
This beautiful Wisconsin Granite monument is located on State Highway 54 in the town of Summer Hill in Pike County, Illinois. On the four sides of the monument one may find the names of the deceased soldiers that had belonged to the Samuel Hays Post #477. The monument was dedicated on October 28, 1916 among a festive atmosphere of speeches and music. Setting a top the monument is a life size bronze Civil War soldier standing at parade rest. It is said that the likeness of the soldier is Major Samuel Hays.
The Story of the Monument
The monument was the idea of Henry L. Anderson a resident of Summer Hill and a former member and private of Company A, 99th Illinois Infantry. Anderson had been one of the founding members of Grand Army of Republic Samuel Hays Post #477. When the Samuel Hays Post was at its peak, membership was near 125 men. By 1916 the post had but 25 active members. With eighty dollars in the treasury Anderson suggested that the remaining monies be spent to commission a monument to their deceased comrades.
The design and fashioning of the monument was given to local stonecutter Thomas A. Retallic of the Barry Marble Works located in Barry, Illinois in Pike County. The original building that housed the Barry Marble Works still stands on the north side of the square in downtown Barry.
Thomas A. Retallic was born in Straightsville, Ohio on March 30, 1854. He was the son of Francis and Catherine Withely Retallick. When Thomas was nearly ten years of age America was four years into a bloody Civil War. His father Francis had enlisted in Company F of the 122th Ohio Infantry on August 22, 1862. During the Petersburg Campaign Francis became sick with remittent fever and died in July of 1864 at City Point, Virginia.
Retallic designed the monument in three pieces. Why he worked on the Wisconsin granite base the bronze soldier that would top off the monument arrived from the foundry. It was brought to Retallic’s shop where crowds of people gathered to get a look at the statue.
When Retallic finished the monument it weighed around 21 tons. The next step was to move the monument from Retallic’s yard in Barry to Summer Hill. The pieces were packed and loaded upon a railroad car which transported them to Rockport, Illinois. There they were loaded onto a special wagon that was designed to handle the heavy load. It order to get up the steep Atlas Hill the wagon could only carry one piece at a time, and even then it took 4-5 teams of horses to pull the load to the top.
While the work was being done on the making and transporting of the monument H. L Anderson and others were in the process of locating where in Summer Hill the monument would stand. As earlier stated over the years membership had fell off in the Samuel Hays Post. The building where the post had held its meeting and dinners over the years still stood but its activities had ceased. The decision was made to sell the building and property and purchase the lot where the James Chamberlain blacksmith shop had once stood for the sum of $1,800.00.
Samuel Hays was a prominent lawyer in Pittsfield, Illinois who formed a law partnership with C. L. Higbee in Pittsfield. Hays became active in politics throwing his support to the Democratic Party. Under his own admission he stated that in the Presidential election of 1860 he did all he could to prevent Abraham Lincoln from being elected.
Once the election was over and the war drums begin to beat Hays was tireless attending and giving speeches throughout the county. In April 1861 Hays raised a company of men within the county that would become Company K, 16th Illinois Infantry.
In the spring of 1862 Major Hays and the 16th were fighting the enemy during the Corinth, Mississippi Campaign. The poor water supply and heat caused many of the men to become sick with diarrhea and dysentery. Hays was not immune. Overcome with sickness he was furloughed home to rest. His condition became so serve that he could not travel any further than Godfrey, Illinois. His wife and personal physician was sent for but the disease had weakened him to the point that he could not recover. Major Samuel Hays passed away on August 6, 1862. He is buried in West Cemetery, Pittsfield, Pike County, Illinois.