Western Report: Julia Grant statue still sparks controversy

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-115885701912785.jpg’, ‘Photo provided’, ‘New statue in Galena of Julia Dent Grant, wife of President Ulysses S. Grant.’);

Well, she has arrived. The long-awaited unveiling of the new statue in Galena honoring the wife of one-time (and very brief) resident of Galena, President Ulysses S. Grant. She is Julia Dent Grant; and as I wrote a few weeks ago, I was not too fond of the idea of spending nearly $120,000 for the project.

I also wrote at the time all of the funds were private funds—not tax dollars—so I was very careful to explain, I surely recognize the rights of private individuals and organizations to raise money and spend it any way they wish. It was my opinion, however, that an amount of money like that could be better spent in so many other ways.

Well, I have heard from many other Galena residents who feel like I do about the project, and I have also heard from a few who don’t. It is interesting to note the ones against the project seem to be Galena residents not affiliated with any person or group involved with the project, and those in support of Julia Dent Grant are members of the community either affiliated with one of the supporting organizations or with members of those groups.

It was a very interesting split. But then I heard from the Jo Daviess County Clerk, whom I respect very much. She pretty much told me when she read my thoughts about the statue, she took it to mean that I was calling all of those who support the statue “stupid.” I assured her that I never even hinted at that, and again stressed that with private money, those folks could do what they like. It turns out that I had upset her daughter, who is a curator at the Grant Home in Galena, and she was one of the driving forces behind the event. Ah, I can see why the Clerk was upset with me.

Well, to be fair, again let me say that I respect the rights of others to raise that money and erect a bronzed Julia Dent Grant. I also respect the people who put the actual event on and coordinated the project. I was not at the ceremony, but I heard it was very nice.

However, I must be fair to myself as well. A few days after the ceremony, I went up to see the statue, and I discovered two things. First, to my dismay, a contributor’s paver brick marked a donation by West Galena Township—my township. My tax dollars were there. Now, I really do have a voice to raise against the project.

The second thing I learned is that I agree with a letter to the editor to a local Galena paper written by a published Julia Dent Grant historian, who was a guest of honor at the unveiling. She asked that the statue be taken down because she thought it was not at all flattering to Julia.

As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so is the appreciation of art. Since I found out my tax dollars are in the statue somewhere, I can’t believe we wasted the money for this project, and it’s not a very good looking likeness…unless…maybe of President Grant.

John Huschik is a free-lance writer from Galena and covers the Jo Daviess County political scene.

From the Sept. 20-26, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!