Decades-Long Hunt For Missing Statue Still Baffles
The Mystery Remains
SINCLAIRVILLE — As efforts continue to locate a Underground Railroad statue recently stolen from Jamestown, Larry Barmore’s decades-long hunt for a missing Evergreen Cemetery statue honoring soldiers has yielded no results.
“The minute I saw the story (about the missing Jamestown statue), it reminded me of the Sinclairville statue,” Barmore said. “I said to myself, ‘I sure hope those people have better luck than we did.'”
In 1891, a granite monument was erected in the Evergreen Cemetery in Sinclairville by the Women’s Relief Corps to honor those soldiers who fought in the Civil War. The monument was dedicated on May 30, 1891, which was deemed Decoration Day back then.
“(The monument) stood there for 18 years, and in 1909, the Grand Army of the Republic had a bronze statue of a Civil War soldier placed on top of the monument,” said Barmore, president of the Valley Historical Society.
That Decoration Day in 1909 was covered by the then-Jamestown Journal.
“Decoration Day was fittingly observed in this village on Monday, May 31. The March to Evergreen Cemetery was led by the Sinclairville brass band … (and) the new bronze statue on the soldiers monument was dedicated.”
The statue stood on the monument until 1966, when someone noticed it had disappeared sometime during the night.
“It stood there for 57 years,” Barmore said. “One day the caretaker saw it was gone. Immediately they put out a warrant for it, but nothing ever materialized.”
Barmore started researching the missing statue 15 years ago and got word of a number of rumors regarding who may have stolen the statue and how it was done.
“I talked to lots of people who were around at the time,” he said. “Basically, they told me all the rumors.”
The rumors range from the culprits scrapping the bronze statue to a rag-tag group of kids storing it in a barn where they worked on cars.
“Somebody stole it and they took it down to the scrapyard for beer money, other people told me they were rolling out of town and they got down to Bloomer Road, got scared and threw it into the Cassadaga Creek,” Barmore said of the rumors. “Somebody told me there was this group of kids who called themselves the Barn Boys, who worked on their cars in this barn, and they’re the ones who stole it.”
“I find it very difficult to believe that somebody took it to the scrapyard for beer money, which is the most prevalent rumor,” Barmore added, “because no matter how crooked you are, if someone brings in a bronze statue of a soldier, (they) might buy it but they wouldn’t scrap it.”
As president of the Valley Historical Society, Barmore decided it was his responsibility to get to the bottom of the mystery.
“We decided to see if there was any way we could try to figure out the mystery,” he said. “We started putting advertisements and articles in the paper just stating ‘If you have this hidden in your barn or wherever, just put it somewhere where someone can see it and no questions will be asked.'”
After putting out the word, Barmore said he received numerous letters about the missing statue.
“I got a letter anonymously claiming that this person had lived near the cemetery all her life,” Barmore said. “They said it was early evening and they witnessed four young men who had nefarious reputations taking it off the stand, loading it on their flat-bed pick-up truck and driving away.”
Because these guys had a reputation of being rough, the anonymous sender didn’t dare come forward in fear that something might happen to them, Barmore said.
Barmore also received letters saying the statue was in someone’s barn, that it was thrown in the creek and even a letter placing the blame on someone specifically.
As a way to try and verify the letter blaming someone specifically, Barmore took investigative measures to try and substantiate the claim.
“It just didn’t make sense to me,” Barmore said. “At the time, I was still operating my business, and the person who I suspected wrote the letter was a good customer of mine. I compared the writing to the writing on all his credit card transactions, and determined that’s where the letter came from, and it was just a bunch of (nonsense).”
Barmore even employed the help of a dive team to find out if the statue was really at the bottom of Cassadaga Creek near Bloomer Road.
“My cousin was on the county Dive Team,” he said. “So, I talked to him about it, and for a training exercise they went down to the Cassadaga Creek and went diving. They went all over trying to find the statue in the bottom of the creek and they couldn’t find anything.”
Assuming the group of people who stole it were young men who probably went to Cassadaga High School, Barmore gathered yearbooks from 1960 to 1963 and recorded the name of every young man in those classes.
“I contacted every one of them,” Barmore said. “I found out where they lived, whether they were dead, and I talked to every live person that graduated from Cassadaga in those four years and I questioned them all about it. I wasn’t able to determine anything by doing that either.”
Diamond Smith, a Sinclairville man, was very upset about the missing statue because as a teenager he used to recite the Gettysburg Address in front of the Civil War monument. He decided to take his own course of action.
“He got a group of people together, and they set out to try to raise money to get a replacement,” Barmore said. “It took them several years, but they raised the $25,000 to $30,000 and they had a new statue — an exact replica — made.”
That new statue was erected in 2012 with a new dedication ceremony. It was mounted on the granite monument with “good locking bolts that you need a special wrench to get off,” Barmore said.
On May 10, it was reported that a statue at Dow Park in Jamestown appeared to have been stolen. The statue is one of three created by the late David Poulin titled “Underground Railroad Tableau.”
Police are looking for an older-model pick-up truck with a wooden tailgate in connection to the theft of the statue. The statue may have been spotted in the vehicle Saturday, May 8, heading north toward Fluvanna Avenue.