General Steedman once stood proud in the heart of a bustling downtown Toledo intersection. How did he end up in Jamie Farr Park?
In late October 2018, the city of Toledo held a press conference to proudly unveil a few pieces of forgotten history. One document was signed by William J. Finlay, acknowledging his contribution toward the James Steedman memorial and deeding the statue to the city of Toledo.
Finlay Place, named after William J. Finlay of the Finlay Brewing Company, was the very busy triangular intersection of St. Clair, Cherry and Summit Street.
The 30-foot monument of Major General James Steedman, by artist Alexander Doyle, was dedicated on May 26, 1887. Ohio Governor Joseph Foraker spoke at the unveiling. The statue pays tribute to the Civil War hero and was located in a triangular area at Finlay Place, the intersection of St. Clair, Cherry, and Summit streets. The base of the monument is inscribed with Steedman's name, birth and death dates, and the locations of four significant Civil War battles he was involved in: Chickamauga, Carrick's Ford, Perryville and Nashville. The bronze statue of General Steedman caps the monument, which stands 26 feet tall.
William J. Finlay, a successful brewer who met Steedman when he first came to Toledo, paid $25,000 for the statue as a tribute to “Old Chickamauga,” the nickname that resulted from Steedman's heroic deeds at the Battle of Chickamauga. At one point his horse was shot from under him as he led a charge. President Lincoln rewarded him by promoting him to Major General.
Born in Pennsylvania and trained as a printer, General Steedman settled in Napoleon in 1838 where he founded the Northwestern Democrat newspaper. He became involved in the digging of the Wabash and Erie Canal, served in the Ohio legislature, and held various other public offices before the war. He was the Toledo police chief at the time of his death in 1883.
So how did the General's memorial end up in Jamie Farr Park? As the city center grew and traffic developed, city officials considered relocating the monument to a more suitable location. In fact, as early as 1903 city officials considered moving the monument to Courthouse Park according to this October 14th edition of the Toledo News-Bee. Eventually, things turned ugly in 1920 when adding a public restroom under the monument was discussed. General Steedman's wife put up a very stiff battle to stop what she considered to be an insult to her husband's memory. The resulting compromise was to move the statue to what was then known as Riverside Park and re-dedicate it on July 4th, 1920.
To learn more about Steedman, check out this 2006 edition of the Hoosier Packet.