The Byron Civil War Soldiers Monument is Illinois’ oldest Civil War monument and was built in 1866 at a cost of $1,400.00. It was originally built to honor all local soldiers who had died in the Civil War but the monument eventually included all local civil war veterans upon their passing, including those who had enlisted in other states. The monument, located off the business district in the intersection of two streets, has been an integral part of the Byron scenery since its dedication. Its symbolic value was recognized when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 14, 1985.
An article from the August 19, 1897 Byron Express newspaper describes how the monument first came to be: “In the summer of 1865, soon after the close of the war a movement was set afoot for the erection of a soldier’s monument in honor and to the memory of those brave men who had fallen during that terrible struggle. A subscription was started and in a short time the necessary funds were raised. A meeting was called Sept. 27, 1865 and a permanent association called ‘The Byron Monument Association,’ was formed. I.W. Norton was chosen president, M.L. Seymour, Sect’y and James Johnson, Treas., a constitution and By Laws was adopted and a committee consisting of F.A. Smith, Silas Kidder, Wright C. Hall, Aquila Spencer, A.F. Johnson, J.P. Smith, Dr. J. Blount, John S. Rosier and M.L. Seymour was appointed with power to go on and complete the work. The monument proper was erected at a cost of $950, but the foundation, fence etc., increased that amount to $1,400.”
The initial concept then was to inscribe the names of all of local soldiers who had died in that war. In practice the monument eventually included all local civil war veterans upon their passing, including those who had enlisted in other states, such as Richard Christopher, Byron’s only African-American CW veteran. Curiously, one that was missed in this latter category was Lieutenant Luke Parsons, a prominent former Byron citizen who had enlisted in Kansas. Although veterans of the earlier 1812 war and the later Spanish-American war have also been included it’s fair to claim this is primarily a Civil War monument. It was one of the first in Illinois to be erected and the earliest one still standing in 2016, its sesquicentennial.
It should be no surprise that Byron, Illinois was among the first communities in the country to build a monument to fallen Union soldiers and sailors. In the years leading up to the civil war the village had already been active in supporting the political causes of retaining the Union and resistance to slavery.