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Pioneer Mother's Monument

Mothers’ Monument Made from “Rescued” Stone

Abraham Lincoln is undoubtedly our most frequently quoted president. One of his quotes, though certainly not his most famous, is on permanent display in Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery on a memorial dedicated to Minneapolis’ Pioneer Mothers.

The memorial is an unusual one, consisting of nothing more than a bronze plaque mounted on a large granite boulder. Beneath the image of a prairie schooner are these words of Abraham Lincoln’s-“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” The sentiment is an old-fashioned one, but then Abraham Lincoln was the son of a pioneer mother.

The idea for creating a permanent memorial to the women who settled the West belonged to Nellie Hardy. On March 5, 1936, Miss Hardy, a member of the Board of Directors of the Minneapolis Cemetery Protection Association, asked the other directors to endorse her plan to create a permanent memorial to the women who helped settle the city of Minneapolis. She offered to oversee the project herself and to raise any necessary funds. The directors agreed, but it turned out that her project would prove to be more difficult than she might have foreseen. The association’s membership was dwindling, in part because many of its most active members were quite elderly and also because the relatives of many of the people buried in the cemetery had moved away. Money was tight.

The amount of money that Miss Hardy needed to raise to commission a memorial plaque and to have it installed was $55.00, an amount that sounds small today but has to be considered in terms of depression-era dollars. At the MCPA’s next monthly meeting, in April 1936, Miss Hardy reported that fundraising was not going well. According the organization’s minutes, “no one seemed to want to be the first subscriber and a donation out of the Association funds at the head of the list would have a good psychological effect.” The Board voted to advance Miss Hardy $10.00 to jumpstart her fund-raising efforts.

At that same meeting, members considered plans for the memorial’s design and agreed that the plaque should be mounted on a large stone. There weren’t any stones in the cemetery big enough for the project, so Miss Hardy negotiated with the City Engineer’s Department to find one that would be appropriate. The stone that they found was on the site of the first Minneapolis Armory on Kenwood Parkway. There is no record of how the stone was moved from the site of what is now the Sculpture Garden to the cemetery, but given the size of the stone, it must have been a daunting task.

Miss Hardy’s vision for a tribute to Minneapolis Pioneer Mothers became a reality at the dedication ceremony held on Mothers Day in 1937. By creating a memorial to the past, Miss Hardy also made a contribution to the cemetery’s future. The monument that she worked so hard to create is one of the contributing structures that earned the cemetery a place on the National Register of Historic Sites.


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