Historic Clay statue

PRINCETON — The home location for the historic Clay Family statue, Agony in Stone, is currently in limbo.

With construction work being done by the north entrance of the Mercer County Courthouse, the statue has to move. According to Mercer County Commissioner Gene Buckner, the statue has to be moved in a matter of days.

“Construction has started and the statue has got to be moved. We’ve got days now that it’s got to be gone,” Buckner said, “We have to have it moved to put the ADA ramp on, we don’t have much of a choice.”

Lois Miller, President of the Mercer County Historical Society, seeks to have the statue stay close to its current location. Seeking to have it placed across the road, in the yard of the Mercer County Those Who Served War Museum, Miller’s wishes may not come true.

“At the Historical Society, our job is to protect, preserve and promote the history of Mercer County. I have contacted an engineer to look at that and it’s iffy whether it can be moved and preserved,” Miller said.

According to Buckner, the construction company building the ADA ramp has agreed to load the statue, but they are not responsible for its well being or unloading the statue. Being made of sandstone, the statue’s survival upon moving is in question.

“It’s the first family of Mercer County. To ship it off, if you’re going to ship it somewhere, the Clay Cemetery would be the best place to put it,” Janie Farmer said.

When asked why the statue cannot be transported to the aforementioned location, Buckner stated that it could, but the funds aren’t there. The cost of hiring someone to transport and unload the statue ranges from $1,200 to $1,500 an hour, according to Miller.

“The problem we’ve got is the time in order to get the money together. I don’t know if we’re going to have the time to move it,” Buckner said.

Of the importance of the statue, Miller described it as a tourist attraction that brings people in from across the country. According to Miller, those researching the Clay family come from far and wide to see the statue and learn its history.

“I don’t want to see it moved off courthouse grounds, but I also understand with progress there’s got to be some change,” Mercer County Commissioner Greg Puckett, said, “I also don’t want to see it destroyed.”

Janie Farmer, treasurer of the Clay Foundation, seeks that the statue is kept in a location where it can be honored by many. Farmer’s proposed location is the Clay Memorial Park, located near Lake Shawnee.

A solution of relocating the statue to the memorial park was suggested by Chris White. In White’s solution, a company in California will fund the moving of the statue as well as the security of the statue’s well being.

When the proposition of moving the statue to the Clay Memorial Park was proposed the same issue of funding, and the disinterest in having the statue located there, was raised.

“I don’t want it down there. I’d like to see it across the road here,” Miller said.

“I just gave two tours today of families that came and are Clay descendants. They come in all the time,” White said, “We draw in probably 8,000 to 12,000 people a year.”

Miller, wanting the statue to be located near the courthouse, proposed the statue be temporarily located near the Historical Society building located on Harrison Street. The issue of this is the funding to unload and move the statue.

“Wherever it goes it needs to be protected,” Puckett said.

With opinions differing, and time running out, a definite resolution was not reached.

The resolution given by the commission is for Miller to find the funding to temporarily move the statue to her accepted Historical Society building. If funding and manpower cannot be found in time, the statue will then temporarily moved to the Clay Memorial Park, with White’s proposed California business funding, until a final decision is made.

— Contact Emily D. Coppola at ecoppola@bdtonline.com

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