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Monument dedicated in former town of Manchester

Posted: Monday, Jun 25th, 2007

ROGER KASA/PLAINSMAN Gary Marx of Vienna, Va., chairman of the Manchester Monument Dedication Committee, stands in front of the granite monument that includes the names of the homesteaders in the township. He served as master of ceremonies for the dedication program Saturday.

MANCHESTER — Gary Marx of Vienna, Va., a former resident of the town of Manchester, told the hundreds of people who attended the dedication of a memorial Saturday that the town may be destroyed but the spirit of the people will live forever.

Marx, who chaired the Manchester Monument Project, said more than $37,000 was raised.

The town was destroyed by an F-4 tornado on June 24, 2003. The tornadoes that rolled across South Dakota that day also took out several nearby farms.

At the dedication ceremony, the late Noel Towberman, who lived through the tornado, but has since died, was declared honorary mayor for the day.

Harold and Lynette Yost and family sang “America the Beautiful,” and Jessica Bowes Roob led in the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America.”

At the base of the monument is a huge granite stone honoring families of the Manchester community. The last names of most of the families are carved on the stone.

Other pedestals and plaques are located around the granite stone — one honoring Harvey Dunn and another calling attention to the Dakota Centennial that was held in the community in 1961.

Marx said the Dakota Centennial brought 150,000 people to Manchester, along with several dignitaries.

A granite bench recognizes Town Hall and the town pump.

Marx said Town Hall was the site for many community dances, and it was the local voting place.

Harold Yost, who built the memorial, lived on a farm near Manchester that was destroyed in the storm.

Described as a master stonemason, Yost recalled talking to Marx about the memorial and, after listening to the plans, he wondered, “Where are we going to get the money?”

He said Marx told him not to worry about that.

As for the stormy night that destroyed the town and his farm, Yost said, “If you didn’t see a tornado, you weren’t looking.”

“We are here because God has spared our lives,” he said. “It is up to us to share with our fellowmen and to help care for our fellowmen.”

After hearing Yost’s remarks, Marx added, “Whatever we can dream, we can do.’

Marx said the town of Manchester is known for many reasons.

“It was the home of famed pioneer painter and illustrator Harvey Dunn, who was born south of town. Grace Ingalls Dow, known worldwide as “Baby Grace,” in her sister, Laura Ingalls Wilder books, lived in Manchester most of her life with husband, Nate Dow.

He said the Manchester monument is located at two places that brought people together — Town Hall and the town pump. The pump, for many years, was the town’s main source of fresh water.

“If people needed water to drink, take a bath, or wash clothes, they went to the middle of main street, pumped a bucket or two of water from the artesian well, and carried it home,” he said.

The semicircular monument pad, 19-feet wide, as well as the restored town pump platform, are covered with Colorado rose flagstone, reminiscent of the Redstone Creek.

Marx said that semicircular design represents the fact that the Manchester community has traditionally been a circle of friends and neighbors, always open to others.

In addition to many family homes, he said Manchester once had two grocery stores, two livery barns, a car repair shop, bank, lumberyard, restaurant, pool hall, hotel, blacksmith shop, post office, large C&NW depot, two grain elevators and an adjoining coal shed, cream station and newspaper.

The town of Bancroft is named after L.W. Bancroft, who was publisher of the Manchester Times.

Marx said the Manchester monument will provide a site where local citizens can remember, students and visitors from across the national and world can learn, and where all can be inspired by a small community that served as a stage for historic events and as a launching pad for generations of people.

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