LODI — The statue in Memorial Park, popularly known as Chief Lodi, might be moved from its spot for the first time since 1888 for a once-in-a-lifetime makeover.
Chief Lodi and his supposed tribe, the “Lowatha” — an amalgam of Hiawatha and Lodi — never existed, but the statue still carries an interesting history, much of which is shrouded in mystery, said Tim Snell, a member of the Lodi Rotary Club.
“There are only 22 statues like this in the country, and ours is the third oldest,” Snell said.
There are three similar statues in Ohio — in Akron, Barberton and Cincinnati — but the one in Lodi is the oldest, he said.
The hollow statue is mostly made of zinc. When it was manufactured by the New York-based Mott Iron Works Co. in 1888, it was uncommon because creating a statue out of zinc was new technology and a departure from wood, stone, iron and bronze statues that were heavy and expensive to ship, Snell said.
“Zinc could easily be put together and soldered, but that also means it’s very touchy, and melts very quickly,” he said.
The fragility of the statue led Snell, Bill Parker, also a Rotary member, and Village Councilman John Carpenter to conclude it would be best to leave refurbishment to professionals at the McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory in Oberlin.
“A town in Pennsylvania had a similar statue, but it was of a dog,” he said. “When they tried to refurbish the statue, the arms and legs didn’t match, and a shoulder was out of place, so it convinced us to raise the money so it’s done right.”
Snell said estimates put the refurbishment at $10,000. He is hoping the money can be raised as soon as possible so the statue can be part of the village’s bicentennial celebration in 2011. Refurbishing the statue would take three to four months, he said.
Snell is trying to find out the story that preceded the purchase of the statue by Elvira Harris Ainsworth in 1888, or at least come up with a historically accurate mythology.
Ainsworth, the daughter of the village’s original settler, a land agent named Joseph Harris, was an elderly widow when she purchased the statue and donated it to the village.
Most zinc statues made by Mott Iron Works are of Civil War officers and other subjects like flowers, fountains and saints, Snell said.
That leads him to believe Ainsworth could have been honoring a Native American who helped her family when they first settled in the area.
Records show a Native American known as Captain Wolf trapped animals around Chippewa Lake and could have helped Harris when he first came to the Lodi area in 1810. Harris was joined by his family a year later, thus the village’s 1811 birth date.
“He would take the children of (Joseph) Harris over the Chippewa Lake to teach them how to trap,” Snell said. “She could have chosen any one of those statues from the same company, so why the Native American?”
Still, he said that because there are no longer any Native American tribes in the area, the history of Captain Wolf “can only come from stories and current memory.”
Another unknown is whether the fountain at the base of the statue is original to the piece. The fountain can be seen in photographs taken at the turn of the century, and it is known that wooden pipes carried water to the fountain. Some believe the fountain is the first water system in Medina County, Snell said.
The statue is in fairly good condition, despite some damage it sustained over the years, Parker said.
At one point, the arm of the statue was broken off, and the statue’s feathers are broken, Parker said. During WWII, holes were drilled in the back of the statue to mount a spotlight that lighted a sign listing all the area’s service members.
The statue in Lodi has fared better than others, Snell said. Some statues have been painted and repainted, others left to corrosion. One in California was hit by a truck during WWII, when every piece of scrap metal was precious, and never reassembled.
Snell hopes that fixing the statue will bring the history of the village to the forefront and encourage people to be proud of Lodi’s bicentennial.
“I’m trying to take our history forward and make it meaningful,” he said. “People say it’s just a statue, but they might not understand that our heritage can motivate people to do things that are very ethical and civic-minded.”
Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.