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Since the statues of this person have him holding a book (a Bible?) could he be a minister or chaplain?
(02-01-2024 11:11 AM)Gene C Wrote: [ -> ]Since the statues of this person have him holding a book (a Bible?) could he be a minister or chaplain?

While not a minister or chaplain, you are on to something there, Gene. This man’s fame does not come from his time as a Union officer, but from his later role as a significant religious leader.
(01-31-2024 04:19 PM)Dave Taylor Wrote: [ -> ]This individual was a commissioner, but not one that tried the conspirators.

How about Benjamin Brown French, Commissioner of Public Buildings?
United States Commissioner of Education ?
He was not a commissioner of education nor of public buildings. This person was assigned as a special commissioner of the War Department during the Civil War. He's not a well-known figure.

Fun fact: This man contributed to cremation becoming an acceptable practice in the United States

I admit that i googled the crematory clue and came up with F. Julius LeMoyne, although I don't find any references that he was a special commissioner of the War Department. However, I will stay with this guess.

(02-01-2024 10:01 PM)Rob Wick Wrote: [ -> ]Dave,

I admit that i googled the crematory clue and came up with F. Julius LeMoyne, although I don't find any references that he was a special commissioner of the War Department. However, I will stay with this guess.


You are just one degree of separation off, Rob. Dr. LeMoyne built the private crematory where the first cremation occurred in the United States. He did this so that he could be cremated when he died, which he subsequently was. But, Dr. LeMoyne was the third person to be cremated in his crematory. The man depicted in these statues was connected to the very first person to be cremated in Dr. LeMoyne's crematory. He was a big advocate for cremation and carried out the deceased's final wishes.
If you look at the photos of the statues that Dave posted, one of them has a Latin inscription on the base of the statue. I Googled the phrase and found the statue is of Col. Henry Steele Olcott.
An interesting individual. He was a co-founder and first president of the Theosophical Society.
Yes! Great job, Gene. I knew this would be a difficult one.

[Image: olcott-in-the-army.jpg?w=400]

Henry Steel Olcott was a native of New Jersey. He was well-educated and attended Columbia University. Before the war, he was a journalist and even witnessed the execution of John Brown (much like John Wilkes Booth). During the Civil War, Olcott became a colonel and was made a special commissioner in the War Department. He was tasked with investigating instances of fraud within the Army and Navy. He ratted out racketeering and financial fraud and was considered very good in the art of investigation. When Lincoln was assassinated, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton put Col. Olcott’s talents into investigating the conspiracy. Olcott was one of three special commissioners who attempted to painstakingly make sense of all the evidence gathered during the manhunt for Booth. As part of his duties, Olcott interviewed several witnesses.

[Image: surratt-interviewed-by-olcott.jpg?w=550]

On April 28, Olcott interviewed Mary Surratt while she was being held at the Old Capitol Prison. Olcott was also present when William Bell, William Seward’s servant, identified Lewis Powell as the man who attacked the Secretary and his household. Michael Kauffman describes Olcott as the “most conscientious member of the investigative team.” After a few weeks of investigation, Col. Olcott passed his mountain of information on to Col. Henry Burnett, who used it to try the conspirators. Olcott retired from the army later that year.

[Image: olcott-in-1875.jpg?w=400]

After the war, Olcott became a lawyer specializing in fraud. He also still wrote the occasional newspaper article. He started a newspaper investigation into spiritualism. In 1874, Olcott met Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, a Russian medium and occultist. Together, the two founded the Theosophical Society, a new-age movement based around the search for truth in the different religions and spiritualist beliefs from around the world. Theosophy has no doctrine of its own, inviting believers of all faiths (or no faith at all) to search for and consider universal truths in the hope of uniting all creeds and unlocking the inherent power of mankind.

[Image: theosophical-society-objectives.jpg?w=450]

As part of his own religious education, Olcott began to learn about Buddhism and found himself a firm believer in its tenets. Olcott especially came to believe that cremation was a far superior mode with which to dispose of the dead. In 1876, a fellow member of the Theosophical Society, Baron Joseph de Palm was dying. After discussions with Olcott, the Baron expressed his desire to be cremated in the “Eastern style.” However, after the Baron passed in May of that year, Olcott was unable to find a place in the U.S. that would allow the cremation. He had the Baron’s body embalmed and put in a vault as he searched for the means to fulfill the Baron’s final wishes. About six months later, he learned about Dr. Francis Julius LeMoyne, a Pennsylvania doctor who believed that bodies decaying in a cemetery posed a public health hazard and contributed to instances of cholera and other diseases. Dr. LeMoyne, like many others of his day, also had a fear of being buried alive. Thus, he decided to have himself cremated after his death. Rather than creating a funerary pyre like a Viking, Dr. LeMoyne designed a built a private crematory building on his property. The crematory was designed in such a way that the flames did not touch the body. Olcott contacted Dr. LeMoyne and inquired if he would allow his friend, Baron de Palm, to be cremated using his building. Dr. LeMoyne agreed, and the Baron was peacefully cremated in December of 1876, the first such cremation in the United States.

[Image: olcott-in-sri-lanka.jpg?w=550]

Olcott continued his religious studies. He traveled to India to learn more about Buddhism. He eventually converted to the faith. Olcott’s conversion was during a time when Buddhists in India and Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) were an oppressed people, and the faith was in decline. Olcott devoted his time and efforts to creating new Buddhist schools throughout India and Sri Lanka and helped usher in a renaissance of faith in these countries. He wrote and spoke extensively on Buddhism and the Theosophical Society’s mission of promoting spiritual investigation in all forms. He even helped in the design of the Buddhist flag.

[Image: olcott-in-surat-india.jpg?w=350]

Col. Olcott spent the rest of his days in Sri Lanka and India. On February 17, 1907, Col. Olcott died at his home at the Theosophical Society’s International Headquarters in Adyar, India. His body was cremated in the Buddhist tradition, and there is a memorial shrine on the site of his cremation in Adyar.

[Image: olcott-memorial-modern-day.jpg?w=350]

To this day, Col. Olcott is a celebrated figure in Buddhist circles in Sri Lanka and India. As you have seen from my earlier post, there are many statues and busts of him in the two countries. Each year, on the anniversary of his death, a garland of flowers is placed around the neck of his golden-colored statue outside of the Fort Railway Station in Columbo, Sri Lanka. In 2011, a copy of this gold statue was unveiled at a Buddhist center in Olcott’s home state of New Jersey.

[Image: 2011-new-jersey-olcott-statue.jpg?w=350]

The National (U.S.) Headquarters of the Theosophical Society is located in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, Illinois. I grew up one town over from there, but it was only in 2022 that I visited the site for the first time. The campus grounds are referred to as Olcott and it contains an arboretum field with different religious shrines. The Theosophical Society’s library is called the Henry S. Olcott Memorial Library, and during my visit, they had several artifacts on display, including a lock of hair from the Colonel. I purchased an interesting book about Olcott’s life from the Theosophical Society’s bookstore entitled, Yankee Beacon of Buddhist Light: The Life of Col. Henry S. Olcott.

[Image: henry-olcott-1880s.jpg?w=300]

Henry Steel Olcott lived a fascinating life. His assistance to the government after the assassination of Lincoln was important, but it paled in comparison with his work helping to create a revival in Buddhism and founding a movement of religious study and spiritual growth.

[Image: olcotts-last-message.jpg?w=350]
Dave, thank you for this wonderful and interesting history of Olcott!
I second Steve!
No Googling please.

Where is this statue located?


[Image: 7qGuhz03_t.jpg]
Is it in the USA?

It is.

First clue. This location was visited by Lincoln twice.

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