TREMONT — A memorial was erected, with help from local fourth graders at the Tremont Consolidated School, to commemorate John F. Bickford, a Tremont native and American Civil War veteran who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in a pivotal naval battle.
Bickford fought off the coast of Cherbourg, France, on June 19, 1864, in a battle between the Union Navy’s 200-foot, three-masted steam- and sail-powered USS Kearsarge and the elusive Confederate raider, the CSS Alabama. Twenty-one-year-old Bickford was on board the Kearsarge that day as its number one pivot gunner.
He, along with the ship’s captain, John A. Winslow, and the 17-man gun crew, was awarded the Medal of Honor for outstanding service and valor in that famous battle.
A few years ago, Tremont Historical Society member and Tremont Consolidated School Ed Tech Kathie Pratt was contacted by the state of Maine about a Medal of Honor Project to memorialize Bickford.
In 2020, Tremont Consolidated School fourth-grade teacher Natalia Pajor-Meddaugh was asked by Pratt to incorporate Bickford into the curriculum. The kids, now in sixth grade, were at that time assigned to write about Bickford. Her fourth graders soon were partnered with the Tremont Historical Society to learn more about him.
“We had the historical society come into the classroom. They explained John F. Bickford and his family’s land when his family was here back in the 1800s, so it was a really cool project because students got to see something that was local firsthand but also still clicking with the writing unit,” Pajor-Meddaugh said.
Because the students were so invested, the class made a collective decision with the historical society to erect the Bickford Medal of Honor memorial and create an informative brochure about him.
The local fourth grades were raising money to fund the memorial until COVID-19 hit in March of 2020 and halted all operations. The rest of the project’s funding came from a Tremont School Fund Grant.
Now, two years later, after assigning students to write an informative memorial brochure, the project has finally come to fruition. A two-sided memorial and the Medal of Honor now sit on school property. Two benches, made by local Eagle Scout Timothy Moore, have also been placed at the memorial. A brochure holder was installed so that people can take information about Bickford home with them.
“In summation, we just want to highlight the efforts of that fourth-grade class. It took a lot of work, a lot of people and a lot of time partly because of timelines as well as because of COVID, but I think the fact that we were able to create this end result for the community and the community of the students that obviously reside here, I think it’s a really great addition to our community to have this local war hero added because of these 9- and 10-year-olds,” Pajor-Medaugh said.