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Mercersburg unveils Buchanan statue

June 17, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - When 9-year-old James Connor Reed Buchanan formally unveiled the statue of America's 15th president, James Buchanan, here Saturday, he would have made his famous ancestor proud.

A few days before the festivities, young Buchanan said he didn't want to make any mistakes at the big event. The unveiling was flawless.

Thousands of people showed up for the ceremony in the town's public square, kicking off the 250th anniversary of the founding of Mercersburg in grand style.

"We broke the budget on this one, Lannie and I," said George Nalley, one of two townspeople who spearheaded the statue fund-raising efforts.

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The $25,000 undertaking by Nalley and Lannie Gordon brought Pittsburgh sculptor Aaron Connley on board to create the bronze, life-sized statue.

"It was a real pleasure working on this," Connley said. "I hope it's pleasing to the Buchanan family and the kind people of Mercersburg."

Also participating in Saturday's event were Pennsylvania Attorney General Michael Fisher, Thomas Heefner, president of the Mercersburg Borough Council, and the Mercersburg Area Community Band.

Assisting Buchanan with the unveiling was Calynne Saunders, Nalley's granddaughter.

Watching from the wings was Connor Buchanan's mother, Kim Reed Buchanan, who said she felt compelled to saddle her son with four names when he was born just one day after the 200th birthday of his famous ancestor.

"It's quite a moment for him," she said of his moment in the spotlight Saturday.

James Buchanan was born in Cove Gap, Pa., in 1791 and moved to Mercersburg with his parents when he was 5.

After private tutoring and enrollment in the village academy, Buchanan attended Dickinson College in Carlisle and moved to Lancaster where he began a career in law.

After serving in both houses of the U.S. Congress and as secretary of state under President James Polk, Buchanan was elected to the presidency in 1856.

When his four-year term was up in 1861, he retired to Lancaster and lived there until 1868.

Mercersburg residents have claimed Buchanan as their native son and chose to honor him with the statue Saturday.

Town resident Judy Chambers said she thought the celebration was terrific.

"My husband and I are raising our son here ... and it's nice to do it in a town that produced a president," Chambers said.

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