William B. Gould statue unveiled in Dedham, Massachusetts
William Benjamin Gould’s remarkable life, leading from bondage in the antebellum South to a daring escape and service in the Union Navy, was celebrated over Memorial Day weekend with the dedication of a bronze statue in Dedham, the town where he settled and raised his family after the Civil War.
The emotional unveiling of Gould’s dignified seated figure took place on the centennial anniversary of his death and in the presence of his great-grandson, William B. Gould IV, a retired Stanford Law professor, whose father grew up in the nearby family homestead on the Boston-Dedham line.
Several of Gould’s great-great-great grandchildren pulled on a black cloth to reveal the contemplative image, but the fabric snagged, requiring the aid of two 54th Massachusetts Regiment re-enactors to use their long bayonets to lift the cloth and complete the unveiling.
Several hundred Dedham residents, gathered to witness the ceremony at William B. Gould Park, broke into applause. The re-enactors fired volleys of tribute from their Springfield percussion-cap muskets into the still spring air.
In remarks to the audience, Gould IV, 86, said that on a family trip to Wilmington, N.C., where his great-grandfather worked as an enslaved plasterer, they saw no statues of any Black veterans of the Civil War but passed by many of Confederate soldiers.
“Statues cannot be viewed as neutral and they do not exist in a vacuum. They project the memories of the past and the values associated with them,” Gould IV said.
“When the time capsules contained within this statue are opened, 100 and 200 years from now, it may be that William B. Gould’s values, expressed in war and peace here in Dedham, will in some way shape or promote the discussions of future generations.”
Those values led all of Gould’s six sons into military service, some as officers, in the Spanish-American War and World War I. The father was a founder of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Dedham’s Oakdale Square, where he did the plastering work on the Episcopalian sanctuary’s interior.
The church honored the Dedham veteran during a Sunday morning service with the family seated in the same pew occupied by the Goulds for decades before the family dispersed around the country.