MEREDITH — The Board of Selectmen this week approved the planting of a Japanese cherry tree in Hesky Park to mark the 110th anniversary of the Treaty of Portsmouth of 1905, ending the Russo-Japaese War, but significantly shrank the scale of the memorial.
Earlier this month Miller Lovett, a member of the design committee of the Greater Meredith Program. presented a sketch indicating that the tree would be planted along a path just north of where the spillway from Mill Falls empties into the lake. The tree, projected to reach a height of 30 feet with a canopy 30 feet around, would be the centerpiece of a flagstone patio with two rocks, one either side of the tree serving as resting places. An inscribed granite marker explaining the purpose of the memorial would be embedded in the patio.
Without taking a formal vote, the board expressed its unanimous approval of the project, but specified that a final plan, specifying the measurements of the patio and the two stones, be presented to the next meeting of the board this week. The tree is scheduled to be planted and the memorial dedicated at a ceremony on September 5, which will feature the ringing of church bells marking the day and hour the treaty was signed.
The drawing, prepared by Christopher P. Williams, Architects, showed a triangular stone patio 24 feet across at its base along the pathway and nine-and-a-half feet to its peak where the tree would be planted. The Selectmen Boar of Selectmen balked at the size of the memorial and approved only the planting of the tree and placement of a plaque explaining its significance.
The Japanese-American Society of New Hampshire has chosen Meredith among other towns to receive a Japanese cherry tree to commemorate the occasion.The tree will be a descendant of those in Washington, which the Japanese government gave to the United States in 1912 in appreciation of its role in hosting the peace conference and assisting the treaty negotiations.
Komura Jutaro, the Japanese foreign minister who led his country's delegation in the treaty negotiations, worked on a farm in Meredith while studying law at Harvard.,The son of a samurai family, Komura mastered English as a schoolboy and was the most gifted student of his time at the forerunner of Tokyo University. As a student he persuaded the government to establish a scholarship program to enable students to study abroad and in 1875 was among the first group of 10 to come to America, where he enrolled at Harvard Law School.
During his three years of law school, Komura, who had always tended his uncle's farm during the growing season, did the same in Meredith, working on a farm that Lovett said has yet to be identified. Returning to Japan, Komura joined the foreign service, serving in China and Korea before being named ambassador to the United States in 1898 and foreign minister in 1901.
After the Treaty of Portsmouth was concluded, Komura bequeathed $10,000 to the state of New Hampshire to be put to charitable purposes. The Japanese Charitable Fund remains an active charity to this day.
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