MEREDITH — The Board of Selectmen this week approved the planting of a Japanese cherry tree in Hesky Park to To mark the 110th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Portsmouth on September 5, 1905 which ended the Russo-Japanese War, pending a review of the final design of the memorial.
The Japanese-American Society of New Hampshire has chosen Meredith among other towns to receive a Japanese cherry tree to commemorate the occasion. Miller Lovett, a member of the Design Committee of the Greater Meredith Program told the board that the tree will be a descendant of those that ring the Tidal Basin and line the Potomac River 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.
Lovett 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 small 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.
Lovett told the board that a ceremony dedicating the memorial is scheduled to be held on September 5, which will feature the ringing of church bells marking the day and hour the treaty was signed.
Selectman Michael Pelczar said that while he liked the design of the memorial very much, he thought that the Selectboard should make it clear that it was not setting a precedent that would entitle other organizations to place monuments in the park.
Noting that "quite a large memorial" was proposed, Karen Sticht said "I believe you are setting a precedent" and asked will you be voting? When Nate Torr, the chairman of the board replied "we're still in the process", she countered "it sounds like a done deal."
Selectman Ray Moritz said that when the proposal was first presented on July 6, the board asked for more information, which it has received. "We've had two discussions," he said.
Lovett reminded the board that plans to install the memorial have been set, the ceremony has been scheduled and "we're going with publicity in a week. We're between a rock and a hard place," he remarked.
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 on August 17.
Meredith has a unique connection to the Treaty of Portsmouth in the person of Komura Jutaro, the Japanese foreign minister who led his country's delegation in the negotiations. The son of a samurai family, Komura mastered English as a schoolboy and was the most gifted student of his time at the "Kaisei Gakko", which later became 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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