Work to brighten, preserve and draw attention to Richmond’s Madonna of the Trail statue is being celebrated by residents as well as descendants of the sculptor and its model. 

Indiana Daughters of the American Revolution celebrated the July 2023 rejuvenation of its historic monument with a rededication ceremony and commemorative plaque unveiling on June 9.

Richmond’s Madonna at the Glen Miller Park entrance on U.S. 40 is one of 12 across the nation dedicated to the pioneer women who had the courage and stamina to travel and establish new homes during westward expansion. 

The event drew DAR members from Indiana and Kentucky, including Indiana State Regent Cherie Baxter and State Historian Cheryl Ball. They thanked and presented certificates to the local workers who played a part in the face-lift of the organization’s historic monument. 

Those involved with the cleaning, painting, concrete base improvements and landscaping included Perseponko Painting, Modern Masonry, and Richmond Parks and Recreation Department. Earlham Cemetery staff helped secure the plaque and monument to mark the occasion.

The Daughters of the American Revolution rededicate the Madonna of the Trail statue in Glen Miller Park. Photo by Millicent Martin Emery

Cheryl Amos, regent of Richmond’s DAR chapter, coordinated and supervised the restoration.

The monument will celebrate 100 years in October 2028.

Those attending the gathering at the Glen Miller Park entrance heard a letter from Kevin Karl, great-grandson of Madonna’s sculptor, August Leimbach.

Karl said he had received an email from the daughter of Freida Baumgartner, a German immigrant in St. Louis, who served as Leimbach’s living model. They met because Leimbach visited the bakery owned by Baumgartner’s family. Baumgartner remained humble about the experience.

Mary Walker, executive director of Wayne County Convention & Tourism Bureau, read a proclamation from Richmond Mayor Ron Oler declaring June 9 Madonna of the Trail Dedication Day. Brittany Miller, director of Indiana Landmarks’ Eastern Regional Office, said she loves seeing the monument so beautifully maintained and shared her appreciation for the DAR’s efforts.  

Richmond Parks Superintendent Denise Retz credited employees Laura Karnes, Brandon Panensky, Damon Douglas and Nate Davis for their work in maintaining the grounds around Madonna and even bringing more chairs for the ceremony after more people came than expected.  

“So many don’t understand what she means and how lucky we are to have her,” Retz said. 

Retz is glad the parks department was able to cut back trees that blocked the view from East Main Street and make the site more inviting. The parks department has provided one bench and former Wayne County Commissioner Ken Paust sponsored the other. 

Retz said she was glad for the opportunity to thank DAR for its financial support to maintain and rehabilitate the statue, saying it’s the kind of partnership the parks department loves because it wouldn’t have been able to give the statue the restoration it deserved.  

Indiana DAR paid for Madonna’s restoration. Tax deductible donations toward Madonna’s upkeep can be sent to the Richmond chapter’s treasurer, Melissa Taylor, at 7567 Morgan Creek Road, Williamsburg, IN 47393. 

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A version of this article appeared in the June 19 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.