MONONGAHELA – Monongahela intended on using an old anchor it received from the U.S. Navy as the centerpiece of a war memorial honoring those from the city who were killed in action.
Instead, the city parked the anchor dating to 1862 in front of a brick wall outside the fire station, where it still sits today.
“It’s one of those things we have that we don’t know what to do with,” said local businessman Don DeVore, a volunteer city fireman.
Now three decades after receiving the anchor used on the original USS Monongahela, the city will install a plaque beside it revealing why it’s special to the town.
“A lot of people ask what it is and why it’s here,” said DeVore, owner of DeVore Hardware.
The story begins in 1979 with a visit from Navy Lt. Jerry Miller to see if the city would adopt the namesake of the third USS Monongahela when the Cimarron-class oiler launched, DeVore said.
A relationship quickly grew then between city officials and crew members of the ship, who toured a local coal mine and the former Combustion Engineering plant, which built parts for the ship’s boilers. The city treated the crew like celebrities, featuring its members in a parade and at a fireman’s ball.
Sometime in the early 1980s the old “anchor just showed up,” DeVore said.
“It came up on a bus one day,” he said.
The Navy had recovered the anchor from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 1980, where the original barkentine-rigged screw sloop-of-war sank in 1908 after catching fire. The vessel weighed 2,078 tons and had been assigned as reinforcement in Mobile Bay, Ala., during the Civil War and went on to become Admiral David Glasgow Farragut’s temporary flagship, engaging Confederate batteries off the coast of Louisiana and assisting Army troops in Brownsville, Texas, according to a 1979 Navy newspaper story about the city.
The Navy no longer has a USS Monongahela on the water, after decommissioning last one in 1999 before selling it to Brazil, DeVore said.
The city will hold a ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday outside City Hall, 449 W. Main St., to recognize the anchor with the new plaque.
“I’m glad,” Monongahela Mayor Bob Kepics said. “It sat there all this time and no one knew what it was.”