The veterans museum recently acquired two Iraqi guns involved in Operation Desert Storm.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- The U.S. war on terrorism led Lew Speece to start refinishing another section of the Canfield War Vet Museum to make room for artifacts from a conflict he thinks could go on a long time.
Speece said the third-floor attic of the museum, a nearly 2-century-old former residence at 23 E. Main St., is where artifacts from and information about the war on terrorism will be displayed. It will also have American Indian war memorabilia.
More renovation needed
Speece, owner of Lew Speece Construction, has already built a banistered staircase to the attic and put in a new floor. Now, he is looking for help.
He estimated it will take about $15,000 to complete the room, including installing a furnace, air conditioning, electrical wiring and plumbing, and straightening out walls.
Speece, longtime commander of American Legion Post 177, said anyone who wants to make tax-deductible donations of money, time or military-related items should call the museum at (330) 533-6311. The museum is designated 501(c)(3) under the federal tax code, he said, and checks should be made out to the Canfield War Vet Museum.
"Any amount, large or small, will be appreciated," he said.
Post 177 and its auxiliary operate the museum, and museum trustees come from the membership. If anything were to happen to Post 177, the museum would become the property of the state of Ohio, Speece said.
A house with history
The museum has about 36,000 items, all of which have been donated. They include treasures ranging from "Mad" Anthony Wayne's fighting sword to Civil War memorabilia donated by the family of Civil War officer Col. James Nash, who once owned the house.
There are weapons and uniforms from all of the U.S. wars, along with books, pictures, documents and diaries, including many Japanese and German items. The museum recently acquired two Iraqi guns from Desert Storm that were manufactured in Russia and Yugoslavia.
Speece said the home that now houses the Vet Museum, near the intersection of U.S. Route 224 and state Routes 62 and 46, was built in 1809 by Comfort Mygatt, who was in the dry-goods business. At the time, it was the largest home in Canfield, he said.
Mygatt gave it to his daughter, who married a man who was also in the dry-goods business but went broke.
In 1844, Judge John Church of Canfield bought the house, valued at $6,000, for $1,500 at a sheriff's sale. When Church died, his daughter Mary inherited the house, and she later married Nash.
Absorbing the costs
Speece and his wife, Joyce, put up a $100 down payment for the house on behalf of Post 177, which bought it in 1988 for $45,000 from Kathryn Nash Flickinger, Nash's granddaughter.
Post 177 raised $38,000 toward the price, and then a land developer, Robert Neff, donated $45,000. The $38,000 was then used to begin renovating the building, Speece said.
Every time a room is done, it's expensive, Speece said. He estimated that he personally has donated more than $76,000 to the museum over the years for such projects as digging down the basement 42 inches and putting on a roof.
"I figure it has to be done by someone," Speece said, when asked why he and others have put so much time and money into the museum.
"I think it's important for people to remember things. A lot of people care, but I'm afraid a lot don't," he said.
The attic contains the only remaining original window in the house, which was built in 1809, and there is a mirror on the first floor which is original with the house.
Floor by floor
Here is what each floor contains.
U Basement: Model train display and working models, with audio tapes, of some Civil War battles.
U First floor: Items from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and a reading room.
U Second floor: Part of the floor is a rented apartment that provides money for utility bills for the museum and security when it is not open to the public. Also, there is a room dedicated to the Mexican and Spanish-American wars, and "since I was in the Marines," a Marine Corps room, Speece said.
A family's service
He served in the 6th Tank Battalion (flame-throwers), 6th Marine Division, on Guadalcanal and Guam after the invasions there. He was in the third wave that landed on Okinawa and served 90 days in combat in fighting in that country. He also was stationed for seven months in China after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan.
Lew's father, also named Lew, served in World War I, and met his wife, Corinne Carlson, an Army nurse from the Youngstown area, in New Jersey. Speece's son, Lew, served in the Vietnam War, and his grandfather, William Speece, was wounded in the Battle of Antietam, fighting for the South during the Civil War.
Speece lives in Berlin Center, but grew up and went to school in Canfield. Like his father after World War I, Speece went into the construction business after World War II in 1946. He then worked for his brother William's construction firm from 1949 until William died in 1981, when Speece took over the business.
Speece said a plaque with the names of those killed in the war on terrorism from Nov. 25, 2001, through March 28, 2002, has been ordered, and there are plans to dedicate the plaque and place it on the Wall of Honor behind the museum on Memorial Day. The Wall of Honor displays the names of Canfield military personnel killed in action.