EASTON Early Saturday morning, a crowd of about 50 people watched as crews hoisted the bronze Frederick Douglass statue and its base from trucks on Washington Street to its new home on the lawn of the Talbot County Courthouse.

Washington Street from Federal to Dover streets was closed from about 7 to 10:30 a.m. as a massive crane, operated by Digging and Rigging Inc. of Mt. Airey, hoisted the Douglass statue to the courthouse lawn. A crew from Suburban Stoneworks Inc. of Hughesville set the statue and its base on the foundation in front of the court house.

The Frederick Douglass Honor Society in Easton declared 2011 the year of Frederick Douglass. The organization is co-sponsoring a four-day celebration with the Town of Easton, culminating with a public unveiling of the statue Saturday, June 18.

The bronze statue, which was sculpted by Jay Hall Carpenter, stands 7 feet, 7.5 inches tall. The base will be 31 inches tall, 46 inches long and 30.3 inches wide.

Onlookers included Carpenter, members of the Frederick Douglass Honor Society, Easton Mayor Robert C. Willey and Easton Town Council President John Ford. The crowd snapped photographs and shot video as a keepsake for the historic day Douglass returned to the Talbot County Courthouse.

After about an hour of preparations, crews hoisted the base of the Douglass statue as the court house clock chimed 8 a.m. The crane gently swung the base through the court house lawn to its resting place near the building in about 10 minutes. The audience cheered after crews released the straps, allowing the base to sit in place.

A box truck backed up to the crane and a large wooden pallet with the Douglass statue on its back was slid to the rear of the truck. Crews connected the straps and the statue was lifted into the morning air and slowly carried to the lawn where it was gently set on the ground.

The statue then was disconnected from the pallet, and the crane stood the statue upright. The statue was lifted back into the air. As the court house clock chimed to signal the arrival of 9 a.m., the Frederick Douglass statue slide into place atop its base.

"This is a really historic moment," said Frederick Douglass Honor Society member Harriet Lowery. "It's a long time coming. I'm so happy to be here today to see this."

Carpenter did the honors of unwrapping the statue from its protective plastic. A plaque was placed on the base after the statue was unwrapped.

A protective blanket will cover the statue until Saturday's dedication ceremony and public unveiling.

Douglass was born a slave near Tuckahoe in 1818. In 1838, he escaped slavery to New York, married Anne Murray and began his career as an orator, editor, author, suffragist, reformer, statesman and advisor to presidents.

In 1878, Douglass returned to Easton as a free man and gave a speech at the Talbot County Courthouse. Douglass' statue will depict that speech.

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