Historical society reflects on restoration of Doughboy Memorial
The Carroll County Historical and Genealogical Society observed the centennial anniversary of the United States’ involvement in World War I on Thursday, June 22, in the Community Room on the Public Square.
Glenna Booth, city historic preservation officer for Eureka Springs, spoke at the historical society’s quarterly meeting, sharing the history of both the creation and restoration of the Doughboy War Memorial Sculpture in Basin Spring Park.
“I work out of the office of the mayor, and, as part of my job, I try to help nonprofit groups who have preservation projects,” she said. “One of those was the restoration of the Doughboy War Memorial in Basin Spring Park.”
She said the restoration of the sculpture was funded by a Heritage Month Grant from the Department of Arkansas Heritage (DAH) with matching funds from the Eureka Springs Preservation Society.
“June Westphal asked me to talk a little tonight about this project,” Booth said. “My historical information is based on research done mostly by Suzanne Williams.”
In June 1917, the first United States troops were sent to France to fight in World War I, she said, and among those troops were some of the more than 75 young men from Eureka Springs. She said many had been enrolled by Col. James Dexter, a lawyer and soldier who lived in Eureka Springs.
“He was a a commanding officer of the National Guard in 1917 and was called back into federal service at the age of 53,” Booth said. “His National Guard troops became part of the 153rd Infantry, and they mostly trained at Camp Pike near Little Rock.”
Once deployed, the soldiers were mostly used as replacement troops, she said. Eureka Springs lost at least five young men in battle or to disease, she said, and many more were wounded or ill with pneumonia, influenza and the after-effects of poison gas.
“After the armistice was signed on Nov. 18, 1918, Eureka Springs joined in the national fervor to erect monuments to those who gave their lives in this terrible war,” Booth said. “There was great interest in a monument in Eureka Springs, and the fundraising for this memorial was led by local journalist Annie House.”
She said House began a campaign shortly after the armistice to purchase a Doughboy stature to be installed in Basin Spring Park as a memorial to those who fought in the Spanish American War and World War I.
“She was not subtle,” Booth said. “Her Dec. 31, 1918 article reads ‘Now this monument must be a grand one and a good one and one worthy of our boys. In order to secure the right one, contributions must come in faster and bigger donations.’”
In an article written two weeks later in January 1919, Booth said House wrote “To do this in first class order is going to take money, but no one will begrudge a few dollars when they go to honor our solider boys, so send in your contributions to this office, Mrs. House or to members of the committee. If you don’t send, they will solicit you.”
“It was better to be in on the ground floor,” Booth said, laughing. “Throughout 1919, House regularly published the names and contribution amounts from those who donated, often in small sums of $0.25 or $0.50.”
She said House wanted to have a plaque listing the soldiers who fought in the war, but a controversy arose over whose names should appear on the plaque. One group wanted the names of every local soldier who fought in the war, whether they had been in battle or not. Another group wanted only the names of the soldiers who were actually in combat, and a third group wanted only the names of the soldiers who had been killed in war. There was no resolution to the issue, Booth said, so there is no memorial plaque with the Doughboy.
“Well, newspapers after 1919 were destroyed by fires, so there is no way to know how often House’s solicitations were made in the following years,” she said, “but it is evident that the fundraising process was not speedy.”
Booth continued, “We know the fundraising efforts did continue because in December 1928 [the North Arkansas Star] announced that a bid had been accepted for $2,500 to build the memorial — 10 years later.”
There is no documentation about who actually created the Doughboy War Memorial, she said, but there is a carving at the base which reads “Furnished by the Eureka Springs Montl. Works, N.L. Burkhart.” She said N.L. Burkhart established the Eureka Springs Monumental Works Company on North Main Street in the early 1900s.
“It is thought the doughboy may have been modeled after Crandall Walker, who was killed in the battle of Argonne Forest on Oct. 22, 1918,” Booth said. “Crandall’s portrait hung in the Walker brothers’ department store for many years, and it’s now in the historical museum. Our doughboy bears a striking resemblance to him, and
research is continuing to try to solve this mystery.”
The Doughboy sculpture stands approximately 11 feet high, she said, and was carved from carrara marble, a very fine stone.
“Today, the Doughboy War Memorial still holds a central spot in Basin Park in the heart of Eureka Springs,” she said. “It honors not only those local men who fought and died in World War I and the Spanish American War but also the community that persevered through hard times to raise the money to create this honor.”
The Eureka Springs Preservation Society was pleased to receive a DAH grant to restore the Doughboy War Memorial, Booth said, and it provided matching funds for the grant. She said the restoration work was done by Norton Arts, an Arkansas arts conservation company.
“The first step was a conservation cleaning, which brought out all the organic matter which had settled into the marble,” she said. “After several cleanings, they took the broken or missing areas, including part of the rifle site, the canteen, the nose and the fingertips, and the conservators carved those in wax and then replicated them in carrara marble, which was imported from Italy.”
She said the pieces were then fitted to the Doughboy using museum methods and materials.
“If you’re interested in more information on World War I as it affected Carroll County and Eureka Springs, I invite you to visit a special exhibit on World War I in the Eureka Springs Historical Museum at 95 South Main Street,” Booth said. “It will run until Veterans Day.”
In recognition of the centennial anniversary of World War I, the Carroll County Historical and Genealogical Society’s next quarterly meeting in September will be about family members and other Carroll County residents who were in World War I. Attendees are encouraged to bring photos, letters and their personal stories to share.
For the historical society’s quarterly meeting in December, the group will view Christmas cards sent from Carroll County soldiers stationed in France during World War I.