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LoganDoughboy

It was November 1928 in Logan County and there were two announced plans that were a part of what was reported to propel the county in a direction of greatness, although no one knew at the time what lay ahead — The Great Depression.

It had been 10 years since the end of World War I, and Logan County’s contribution to the war efforts — in both supplying young men for battle and producing the coal needed for steel production — were about to be recognized with the unveiling of a monument that stills stands today, although not in its original location on the western side of the Logan County Courthouse.

It was hoped the bronze sculptured soldier with a granite base would last for eternity, as thousands of people surrounded the Logan County Courthouse that chilly Nov. 11 Sunday afternoon for dedication ceremonies. Known as “The Doughboy,” which was a name given to soldiers participating on battlefronts of what was described as the “first world war,” it would be unveiled to the public following a flag-raising ceremony by Logan County Boy Scouts. The local American Legion was in charge of the dedication services.

Elsewhere in Logan County another “first” was about to occur as it was announced that a “burial park” was opened for public inspection and that grave plots in the 20-acre cemetery were available for purchase. It was quite an accomplishment for the county since it was the first “public” cemetery where anybody (with the exception of African Americans, then referred to as Negroes) could be buried. The cemetery was titled Logan Memorial Park and is located at McConnell on what used to be the only road to Man.

A brown rubble stone archway greeted visitors to the park that featured ornamental iron gates, a concrete entrance, the planting of 2,000 perennial flowers, as well as 7,000 other plants, and scores of rose bushes. With only family and church cemeteries to rely on prior to the beginning of Logan Memorial Park, this grand new public burial place, especially for those of the Catholic faith, was considered a great addition to Logan County.

Company officials of the Huntington-based J.E. Pritchart Company announced that “Perpetual care is assured. That never will these graves sink beneath the surface, that never will weeds and undergrowth hide the spot where some loved one lies; that always the dead will sleep where roses bloom and careful attention gives dignity to their unending rest.”

Unfortunately, despite good intentions likely meant to preserve the memorial Doughboy and Logan Memorial Park, perpetual care, like beauty itself, may just be in the eyes of the beholder.

After decades of greeting people near the western entrance to the Logan County Courthouse, the Doughboy monument became neglected and uncaring individuals managed to vandalize the memorial, which was moved to Midelburg Island in 1964 when the current courthouse was opened.

Unlike the now-disgraced McConnell cemetery that was abandoned many years ago, perhaps perpetuity is in fact a “reality” with the caretaking of the Doughboy, which is the first noticeable improvement to Midelburg Island when visitors cross the Guyandotte River toward Logan Senior High School on Midelburg Island.

Just as there remains much of historical content to be restored in Logan County, community and government efforts have revitalized the monument that in 1928 was dedicated to both the heroic living and dead. Nov. 11 was first celebrated as “Armistice Day” in celebration of the day in 1918 when surrender terms ended the allied confrontation with Germany that had resulted in nearly five million deaths and almost 14 million injuries.

Today, Americans celebrate Nov. 11 as Veteran’s Day, with Americans of all wars and military conflicts annually honored. Originally, Armistice Day was marked as a celebration of the end of World War I. In 1953, however, a private citizen, Alvin King, of Kansas, proposed changing the name of the holiday to Veterans Day to recognize all veterans of wars and conflicts. President Dwight D. Eisenhower the following year officially changed the name to Veterans Day.

Some people may recall the damaged Doughboy monument on Midelburg Island that in 1983 underwent a major restoration process, which included replacement of the entire left arm, the rifle and bayonet, and the upper part of the upraised right hand and grenade. The monument was rededicated that same year on Veterans Day and is known as War Memorial Park.

The Logan County Commission in 2015 voted to appoint members to a committee — later to be known as the Doughboy Committee — to oversee updates and improvements to the war memorial. The most notable improvement has been the addition of Logan County veterans’ names on large stone tablets featuring all of those veterans who served in military conflicts and paid the ultimate price of death.

For me, the monument also stands as proof of what can be done when citizens and government combine their efforts for the betterment of a community. It’s unfortunate that other historical undertakings have not transpired as one would expect — Hatfield Cemetery, the Don Chafin House, Blair Mountain, Mamie Thurman’s haunted gravesite at the abandoned McConnell cemetery, Aracoma’s burial grounds, and much more, including the diabolical actions of two former Logan county sheriffs, both of whom were sons of Devil Anse Hatfield.

At a time when Logan County’s future remains economically uncertain, perhaps it is time to utilize our wonderful local history in an effort to both brighten and enlighten what must be visualized as what may lie ahead. Perhaps it is time even for another committee.

Should not every student who attends any of the three schools on Midelburg Island not know the “history” of the very monument they likely saw every day before COVID-19 put a temporary halt to in-person learning? Should not the mystery of what transpired with Logan’s first great “perpetual care cemetery” be addressed, and Mamie Thurman’s grave unveiled — at least for history’s sake?

The fact remains: “Without history, there can be no future.”

Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.

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