Polk County looks to restore Doughboy statue

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2017

COLUMBUS -The Polk County Board of Commissioners charged its appearance commission to investigate who owns the Doughboy statue in Columbus and what can be done to restore the statue.

The Doughboy statue sits at the entrance of Courthouse Street and was dedicated in 1925 by the school children and the patriotic citizens of Polk County to recognize Polk residents killed in WWI.

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Commissioners met July 17 and discussed the statue and its need for restoration.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson placed the item on the agenda and said it has been 100 years since the U.S. entered World War I and the statue has been in Columbus for about 90 years.

Gasperson said the county needs to rediscover the history of the monument and added that the statue is melting away due to the effects of acid rain. Gasperson said he would like to see the Doughboy restored by its 100th anniversary.

Gasperson said Alan Leonard did an outstanding series of articles related to the various names listed on the Doughboy recently in the Bulletin.

Most noticeably, the helmet on the Doughboy is starting to deteriorate, with Gasperson saying someone needs to stop any further damage.

County manager Marche Pittman suggested commissioners delegate investigations into the Doughboy to the Polk County Appearance Commission, including what can be done to restore the statue and who has responsibility for the statue.

“We are not even sure who owns this statue,” said Gasperson.

County attorney Jana Berg suggested looking through archives to see who actually owns the Doughboy.

Gasperson noted the plaque that says it was erected by the school children and patriotic citizens, saying, “that really speaks volumes to me.”

Gasperson said there were a lot of efforts made to honor the WWI soldiers, especially by the school children. He also mentioned the plaque’s naming WA Cannon, “who had to be a remarkable individual,” Gasperson said.

Former commissioner and current Polk County Historical Association President Ted Owens said the historical association was honored to sponsor the flag dedication at the Doughboy statue on July 4. He also said there are a few members of the historical association who can probably answer questions about the school children and WA Cannon and how the Doughboy statue came to be.

“This is only one of two made out of granite in the state of North Carolina,” Owens said.

Owens also said according to research by Clint Blanton, it took five years to raise the money to build the statue. Owens said they tried in 1920 and couldn’t get fundraising off the ground until they got the school children involved. Owens said the statue was erected on July 4, 1925 and in his opinion it belongs to the people of Polk County, therefore, it belongs to Polk County.

Gasperson said he thinks the county needs to determine what kind of costs are involved in restoring the Doughboy. He said he spent an hour or so recently looking at all the county’s monuments and plaques in Columbus, a number of them around the courthouse and Stearns park.

Gasperson said he noticed that people dedicated their time and effort to place the monuments and plaques and it was all citizens who did them.

There were 42 people from Polk County who died in WWII, four from the Korean War and three from the Vietnam War with names on plaques and monuments in Columbus.

Gasperson said there is also a plaque honoring Dr. Columbus Mills, a plaque honoring people who worked on Stearns Park, and the Howard Monument that honors the 1776 Battle of Round Mountain.

“There’s nearly 25 concrete benches at Stearns Park, all with plaques,” Gasperson said. “Then, of course, the Veterans Park was a phenomenal effort.”

Gasperson said he’s not suggesting at this point the county allocate money to restore the Doughboy but the county needs to find out what it will cost and where the restoration is headed.

Pittman said he believes between the county staff and the appearance commission, the county could get someone in to come and take a look at the statue.

The Town of Columbus also approved placing a plaque at the Doughboy during its July 20 meeting.