Saturday, February 24, 2018

Caswell County World War I Memorial Controversy 2011

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World War I Memorial Dedicated in Yanceyville 1929

"A large number of people gathered in the public square at 3 o'clock to pay a permanent tribute to the Caswell men who while bearing arms for the nation died during the World war. A granite rock has been placed in the square and on it is a copper plate bearing the names of 16 men who gave their lives. There was a large turnout for the event and the ceremony was impressive. Allen Gwynn of Reidsville, himself a service man making the address. The memorial is not far from another, commemorating Caswell's part in the Civil war and it is near the German machine gun which Caswell secured as a war trophy."

Source: The Bee (Danville, Virginia), 7 February 1929, Thursday, Pages 1 and 3.

April 4, 2011 Meeting of the Caswell County Board of Commissioners


Mr. Wally Ewalt came before the Board to give an update on the “Lest We Forget” Plaque.

Mr. Ewalt stated “Thank you for giving me the opportunity this evening to talk to you about the monument out on the Square. If you will look at paper “A” that will give you an idea about what is on the Square right now. It is something that has been there for many, many years. We intend, if the Board agrees, to take that plaque down and put it in the Caswell County Historical Association and keep that plaque. Now we are proposing that we change that plaque and we have two options on how to change it. “B” is that we just change it by integrating all the names collectively and leaving something that no one has figured out yet which is “MKS”. We have even asked Sallie Anderson, who is our county historian, what it is and no one seems to know. We are proposing that we go with “C” because when people look at this plaque many do not know if it is World War II or World War I. Only by finding out by the dates of birth or the dates of death did we find out that it was World War I. So we changed the plaque only to take off “MKS” which has no meaning to anyone now and putting World War I there. If we do this it will cost nine hundred and seventy-five ($975.00) dollars to make the plaque a “shown and see”.
We have been talking about this now for about six or eight years. The last time we got a quote on the plaque was November 24, 2009 and the cost at that time was one thousand and ninety nine($1,099.00) dollars. I have been able to negotiate the price down a little bit. I am asking for the county’s approval to move forward with this change. We would merely take the plaque down as I said earlier and put it in the Historical Association headquarters across the street and we would install the new plaque. At one point in time the commissioners talked about some making a personal contribution. We are going to buy this through the Caswell County Historical Association so if you have an interest in making a contribution, assuming you want to go ahead with this, I would be delighted to get your contribution. If you don’t then I am going to raise the money whatever is the remaining part of it to get this accomplished. Do you have any questions?”

Commissioner Lucas asked “Mr. Ewalt I need a little history lesson if you don’t mind. How long has the plaque been there?” Mr. Ewalt responded “Probably since World War II. That is the best I can give you. There is no date on it.” Commissioner Lucas asked “Do we know who put the plaque there initially?” Mr. Ewalt responded “Do we know who put it there initially?”

Commissioner Lucas asked “Who raised the money initially to put the plaque there?” Mr. Ewalt responded “I would image the Historical Association but I asked Anne Daniel who was the president of the Historical Association for many years and it was done before she was president. So it had been there for many years.” Commissioner Lucas asked “Did the UDC have anything to do with that?” Mr. Ewalt responded “Not to our knowledge.” Commissioner Lucas stated “I think that “MKS” may be the initials of the president of UDC during that time.” Mr. Ewalt responded “Well the other suggestion is the initials are of the person who wrote “Lest We Forget”. That is the most common suggestion of what those initials stand for. As I said Sallie researched the thing to the best of her ability and I would not challenge her ability.”

Commissioner Lucas asked “The Historical Association is in one hundred (100%) percent agreement of doing this?” Mr. Ewalt responded “Yes.”

Chairman Hall stated “Mr. Ewalt and I have talked over the last month. This project started about a year or so ago. One of the things I asked him to do was to keep the Board apprised as we move forward and that is why he is here tonight.”

Commissioner Lucas asked “How did it first come to the attention of Historical Association? Is this something that you folks decided on your own or did someone approach you about it or what?” Mr. Ewalt responded “Actually when I was on the board of the Historical Association in which was probably about twenty years ago there was discussions at that time. The question was ‘Was this an appropriate thing for the county to have on its most prominent piece of property?’ While it is part of our history, and we are not trying to rewrite history, it just did not seem to be appropriate today. I talked to a number of people who are in the military and the most common statement is no one in the military today is concerned with your sex, your color or your religion or anything. They want to know if somebody is attacking me are you going to take care of my back like I am trying to take care of your back. The thing is really way past due in the opinion of
most people that we need to update the county.”

Commissioner Lucas stated “Just the problem I have with it is it is a historical marker. You are talking about removing a historical marker and I am concerned that other markers may be next on the hit list so that is the problem I have with it.”

Mr. Ewalt responded “Well I think if other historical markers are as inappropriate, in my
opinion, as this is then maybe we should look at them but I don’t think there are any.”

Commissioner Lucas added “My bases for that is we had a gentleman that came up from Durham, I believe, with North Carolina United or North Carolina Alliance and the focus then was the soldier so that is my concern.” Mr. Ewalt stated “We are going through a major redesign of the Square you know. They are going to put in new sidewalks and new flowers and shrubs so we thought this would be a good time to do this.”

Chairman Hall stated “Thank you Mr. Ewalt. I would like to make this comment. Ms. Lucas I
think your fears may be appropriate but it may also be appropriate to address some of the
markers. Over the past couple of years I have done tours of the courthouse. One of the things I do is bring to the attention of the folks, the signs to the left as you come in that talk about the Kirk-Holden War. Have you read that sign? Take a look at that sign and then as you come in the door on the right read what the original sign said.” Commissioner Lucas asked “So it has been changed?” Chairman Hall responded “It has been changed and I think appropriately so.”

Commissioner Lucas asked “When did that take place?” Chairman Hall responded “It has been changed over the last eight or ten years whether or not it was appropriate I don’t know but someone made the decision. It was changed.”

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