In 1919, a memorial arch was constructed over the sidewalk on the south lawn of the Fayette County Courthouse to honor the county’s sons who had served and died in World War I.
The arch consisted of an enormous wooden frame covered with white stucco. It was an imposing structure when built, but by 1927, it had deteriorated badly from weather, smoke from the Paint Street railroad station, and the pigeons that roosted on it.
The arch became an eyesore, and in the summer of 1927, it was torn down. Before the demolition began, the Paul H. Hughey Post of the American Legion had completed plans for a new veterans’ memorial. It was a monument of pink and black speckled granite paid for with money donated by Fayette County citizens. The monument was erected on the south lawn of the courthouse, and it remains there today.
Bronze letters attached to the monument’s front side read: “Erected to Those from Fayette County Who Served Their Country in the World War.” Two bronze eagles from the memorial arch sit atop the granite monument. Also incorporated into the new veterans’ memorial were several bronze plaques previously displayed on the arch. A pair of plaques facing Court Street lists the names of the 44 Fayette men who died in the war. Four bronze shields name the four major battles in which soldiers from Fayette County fought: the Argonne and the Marne (front); Soissons and St. Mihiel (back).
The Paul Hughey Post scheduled the monument’s dedication for the morning of Friday, Nov. 11, 1927. It was Armistice Day. The weather was cool; the sky was cloudy. A large canvass had been put over the monument after it was set in place several days before. In the early hours of Armistice Day 1927, the canvass was removed and replaced with a large American flag.
Promptly at ten o’clock, a parade formed in front of the high school on North Street. It proceeded south to Court Street and then west to the courthouse lawn. Members of the American Legion and the cadet band from the Ohio Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphans’ Home in Xenia led the procession. Also marching were 200 school children, some girls dressed as Red Cross nurses, and uniformed members of Company M, the local unit of the Ohio National Guard.
Charles A. Reid, the judge of Fayette County’s Common Pleas Court, delivered the dedicatory address. In the first quarter of the 20th century, Reid was the county’s foremost orator. His rich baritone voice, knowledge of American history, and engaging personality made him a popular speaker at patriotic events throughout Ohio. The cadet band was seated in front of the flag-draped monument. There was a large basket of chrysanthemums at each end of it. Later, the flowers were given to the county’s Gold Star mothers.
Businesses of the city closed during the ceremony. Perceptive observers estimated the size of the crowd on the courthouse square at more than 2,000 persons. The program began when Rev. J. H. Goddard, pastor of the First Christian Church, offered a prayer. Then, the cadet band played “America,” which in 1927 was the unofficial national hymn of the United States. In his dedicatory address, Charles Reid reflected on the pride that Fayette Countians had taken in their soldiers and sailors; he expressed his belief that a strong national defense was the best guarantee of a lasting world peace.
While Reid was speaking, sunshine broke through the clouds and cast a flood of golden light on the monument. Judge Reid completed his address two minutes before eleven o’clock. Members of the Paul Hughey Post removed the American flag from the monument so that all could see the new veterans’ memorial. Before the courthouse clock had finished striking eleven, a dozen legionnaires rent the air with a volley of rifle fire. The ceremony ended when a bugler sounded taps.
President Woodrow Wilson, America’s wartime president, believed that World War I was “the war to end all wars.” Wilson’s optimistic prediction proved incorrect. On Armistice Day in 1974 a second veterans’ memorial was dedicated on the south lawn of the courthouse to honor Fayette County’s sons who had died in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
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