Polk County WWI Doughboy, Columbus
A uniformed World War I infantryman holds the barrel of his rifle with both hands in front of him. The butt of the rifle rests on the base. A knapsack is slung over his shoulder and a bayonet is attached to his belt. The soldier’s right leg is braced against a tree stump. The figure is mounted on a base of local field and river stones that features an embedded, inscribed, marble panel. The statue is approximately 5 feet high atop the base approx. 7 x 4 x 4 ft. The monument is positioned at the base of a triangle edging formed of the same stone as the statue base. A flagpole flying a 48 star flag, also inside of the triangle, stands behind the statue. Two small metal plaques explain the 48 star flag. One plaque shows the logo for Polk County and the other a logo for the Town of Columbus and the local House of Flags museum.
The statue was most likely carved in Italy of white Carrara marble. As with two other similar marble doughboy statues in North Carolina (WWI Doughboy Statue, High Point and 1926 Montgomery County Veterans Memorial, Troy) details of the uniform are incorrect. In particular with all three the campaign hat is of a style not used by U.S. troops during the war. This statue also has an incorrect canteen although the soldier’s rifle does appear to be correct for the U.S. Model 1903, Springfield.
Images: Rear view of the monument | Side view of the monument | Side view with the flagpole | Inscription on front of base | Flagpole plaque 2 | On lower panel on front of base | Street view | View from the courthouse lawn
On marble panel on front of base: THIS MONUMENT MARKS / THIS HIGHWAY THAT WE / DEDICATE TO THE MEMORY OF / LEVI BUTLER / JESSIE LEWIS / WALLACE LANKFORD / ZIBO WILSON / LAWSON WILLIAMS / RALPH WALKER / COLUMBUS CONSTANT / WHO PAID THE SURPREME / SACRIFICE FOR THEIR / HOME AND COUNTRY AND / ALSO ALL THOSE WHO / SERVED IN THE WORLD / WAR FROM POLK COUNTY / NORTH CAROLINA. / THIS MONUMENT WAS / ERECTED BY THE SCHOOL / CHILDREN AND PATRIOTIC / CITIZENS OF THE COUNTY.
On lower panel on front of base: THIS MONUMENT IS THE RESULT / OF THE UNTIRING EFFORT AND / PATRIOTIC DEVOTION OF / W.A. CANNON – BY HIS FRIENDS.
Flagpole plaque 1: 48-STAR U.S. FLAG / THE 48-STAR FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA / (1912-1959) CONTINUES TO FLY OVER THIS WWI / MEMORIAL DOUGHBOY STATUE ERECTED IN 1925, / IN HONOR OF POLK COUNTY RESIDENTS WHO / FOUGHT AND DIED FOR OUR NATION’S FREEDOM FROM / 1917 TO 1918.
Flagpole plaque 2: DEDICATED TO / PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE / POLK COUNTY VETERANS / APRIL 6, 1917 / U.S.A. ENTERED WORLD WAR I
July 4, 1925
35.251550 , -82.198970 View in Geobrowse
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"Polk County Doughboy, (sculpture)," Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museum, SIRIS, sirismm.si.edu, (accessed June 26, 2014) Link
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Bennett, D. William. Polk County, North Carolina History (Tyron, NC: The Association, 1983), 38
Folder 1228: Columbus: Polk County Courthouse, circa 1910s-1930s: Scan 1, in the North Carolina County Photographic Collection #P0001, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Link
Leonard, Allen. “Polk County’s Doughboy, Part 1: One of a Kind,” Tyron Daily Bulletin (Tyron, NC), June 16, 2017, (accessed June 5, 2022) Link
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“UNTITLED,” Polk County News (Tyron, NC), May 28, 1925, (accessed June 5, 2022) Link
“Unveiling of Memorial to Soldier Dead Draws Record Crowd to Columbus on 4th,” Polk County News (Tyron, NC), July 9, 1925, (accessed June 5, 2022) Link
Marble and stone
Soldiers Memorial Association. W.A. Cannon of special note.
The Soldiers Memorial Association was formed in 1919 and one source says that they had completed the memorial in 10 months. That may refer to the statue base which was constructed from locally procured stone. The statue was not present until 1925 when the memorial was formally dedicated.
In 2008, the town of Columbus considered altering the traffic flow around the courthouse in order to maximize the number of parking spaces. Concerned citizens spoke out against the plan, which would have required moving the monument. The town decided to leave the monument in place.
The monument is oriented so that the soldier faces the White Oak Mountains on a small, triangular median at the corner of East Mills Street and the southwest corner of Courthouse Square. It is within walking distance of the Veterans Park, Stearns Park, and the House of Flags Museum, the only one of its kind in the United States.
Several other memorials stand on or near the courthouse grounds, including Polk County Bicentennial (Veterans) Memorial, Howard Monument: Battle of Round Mountain monument, Polk County War Memorial, Dr. Columbus Mills memorial and a Green Ashe tree memorial to veterans of World War Two.
The median in which the monument stands is landscaped with flowering plants, maintained by local garden clubs.
A farmers' market takes place on Saturdays on the street behind the monument. Once a year, the Columbus Farm Festival is held there as well.