COLUMBIA — Boone County Commission spokeswoman Michelle Hall led Jenifer Flink to a stone in a small garden at the Boone County Courthouse Plaza on Oct. 25.
Construction crews had unearthed a mysterious solid granite monument while renovating the plaza in early September. The stone is about 16 inches wide by 8 inches high by 5 inches deep and was too heavy for Flink, executive director and curator of the Boone County Historical Society, to pick up.
Instead, she had a member of the construction crew working on the plaza put the rectangular monument in her car. Flink then took the monument to its new home, at least for now, at the Walters-Boone County Historical Museum.
It’s not uncommon for stones to sink into the ground in garden-type areas, such as the courthouse plaza. Farmers call the society with stories about finding sunken tombstones on their property while digging, Flink said. The surprising part about this monument is that it sunk in a public place, and no one noticed.
The first line of on the monument is unreadable, and Flink said it is likely a machine scraped off the top part of the stone.
On the monument’s face, boxed in a reddish border, uppercase lettering reads: "... girls of Boone County who served their country in World War II/American War Mothers/Boone County Chapter 6."
So what's Chapter 6 of the Boone County American War Mothers?
That's part of the mystery, Hall said.
Because the nonprofit, nonpolitical organization, founded in 1917, is not a very active group in Columbia or Boone County, Hall said identifying who commissioned the memorial and when has been a challenge.
"That’s one of the biggest obstacles we’ve faced," Hall said.
The county contacted MU to see if it had any records of the monument, said Karlan Seville, communications manager for MU Campus Facilities. Last November, MU rededicated a different American War Mothers monument, originally placed on Rollins Street in 1930, just east of Memorial Union, according to a previous Missourian report.
But MU has no documentation of the stone unearthed at the courthouse, Seville said. That's when she pointed the commission's office toward the Boone County Historical Society.
The society offered to display the monument, and on Oct. 25 that plan was realized.
"The timing for placing it on display in the museum is great as we approach Veterans Day," Flink said. "I'm happy that we can honor those who served during that very dark time in history."
Before Veterans Day, the historical society hopes to complete oral histories with two local women who served in World War II to accompany the stone's display, Flink said. She hopes these women will have some recollection of the monument and be able to offer some insight into its origins.
"That will personalize the stone and allow visitors to relate to its meaning," she said.
Along with the courthouse plaza stone and another near Memorial Union, the American War Mothers has numerous monuments across the country. In Kansas City, an 18-foot limestone obelisk stands in honor of those who served in World War I, dedicated by the American War Mothers in 1942.
In Pennsylvania, a 6-foot-high monument in York, erected in 1946, reads: "We mothers are proud of our sons and daughters who won peace and freedom for the world. Guard well this heritage for the mothers of the future."
In California, an American War Mothers memorial sits in the San Francisco National Cemetery.
Boone County Historical Society researchers are still looking for information on the memorial unearthed at the courthouse.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.