A number of interested parties met at the Scotland County Historical Society building on Monday, March 6th to discuss plans to relocate and restore a historic World War I monument from rural Scotland County.

Plans are underway to move “The Soldier in the Field” statue from the Cantril Farm, located south of Memphis, to a permanent home at the Downing House Museum.

Renovations have already been made to the statue, with reconstruction of the soldier’s head and hat, being done by local artisans.

Organizers of the restoration efforts indicated the statue was officially donated to the county back in 1932. Efforts are underway to finalize the transfer of the statue from the county to the historic society.

Dr. Larry Wiggins and Carl Trueblood are spearheading the efforts to secure volunteer labor to help move the statue. The group is also undertaking fundraising efforts, expecting the cost of materials and equipment for the move and renovation to run several thousand dollars.

Watch the Memphis Democrat for more details about the project as well as stories about the statue’s history.

 

“The Soldier In The Field”

by Pamela R. Blaine

I went for a visit today.  I’m not sure why I occasionally make a trip out there but I do.  There is no reason for me to go, it has nothing to do with me and yet…perhaps it has everything to do with me as well as with all of us who call ourselves Americans.

As I drove down the rarely used old farm road, I saw him in the distance and I suddenly felt as if I were stepping back into another time.  There he was standing tall and proud, just like I remembered him looking the last time I was here.  It seemed like he was guarding the landscape around him.

As I steered around the slight curve and came closer, mixed emotions of both sadness and pride surfaced within me once again.  Perhaps it was because I could relate to his mother.  I empathized with this woman who once lived here and loved him while walking this same land that I would walk upon once again today.

As I approached the place where he was, I began to brake and slow down until my wheels were barely rolling so I could take in the view from there.  I smiled as I came to a stop and then I just sat there for a few minutes before I pulled my pick-up truck over to the side of the road, turned off the ignition, and got out and walked across the road to where he stood.

I craned my neck and looked up at the statue.  There he was towering above me, this heroic young soldier who was one of Missouri’s finest sons.

For years, I had heard this monument simply referred to as,  “The Soldier In the Field”.   When someone would ask about any historical places in the area, people would say, “Have you seen the soldier in the field?”   Indeed, he did look like a sentry out on duty, yet here he was in a field in Scotland County, Missouri, standing miles away from anywhere watching over acres and acres of farmland as far as the eye could see in any direction.

I walked up to the base of the statue and I gently touched the inscription, reading it aloud as if somehow saying it out loud would bring more honor and respect to his memory:

Purnell Batts Barnett

Born at Memphis, Mo.

January 20, 1891

Died at base hospital Ft. Riley, Kan.

November 16, 1917 of pneumonia

A soldier in his country’s service

43 Days Co. 59 164 Depot Brigade

World’s war with Germany

We gave all the child we had

and it broke our hearts

What did you give?

Son of J.F. & M.K. Barnett

He was a great lover of nature

And of all animals

He loved hunting dogs the best

The statue, stands upon a four-sided dais and there are inscriptions on each of the four sides. The front that faces west has the information about Purnell Batts Barnett. The east side of the statue has the names of Purnell’s comrades who also died in World War I:

Charles G. Boyer, Orin Blain, Fred T. Bradley, Clarence Chancelor, Carry W. Clark, Joseph Crawford, Warren W. Chambers, Byron Dunn, Fred L. Fincher, Ezra W. Hartman, John H. Kerr, Leslie S. Kittle, Carl Leslie, Earnest O. Moyer, Sam Poole, Carl Rosa, Loyd Shelton, Tom Sanders, Harry Snyder, Earl Shinberger, Vern Stone, Nay Harris and Sam Wilson.

Beneath their names are these words:

The people of France, England,

Italy, Belgium, and Canada

Should have undying love

For U.S. soldiers

The words on the North side of the monument are about Purnell’s Father and the South side seems to be at least, in part, his Mother’s own words:

Mary Katherine Batts Barnett

Born in Henry Co. Ky. 1869

Died Jan. 28, 1922

I loved my Mo. farm home

and neighbors

Good bye gold star Mothers

And Fathers of World War

Good bye my little children

friends. See that the flag waves

above and that flowers grow

around this memorial

forever. I have gone to meet Purnell

my angel son who is at rest

with God.  Friends death alone can

sooth my broken heart.  Mothers

I am leaving my home and this park

for a playground for your children.

Why has the statue been left out here all these years?   What happened that the land was not left to become a park for a playground for children as she had specified?  I don’t really know.  There are a lot of unanswered questions.

I have no idea who owns the land now or why someone has not moved the statue to a safe place.  Although I like the idea of the statue remaining where it is, there is some evidence of vandalism and it looks like perhaps there were once pictures embedded in the stone.  It is very sad to think that anyone would want to mar or harm such a beautiful and historical monument that should be protected.

What will become of this memorial?  It is becoming weathered and more and more fragile all the time.  After all, it is a World War I Memorial, so it is very old.

There are some legends going around about “The Soldier In The Field” as folks tend to exaggerate stories sometimes, but it is enough for me just to know that he died in service to his country and that Purnell Batts Barnett was an only son and child.  Thus, his parent’s heartrending words… “We gave all the child we had.”

Flowers still grow beneath the memorial today but no flag waves above as his mother so desired.  “Old Glory” must have waved proudly above the statue while his parents still lived.  I did notice that someone had placed two small flags within the flowers that grow beneath the memorial.  This tells me that someone out there still cares.  

As I have questioned others, I have heard ideas of moving the statue, perhaps into Memphis to the Downing House Museum.  It would hopefully be preserved there.  Somehow, I just wish that the desires of a mother’s loving heart “that the flag waves above and that flowers grow around this memorial forever,” could be realized.

As you read this, I wonder if perhaps there is more we can do to preserve this memorial of one of America’s heroes… “The Soldier In The Field.”