SOUTH THOMASTON, Maine — A granite memorial to the town’s first casualty in World War I was restored this summer and rededicated on Veterans Day before a gathering of more than 100 residents.
“Today we rededicate the Hix Memorial,” said Charles “Chuck” Hartman, president of the Wessaweskeag Historical Society in South Thomaston. “We are here not only to honor Oscar Hix, but all brave men and women who served our country.”
The tribute to Cpl. Oscar A. Hix, a member of Company L, 30th U.S. Infantry, took place Tuesday at the historical society across from the South Thomaston post office on Route 73.
All participants stood in the wind and 40-degree temperature during the nearly 90-minute ceremony, which began with the Tenants Harbor American Legion Post 34 Color Guard presenting colors while Capt. Ken Barnes of Rockland played the bagpipes.
Zack Picard and Mike Norman of Boy Scout Troop 206 of Rockland unveiled the plaque memorializing Hix and all South Thomaston men and women who have served the country, while members of Girl Scout Troop 489 of South Thomaston and Owls Head sang “God Bless America.”
After speeches, South Thomaston Selectmen Penelope Alley and Jeffrey Northgraves and historian James Skoglund of St. George laid a wreath at the memorial.
Residents and members of the society have spent more than 10 years working on the reconstruction of the memorial to Hix, who died at age 25 on July 15, 1918, at Chateau-Thierry, France.
Historical society member Gray Smith said the memorial is based on a wooden footbridge and boardwalk and granite monument originally dedicated in 1923.
The structure had fallen apart by 1950, and the Maine Department of Transportation used the granite blocks of the memorial for a culvert under Route 73, Smith said.
More than 10 years ago, the granite blocks from the monument were discovered, and the historical society negotiated with the DOT to replace the stones. The society kept the original blocks for future restoration of the monument, Smith said.
“We rescued the stones and piled them up in the lot across from the Keag Store [on Route 73],” he said.
The society received help from Spruce Head architect John Hansen, who drew a design of the monument to be used as the basis for restoration.
The monument is made of locally quarried stones, many of which were too damaged to be used. New pieces had to be made, Smith said, and the society awarded a low bid to Freshwater Stone and Brick of Orland to fashion new stones and truck them to South Thomaston for reconstruction of the monument.
The original monument was a footbridge spanning a small gully near the center of South Thomaston, according to a 1923 newspaper account. It was built entirely of granite and reinforced with concrete.
The original monument dedication took place in August 1923, more than a year after Hix received a military funeral in April 1922.
Capt. George W. Kittredge on Tuesday read a newspaper account of the first Hix Memorial ceremony, which 1,000 people attended.
Hartman paid special tribute to Bill Brown, a historical society member, former South Thomaston selectman, deputy sheriff in Knox and Waldo counties, and founding member of the South Thomaston Fire Department.
Brown died Saturday at age 87.