Woolwich’s war memorial needs some care, but before that happens the select board must figure out who’s responsible for maintaining the historic monument at Laurel Hill Cemetery.
“We know for sure it was erected Oct. 12, 1941, about two months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was placed there to honor the town’s veterans who served in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and World War I,” said Selectman and House District 53 Rep. Allison Hepler. The original engraving reads: “Erected in Loving Memory to those of the Town of Woolwich who served in the Civil, Spanish-American and World War.”
“There was a rededication of the monument in 2011 when the Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War and Global War on Terror were added to it along with an ‘S’ after World War, which is meant to include World War II,” explained Hepler. Besides needing to be cleaned, the monument’s base needs to be resealed, continued Hepler. “I think it’s just a matter of figuring out what needs to be done and who will take charge to carry out those needs.”
Dozens of Route 127 motorists a day pass by the 8-foot-tall granite column. A winding dirt path leads to the cemetery. Two granite benches sit in front of the monument; alongside it is a flagpole with an eagle on top. The column was originally known as the “Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Monument,” according to Woolwich Historical Society’s book, “History of Woolwich – A Town Remembered.”
The cemetery, almost in the center of Woolwich, is best reached from Route 1 via Nequasset Road. It is a short distance from Old Stage Road, just north of First Baptist Church on the west side of the highway. On the knoll behind the cemetery is a grove of mountain laurel from which the cemetery gets its name.
The decision to place the monument at Laurel Hill Cemetery rather than a more prominent location may have been because a large number of veterans are interred here. Small flags mark the resting places of veterans from the War of 1812 to the Vietnam War. Among the gravestones is one for Richard Roach, a veteran of the famous French Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
According to a newspaper clipping that is part of the book, the monument was paid for with monies left over from town-sponsored fairs at the direction of Laurel Hill Cemetery Association. The Rev. George B. Wolstenholme, pastor of People’s Baptist Church, provided the original invocation. Among those pictured during the original dedication were Samuel Hawthorn, Carrie Hawthorn, Albert Hawthorn, Dr. C. E. Bousfield and Rev. Wolstenholme.