“Please come by and remember those who defended our country.”
Christopher Martin, corresponding secretary for the Johnston Historical Society, issued that invitation for Sunday’s 11 a.m. Memorial Day Observance at the Graniteville Monument located off Putnam Pike (Route 44) in Johnston.
Dan Brown, who doubles as JHS vice president and president of the Graniteville War Memorial Association, told the Sun Rise “this year’s celebration will be totally different than those of previous years.”
“We’re going to have a bagpiper for our music and that’s a first,” said Brown. “We’re honored that David Hogg [a U.S. Marine Corps veteran] will be here Sunday to take part in our ceremony. We’ll also have a police color guard and refreshments will be served.”
The Graniteville War Memorial Association was incorporated back on Sept. 22, 1919. For those not familiar with the monument, it’s located next to the Johnston Fire Station on Route 44 and next to the Elijah Angell House and Museum Barn at 101 Putnam Pike.
Brown announced that Sunday’s tribute would actually begin at 10:30 a.m. with a service at Graniteville Baptist Church on Serrel Sweet Road that runs parallel with Putnam Pike.
“After that, people will march down Putnam Pike to the memorial,” Brown said.
The day’s featured speaker will be Louis McGowan, president of the Johnston Historical Society. Once the Memorial Day observance is complete, attendees are welcome to tour the Society’s Museum Barn at no charge.
There’s lots of history in just how the monument came into being,” Brown said. “Originally, the war memorial was owned by the Graniteville Diligence Committee and Graniteville Improvement Association in 1916, the year that group was chartered. Then in 1919, those two committees handed it over to the Graniteville Memorial Association.”
The monument was put in place on June 22, 1919.
“Right after that, the association purchased the bronze plaque that’s on the stone and has its own special story,” Brown said. “The group purchased the plaque from Tilden & Thurber Store in Providence for approximately $200.”
But back in 1933, so records indicate, someone or some group attempted to steal the plaque and succeeded.
“They stole the plaque as scrap,” said Brown, who noted that even today bronze goes for a high price on the scrap market. “But the police later found it in a scrap yard ... it had been cut into several pieces ... eventually it got put back together and today it’s still in place on the monument.”
The memorial service has been taking place there for as long as the 60-year-old Brown can remember.
“History has it that back in 1920 civic war heroes attended. They even did a parade way back then,” he said.
Brown, in particular, has a special interest in the monument. William Thorpe’s father built the house he lives in, across the street on Putnam Pike, in 1917. Thorpe’s son, in fact, used to live in the same house when he went off to war. While serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps (now Air Force), he was a navigator on a B-17 bomber that was shot down on a mission over Germany. He was later buried in a military cemetery in Belgium.
On Sunday, Thorpe’s picture will be on display along with other Graniteville veterans.