DAR chapter cleans up monument on JBLM

Captain Charles Wilkes monument gets much needed upkeep

By Tyler Hemstreet on July 15, 2011

The Tacoma based Mary Ball Chapter of the Daughter's of the American Revolution couldn't just stand by and watch a monument created to preserve an important event in American history fall into disarray.

It goes against everything the organization stands for.

So chapter members sprang into action and kick-started a yearlong restoration of the Captain Charles Wilkes monument on Joint Base Lewis-McChord North. The chapter celebrated the newly cleaned slate monument with a rededication ceremony on Tuesday afternoon on JBLM.

"It's part of American history, and that's one of our aims - to preserve American history and preserve monuments," said Dorothy Hayden, the chapter's chaplain.

Representatives from several local historical societies attended the elaborate ceremony, which also featured guest speaker Clinton Cannon, a retired lieutenant colonel who gave an oral history dressed as Captain Charles Wilkes.

After taking office as the Regent of the Mary Ball Chapter of the Daughter's of the American Revolution, Gail Sawyer started looking over some of the chapter's written history in its early archives and something caught her eye.

"It said that (the chapter was) part of (the erection of) three statues/monuments," Sawyer said. "I said, ‘Well that's interesting, I didn't know that.' I wanted to see them."

One monument was located at Point Defiance, another was located at Wright Park in Tacoma (which is no longer there) and a third monument was located on JBLM North.

The monument on JBLM was dedicated in 1906 to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the first Fourth of July celebration held west of the Missouri River, in 1841 by Wilkes.

But over the years, the monument had fallen prey to moss and the harsh Northwest conditions. The pickets on the fence surrounding the monument were covered in moss and the area at the base of the slate piece was filled with weeds.

"You could hardly read the words on the monument before this was done," Hayden said.

The DAR committed to cleaning up the slate monument. Sawyer called another member of the chapter, Peggy Walther, and the two set the wheels in motion to start the process.

Working with JBLM officials, the DAR chapter achieved its goal of preserving an important piece of local history.

"(JBLM) has been extremely supportive (of the process)," Sawyer said.

Chapter members couldn't be happier with the way the everything turned out.

"It's perfect," Walther said.