Fredericktown Police Department Detective Sgt. Mike Sletten and the his fellow officers have been combing the area in search of a World War I memorial plaque dedicated to the memory of Madison County fallen service members.
Members of the community and Historic Madison County, which is the county’s historic preservation group, have spread the word about the disappearance via social media, since it was posted Aug. 16.
Sletten made the discovery Aug. 7 while performing his community patrol duties on day shift.
“I was making a trip through town when I looked up and saw it missing that day,” Sletten said.
He explained he had to double check what he saw so he turned around immediately to make a second pass along South Main Street. The detective parked and got out of his patrol car to take a closer look. Once he confirmed its absence by checking in the area at the entryway and in the park, he began to make some phone calls. He contacted all of the of city department supervisors to ensure they had not removed it for some type of maintenance work.
“I talked to all of the department heads to check for maintenance duties,” Sletten said. “The last record for maintenance on the entrance was re-tucking of the brick,” he said. “But that was at least a year ago.”
Going by his best recall, Sletten thinks it was taken between Aug. 1 and the early morning of Aug. 7.
The detective filed a report in his office and started talking to people in the community about the loss.
“I started getting the word out and have gotten a pretty good response,” Sletten said.
Sletten is also one of the Facebook administrators for the historical society, and made a post on the organization’s page Aug. 16.
“As of (Wed.) morning there have been about 20,000 views,” he said. “By noon there were over 22,000 views and 506 people had shared my comments.”
This is from that Aug. 16 Facebook post: “STOLEN: It has come to our attention that one of Madison County’s tribute’s to our fallen soldiers of World War I has been taken from us. Sometime between August 1, 2016 and the morning of August 7, 2016 one of the large bronze tablets that was in laid in the brick entrance to Memorial Park, located on South Main Street in Fredericktown that paid tribute to the fallen boys of WWI from Madison County, was stolen. 37 names were mentioned on this tablet….”
The message included photos of the plaque in its original resting place and a photo of the indentation in the brick, without the plaque. There was also a request for information about its disappearance and the police department phone number.
“My interest in local history is probably what helped me make the discovery,” Sletten said.
Sletten is a member of the historical society, but also considers himself a local historian and has filled his office with local historical mementos and photographs. Fortunately, he had taken a photo of the memorial tablet in April while doing historical research on Memorial Park.
It had hung on the brick entryway to Memorial Park in downtown Fredericktown since its installation in 1921. The 37 names of memorialized World War I fallen heroes were set into the tablet in raised letters. Members of the historical society believe the large tablet memorial is made of caste bronze. They also estimate the size as being 24 inches wide by 42 inches in length and quite heavy.
Public Works Director James Settle said, “It weighs at least 75 or 100 pounds.”
He didn’t believe it could be lifted by a couple of kids acting alone. Settle said there were rumors the plaque had been taken by a couple of local youths.
Historic Madison County Recording Secretary Ruth Ann Skaggs agrees with Sletten’s guess that it will cost in the thousands of dollars to replace the “bronze” tablet. They have made a guess based on the cost of similar plaques.
Skaggs referenced the historical society in the following discussion related to the memorial.
“We are not sure what it would cost yet,” Skaggs said. “We have had offers of donations already. We will be pursuing an estimate.”
“B.B. (Benjamin Benson) Cahoon donated the land for Memorial Park,” Skaggs said. “The other plaque (at the entryway) is in recognition of the donation.”
“His (Cahoon’s) family home stood in almost the same location as the old middle school that burned down (Apr. 10) 2010,” “It was situated in the park between the water tower and the swimming pool.”
According to a 1919, Volume 50 article in the “Democrat News”, B. B. Cahoon hosted a six-course dinner for 14 of his closest friends. Afterwards, came the announcement of the donation of the four-acre land parcel for the city park. The tract laid to the southeast of his home and was comprised of all of lots 5, 6 and 7 in Block Three and lots 4, 5, 6, and 7 in Block Four within the Cahoon residential property lines. Judge Anthony, R. H. Davis, C. L. Whitener and N. B. Watts were his designated trustees.
Cahoon was given the title, “Honorable” because he was an attorney and land agent in Madison County after arriving here in 1868. He was raised in Delaware and served in the Civil War prior to taking up law, according to his information sheet with the State Historical Society of Missouri.
These are the names of the World War I fallen veterans as they appear on the original “bronze” memorial tablet, with all of the lettering in all capitals. The heading reads “HONOR ROLL”.
- William A. Baker
- Everett Barrett
- Allen Bollinger
- Benjamin Bradshaw
- Marion Combs
- Columbus J. Cook
- Charles Davis
- Henry Davis
- Lawrence Lee East
- William H. Engel
- George Graham
- William A. Gregory
- John Griffon
- Eugene Hensley
- Charles W. Hovis
- Charles Johnson
- Frank Jones
- Leslie Frank Jones
- Clarence Kemp
- William King
- Lee Lewallen
- Robert M. Lewis
- Gilbert Lunsford
- William J. Martin
- Charles McCarver
- Medford McClanahan
- Roy Gilbert Moyers
- Eugene Nelson
- William H. Phelps
- Raymond Sanders
- William C. Sheppard
- Albert Stanfill
- Columbus Staten
- George Thomason
- Willard Thomason
- H. T. Underriner
- Oscar Welker
The Fredericktown Police Department urges anyone with information leading to the discovery of this valuable piece of county history to come forward. Persons may remain anonymous and can contact the department on the non-emergency line at 573-783-3660, available 24 hours per day
Traci M. Black is a reporter for the Democrat News and can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at email@example.com.