The Woolwich War Memorial is in need of care, but before that happens the board must determine who is responsible for the upkeep of the historic monument at Laurel Hill Cemetery.
“We know for sure that it was erected on October 12, 1941, about two months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was placed there to honor the city’s veterans who served in the Civil War, the Spanish American War and the First World War, ”said Allison Hepler, representative for Selectman and House District 53. The original engraving is 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 re-dedication of the monument in 2011 when the Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, and World War on Terror were added to it with an“ S ”after World War II, which is supposed to include WWII, ”Hepler explained. In addition to needing to be cleaned, the base of the monument needs to be closed, Hepler continued. “I think it’s just a matter of determining what needs to be done and who will be responsible for meeting those needs.”
Dozens of Highway 127 motorists pass the 8-foot-tall granite column every day. A winding dirt road leads to the cemetery. Two granite benches are seated in front of the monument; next to it is a flag pole surmounted by an eagle. The column was originally known as the “Seamen and Soldiers’ Monument,” according to the Woolwich Historical Society’s book, “History of Woolwich – A Town Remembered.”
The cemetery, almost in the center of Woolwich, is best accessed 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 mound behind the cemetery is a grove of mountain laurels from which the cemetery takes its name.
The decision to place the monument in Laurel Hill Cemetery rather than a larger location may have been due to the fact that large numbers of veterans are buried there. Small flags mark the resting places of veterans from the War of 1812 to the Vietnam War. Among the tombstones is that of 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 money from city-sponsored fairs run by the Laurel Hill Cemetery Association. The Reverend George B. Wolstenholme, pastor of the People’s Baptist Church, provided the original invocation. Among those pictured at the original dedication were Samuel Hawthorn, Carrie Hawthorn, Albert Hawthorn, Dr CE Bousfield and Reverend Wolstenholme.