For a few hours Wednesday morning, a small corner of Emmitsburg looked just as it did in 1927.
The town’s “doughboy” statue, scrubbed and repaired, was laboriously placed atop a new, 6-ton limestone pedestal in the statue’s original location in front of the historic Emmit House. The limestone came from the same Indiana quarry that provided the statue’s original base before it was erected in 1927.
“Doughboy” was a colloquial name for an infantryman during World War I. The statue depicts a soldier with a rifle in one hand and a grenade in the other. It stood in front of the house at 601 W. Main St. in Emmitsburg until it was hit by a truck in June.
Dianne Walbrecker lives a few yards away from the doughboy statue. She was sitting on her front porch with her daughter minutes before the crash.
It was a foggy, rainy night, she remembers. She had just gone into the house and turned on the faucet in the kitchen. Her daughter came to tell her that “someone crashed into the doughboy.”
Walbrecker ran outside with a flashlight and a blanket, and saw that a woman driving a truck had hit the statue. The stone pedestal was damaged, and the statue had toppled over.
Walbrecher called 911 and sat on the curb with the dazed driver until an ambulance took the woman away.
Months later, the town is still waiting to hear from the driver’s insurance company. The town commissioners voted to spend $40,000 to repair the statue.
To re-solder the statue’s halves together, and to obtain a new limestone base, the town hired Gary Casteel, a Gettysburg resident and Vietnam War veteran.
He watched as the statue went up Wednesday morning.
Casteel noted that many similar doughboy statues around the country have turned green or black with age. Emmitsburg’s doughboy has been restored to its original copper color.
“It will brighten the west end of Emmitsburg,” he said.
Five men and a crane stacked the three limestone pedestal pieces, then the statue, in their original place.
“It’s a lot of manual labor and time involved, but once it’s up, it’s there for many generations,” Casteel said.
The original plaque, which stirred some controversy in the town, is unchanged. The plaque lists three veterans’ names under the heading “Colored Soldiers.”
On the same June night the statue was knocked off its pedestal, a shooting at an African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina, left nine people dead.
The shooting prompted Emmitsburg resident Bob Rosensteel to call for a plaque for the statue that does not refer to race, but lists the names alphabetically.
At town meetings since then, and while the statue was going up, local veterans defended the “Colored Soldiers” heading.
Thomas Hoke, a longtime Emmitsburg resident who served as an Army combat medic during World War II, said the wording on the plaque shouldn’t change.
“That’s the way it was back in those days, and that’s the way it should stay,” he said.
Mike Humerick, an Air Force veteran and former Emmitsburg resident, said in front of the Emmit House on Wednesday that he was surprised people disagreed about the wording.
“That thing has been that way for years,” he said. “Why do they want to change it?”
Though the town’s commissioners wondered whether another plaque should be added to acknowledge the reference, they ultimately decided to put the statue back up with just the original plaque.
Humerick, Hoke, Walbrecker, Casteel and the town’s mayor, Don Briggs, were all happy to see the statue back in place.
“It means so much to the community,” Briggs said. “It’ll be a really special little place again.”