By Myra Lee Adams Goff
The first July 4 celebration in New Braunfels took place in 1845, just four months after the first emigrants crossed the Guadalupe into what would be the “Neu Heimat” (New home). A lot has happened historically since that first Independence celebration. For one thing, two statues were placed on the Main Plaza commemorating the men who fought in the Civil War and World War I. This is their story.
One statue located on the Main Plaza is called “Spirit of the American Doughboy”. Doughboy became a nickname for American soldiers in World War I and it stuck. No one knows where the name comes from but the term supposedly goes back long before the Civil War. In WWI both Americans and British soldiers were called Doughboys. Originally the term was not a compliment. Herman Melville in “Moby Dick” calls the cabin steward a doughboy suggesting a negative comparison to the sun burnt whalers and harpooners. Later the US Army cavalry looked down on the infantry calling them Doughboys, referring to the shape of the infantrymen’s buttons on their jackets that looked like dumplings .Whatever, it was not a compliment and mostly mocked the American infantryman. After WWI, Doughboy became a popular name for all American troops. This changed by WWII when American service men were called G.I.s or Yanks. Doughboys are now mostly associated with WWI.
Doughboy (we’ll call the statue that name) was placed on the Main Plaza in 1937 in observance of the 19th anniversary of the Armistice of WWI. It is in full uniform complete with pack, helmet, grenade and rifle. The granite base contains tree stumps and barbed wire. There it remained for 49 years until it was run over by an inebriated driver in 1986. The statue broke into five pieces, losing its head, both arms and half a leg. A clever Herald writer quipped “A farewell to arms”.
When the statue was knocked off of its rather large base, an unexpected tombstone was revealed on which the statue stood. It had an inscription on it: “T. Stokely M. Holmes, born Aug 21, 1828, died July 28, 1905. A kind affectionate husband, a fond father and a friend to all”. How this tombstone became part of the Doughboy is not known. Looking up that name in Ancestry.com, one finds this person buried in the Tuttle Cemetery in Guadalupe County: “Stokely M. Holmes, b Aug 21, 1828 and d July 28, 1905”. Obviously the Doughboy tombstone was rejected because it had incorrect information. It has rested under Doughboy since 1937.
Who was the sculptor of Doughboy? E.M. Viquesney was the sculptor of the cast zinc statue. He was a “chip off the old block” because his grandfather, Charles Alfred Viquesney was a stone carver in France who came to the US in 1842. Then Charles Alfred’s son, also Alfred, followed in his father’s trade with a stone carving business, making monuments and carvings of angels, crosses and other figures. These figurines were very popular as early decorations of gravesites. Viquesney, the sculptor of Doughboy, learned the business from his father.
Viquesney designed monuments at Clark’s Monument Works. He went on to design and sculpt many other memorials during his lifetime, too many to name here. They ranged from a Confederate War Memorial to his last sculpture in 1946 titled “Last of the Comrades”. All of his sculptures honored war heroes. Sadly, following completion of “Last of the Comrades”, Visquesney took his own life.
In 1921, the Doughboy sculptor won a national American Legion award for design. With the success of the Doughboy statue he received orders all over the United States for replicas. In Texas alone this Doughboy can be seen in Canyon, Crowell, Ft. Worth, Grosebeck, Lufkin, Sinton, Wichita Falls, Vernon, Texarkana and New Braunfels.
With this success, he produced 12 inch replicas of this statue. This is a common practice for sculptors and he sold as many as 25,000 of these miniatures. One of the miniatures was given by Viquesney to President Warren Harding and one was given to Gen. George Pershing. He also made lamps, and candleholders and incense burners in the shape of the statue .The last Doughboy statue was produced in 1942. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if there was one of these miniatures in someone’s attic right here in New Braunfels.
Mr. and Mrs. E.A. Clousnitzer had originally presented money in 1937 to the local American Legion to purchase both the Doughboy statue and another statue placed on the south side of the Plaza called “To the Memory of our Fallen Soldiers of the Civil War 1861-65”, honoring all soldiers of that war. The statue actually honors both sides of the Civil War, the Confederacy and the Union, because both sides in this conflict in Comal County lost soldiers in that war.
Another move took place when New Braunfels was getting ready to celebrate its Sesquicentennial in 1996. After refurbishing both statue soldiers and replacing stolen guns, they were placed on the same side of Main Plaza and rededicated in 1997. Both statues are now on the north side of the Plaza. Does this placement seem a little confusing to you? This might help: Hermann Seele said that when Nicholas Zink was plotting out the streets of NB, he followed the wagon trails, more or less. If you go to Main Plaza with a compass, you will find that North and South Seguin actually go in a northwest and southeast direction and West and East San Antonio go in a southwest and northeast direction. I suggest that you just go down there and find the statues yourself.
When you go to downtown to see the Sophienburg’s July 4th Parade, make your acquaintance with these two statues and remember the ones they honor.
The Sophienburg July 4th celebration begins with the lineup of parade participants at 8:30 at the Sts. Peter & Paul parking lot. The Community Band plays on the Plaza at 8:34. Then a Commemorative Air Force fly-over should take place at 9:10, followed by the parade and program on the Plaza. Call 830-629-1572 for parade entry reservations.