Arkansas Department of Heritage holds program at Herman Davis Park

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Manila fifth and sixth grade students attended a program on Herman Davis at the Herman Davis Memorial Park in Manila on Wednesday afternoon.

Rachel Miller, education outreach coordinator with the State Agency of Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, an agency of Arkansas Department of Heritage, presented the program offering a brief history on how and why the monument was erected in memory of Davis.

Rachel Miller with the Arkansas Department of Heritage gives a program on Herman Davis Memorial Park to Manila fifth and sixth graders. (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

Herman Davis Memorial Park is one of the smallest state parks in Arkansas, only one acre. It features a 25-foot granite life-sized statue of the World War I hero.

She explained the people in Mississippi County held a fundraiser for the monument raising $5,000. The city of Manila donated the site and John C. McHenry, Jr. was awarded the stonework but artists in Cararra, Italy, carved the statue. It took a year to complete.

The project was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1925. Then Governor Thomas Jefferson Terral proclaimed it as Herman Davis Memorial Day in Arkansas.

She told the students the soldier's remains were moved from a nearby cemetery to the site.

The memorial site became an Arkansas state park on March 28, 1953. The original statue was vandalized in 1967 and replaced with a duplicate.

The students learned about Herman Davis who was born Jan. 2, 1888, near Big Lake. His family lived near the lake and operated a small store. They farmed, fished and hunted to supplement their income.

Davis was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 4, 1918. He trained at Camp Pie near Little Rock. He was assigned to Company I 113th Infantry, 29th Division and sailed to France on June 15, 1918.

She told of legends about his service as a "runner" for his company. His bravery was reported by an officer who had seen his attack on a machine gun nest and recommended him for recognition of his bravery.

In 1919 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross from the U.S. and the Croix de Guerre with Palm and the Medaille Militaire from the government of France. Later, he received a gilt star for his Croix de Guerre for his actions.

She also shared other acts of bravery during Davis' war service.

He was discharged on May 29, 1919. He returned home and made no mention of his courageous activities in the Great War.

His friends did not know of his service until Gen. John J. Pershing published a list of 100 great heroes of the WWI. Davis was listed as number four.

His friends asked him to show his medals and he took them from an old fishing tackle box where they had been stored with his favorite fishing lures. It is said he only wore the medals once and that was during a Christmas party.

His health began to fail in 1922. He had inhaled poison gas during his time in the trenches. By July he was suffering form an advanced case of tuberculosis. He died two days after his 35th birthday.

In 1923 the Herman Davis Memorial Association was formed to have a monument erected in his memory.

Miller said after the statue was destroyed by vandals, it was replaced in 1967 and the new statue has stood there for the last 42 years.

She encouraged the students to read the inscription on the front of the monument and know the monument was placed there for a hero.

Miller said the monument was placed on the National Register as a historical site in the 1980s.

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