By Linda Emley
On July 13, 1894, a boy named Gavrilo Princip was born in Bosnia. He was one of nine children. All but three of the Princip children died in infancy. A local Serbian Orthodox priest suggested that the family name him Gavrilo after the Archangel Gabriel because it might increase his chances of survival.
Gavrilo grew up and changed the world because on June 28, 1914, he started the “Great War,” which would later become known as the First World War.
Gavrilo fired three shots and assassinated two people on that day in 1914. This started a chain reaction of events that would take the lives of 17 million people. It’s estimated that the World War I death toll was 10 million military personnel and around 7 million civilians.
I got out our local newspapers to see what the headlines looked like for the assassinations and was shocked to find nothing. I searched a whole month of the Richmond Missourian and then realized that I didn’t find anything because no one knew that Gavrilo Princip had started a war.
The New York Herald did run a story in its European edition June 29, 1914. The headlines read, “ARCHDUKE FRANCIS FERDINAND AND HIS CONSORT, THE DUCHESS OF HOHENBERG, ARE ASSASSINATED WHILE DRIVING THROUGH STREETS OF SARAJEVO, BOSNIA.”
It’s going to take me a while to find when our local newspapers finally announced we were in a war, so I will share that story in the near future.
There are two places in Richmond where one can find World War I history. We have a very interesting World War I room at the Ray County Museum that has many artifacts. The other place is on the Ray County Courthouse lawn where our Dough Boy statue stands.
The story of our Dough Boy started Sunday April 17, 1930, when a memorial committee met to finalize the plans for the Decoration Day celebration May 30. All eight Ray County townships had a person chosen by the chairman to assist because it would be a county-wide event. The nine-man team only had 43 days to get all the details worked out.
The ground breaking started April 19. The monument was carved by John Swenson Granite in Concord, N.H., and arrived May 1. The monument is 14 feet tall, with dough boy measuring 6 feet, 3 inches. It rests on a five-and -a-half-foot shaft, which in turn is on a 14-inch base of sparkle concrete.
A copper box was filled with items to be placed in the base of the monument. The Allen-Morton-Watkins D.A.R. chapter and the Brown-Rives United Daughters of the Confederacy were in charge of this project. Items included Ray County newspapers, a history of Ray’s part in the war, a history of the local D.A.R. and the U.D.C., a list of war veterans and their mothers, a roster of all school children in the county and the names of everyone who belonged to organizing groups. The American Legion, Kiwanis, Rotary and Women’s Club were a few of those assisting.
Robert Lyons of the Richmond Conservator wrote the story about Ray’s war connections. The copper box was placed at the base of the monument during a May 8 ceremony.
At 10 a.m. May 30, the parade started at the high school and headed toward the courthouse. There was a mounted vanguard, some WW I boys marching together, the Richmond Boys band, war mothers riding in cars, Red Cross girls in uniform, a Salvation Army band, two Spanish War veterans, scouts, and 500 boys and girls from county schools. Little Miss Mary Belle was the most honored guest and rode in an open car. After seeing the list, one has to wonder who was left to watch the parade.
Churches served lunch and at 2 p.m. the ceremony started. The statue was dedicated to the 600 Ray Countians who served in WW I. There were several important people in town for the event. State Tax Commissioner Forrest Smith escorted Governor Winters to Richmond for the day. Smith was from Richmond and would later become governor. Maurice Milligan, a Ray County official, told about our part in the war. He would go on to fame in a few years when he became the man who took down Tom Pendergast.
It was decided that an ex-serviceman’s daughter should have the honor of pulling the cord to unveil the statute. After many guest speakers, it was time for little Miss Mary Bell McFee. Dressed in white, she slipped down from the speaker’s stand and walked toward the “silk-shrouded monument,” She pulled the cord while 8,000 people witnessed the unveiling of the Dough Boy statue. A dedicatory address was delivered, a firing squad gave a salute, and taps was played. Rev. W.D. Hunt of Hardin gave the benediction and the ceremony ended.
I’m sure some of you might be wondering what happened to Gavrilo Princip, the man who started the war. He was arrested and attempted suicide twice while in jail. He received a sentence of 20 years, but he contracted tuberculosis and died April 28, 1918, and was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1920, he was disinterred and taken to Sarajevo, where he was buried beneath a chapel “built to commemorate for eternity our Serb Heroes” at St. Mark’s Cemetery.