– Bernard Meltzer
State Rep. Tommy Benton has offered one of the more unique bits of legislation in this year’s session of the Georgia General Assembly.
Benton, a Republican from Jefferson, introduced House Bill 91 as a safeguard to old monuments and memorials.
According to Morris News Service, statues, plaques and other markers recognizing revolutionary or Confederate heroes would be protected from modern sensibilities that may object.
I understand, because such efforts are not unknown around east-central Georgia, and the story of “Dutchy” in Elbert County, is perhaps the best example.
More than a century ago Elbert, which neighbors Lincoln County, joined numerous communities across the South to memorialize and honor its brave combatants from the War Between the States.
Because of Elbert’s growing granite industry, that became the stone of choice of its memorial. But things turned ugly.
The statue the town got was so comical, so cartoonish, that its residents were stunned.
Their hero was a round-faced, bug-eyed soldier with a thick mustache. His uniform, many pointed out, looked more like a Yankee outfit. (He was wearing what looked like a winter overcoat.)
Elberton residents were more than a little irritated that their town square was guarded by what looked to be a fat Yankee.
They began to call him “Dutchy,” and one night a crowd suspected of perhaps drinking too much removed the eyesore.
According to the Aug. 18, 1900 issue of the Elberton Star, “Dutchy, like all good Dutchmen, loved his beer and, when a keg was rolled up to the base of the monument by a friend, the climax was reached … The keg was tapped and the scent floated up to where Dutchy stood. He became frantic.”
The tongue-in-cheek account goes on to report the statue eventually (and conveniently under cover of darkness) appeared to have lost its balance and fell, breaking off at the knees. Its remains were quickly collected and buried and a new statue replaced it.
“No longer will he frighten animals and cause them to run away,” the newspaper reported, “and no longer will the public have a chance to make fun of his manly bearing.”
Actually, according to a story in The Augusta Chronicle in the 1980s, those responsible for the statute’s removal were the first to finance his replacement.
Dutchy, however, had minor historic significance. He was, after all, among the first recorded statues carved from Elberton granite.
In 1982, he was exhumed, cleaned off at a local car wash and preserved. You can see him today at the Elberton Granite Museum and Exhibit.
He’s still funny looking, too.