World War 2 & the Deane Lot

World War II honor roll and the Deane lot: 5th part of War Memorial talk by David Ruell October 12, 2011

By February of 1945, World War II was clearly coming to an end. The German counter-offensive, the Battle of the Bulge, had failed and the Allies continued to advance from the west into Germany. To the east, the Soviet army was within 50 miles of Berlin. The Philippines were being liberated.

On February 1, at the regular meeting of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Ashland Fire Department, it was “voted to erect an Honor roll in honor of the servicemen of Ashland”. The hope was “to have this completed and erected in a prominent place on Main Street before Memorial Day.”

The February 22 newspaper carried a list of 180 names of Ashland servicemen and women, and the Auxiliary asked to be notified of anyone not included who had enlisted from Ashland. In the May 10 paper, the Auxiliary could announce that the honor roll would be dedicated on Memorial Day with 222 names.

The May 24 paper said that the honor roll would be placed on the Susan Deane lot.

The Deane lot was the site of the large Deane house that was destroyed in the Squam Lake House fire of December 1934. An ember from the hotel fire had ignited a piece of burlap stuffed into a broken window in the Deane house. When the fire was discovered, it was already too late to save the house. The Town acquired the lot by tax deed in November of 1938. The lot still had a stone wall along the Main Street sidewalk with granite steps going up to a walk that once led to the house entrance, creating a dignified setting for a public memorial.

There on Memorial Day, the Honor Roll was dedicated to a ceremony by the Legion including an opening prayer, the presentation to the town by Grace Crowley, Auxiliary President, the acceptance by Selectman Colby Lyford, an address by Hiram Gingras, and the dedication by Legion Commander John Cote.

The wooden honor roll was the work of sign painter George Thompson of Holderness, who ran his sign studio there for over 50 years. During the war, he worked as a steelworker at the Bath Iron Works shipyard in South Portland, but he later returned to Holderness and reopened his studio. He would go on to make similar wooden honor rolls for Plymouth in the fall of 1945 and for Holderness in the spring of 1946.

The Ashland honor roll had a wooden framework and glass-fronted columns of

names, with 226 names at the time of the dedication. (More names were added later.) Above the names was the title “Ashland Honor Roll” with a large painting of an eagle at the top and stars and stripes at both ends. The presentation inscription at the bottom read “To the Town from Ashland Firemen’s Auxiliary”.

The Auxiliary’s records for that period have not been found, so we do not know the cost or how the money was raised.

The annual town meeting in March 1946 adopted an article “to hold permanently the so-called Deane lot on Main Street and establish the same as a war memorial to all war veterans”. The same meeting also approved an article “to give the veterans of World War 2 a choice of the building site on the so-called Deane lot should they at any time in the future become part of any veterans organization and should they desire to erect a suitable building as a meeting place for such an organization” which is where we are now. [The program was given in the Legion Hall.]

The March 1949 meeting voted $300 to move the World War I memorial (then attached to the Town Hall) and the Spanish American War Memorial (then in the Town Hall yard) to the so-called Deane lot on Main Street. Earl Sanborn told me that at that time there was terrific disagreement over moving the monuments, as some wanted them to stay at the Town Hall and others were just as determined to move them to the Deane lot. I did not find any mention of such a dispute in the newspapers of the time, but it seems to be almost a repeat of the dispute over the location of the Civil War monument – Town Hall versus Main Street, and Main Street won again.

The $300 for the moving was paid to Florence Sanborn who had taken over the Sanborn memorial business after the death of both her father-in-law and husband in the mid-1930s. A good part of the cost must have been for the large block of granite on which the World War I tablet was mounted. Earl Sanborn, her son, told me that the business certainly had the capacity and the workmen at the time to make that large granite block, but he did not recall if they actually did so. On May 26, 1949, the newspaper reported that the two memorials had been moved from the Town Hall and placed beside the World War 2 memorial on Main Street, again just in time for Memorial Day. But the report on the parade and ceremonies on Memorial Day in 1949 makes no mention of the monuments. The parade was from the Legion home to the Town Hall where the exercises were held, then to the cemetery, so there does not appear to have been any special ceremony marking the move.