Plans for landscaping of the grounds at the new Mohave County Courthouse were delayed due to WWI. But by the mid-1920s retaining walls had been completed and trees planted. Then in 1928 a monument with plaque that read, “IN MEMORY OF THE MEN AND WOMEN OF MOHAVE COUNTY WHO SERVED IN THE WORLD WAR 1917 – 1918” was erected. As I learned while working on the narrated self gudied historic district walking tour developed by Kingman Main Street, this is a very rare WWI memorial.
The “Spirit of the American Doughboy” created by sculptor Earnest Moore Viquesney is one of the most popular WWI statues produced. It is estimated that a full ten percent of WWI memorials used this distinctive sculpture.
Honoring A Hometown Hero
But what makes this particular monument unique is that this statue was one of three that were dedicated to a Native American. The honoree was Sam Swaskegame of the Hualapai tribe who was killed in action in the Marne campaign battle of Blanc Mont, France on October 7, 1918.
The second statue on the monument is also a rarity. Created by the same sculptor, “The SPIRIT OF THE AMERICAN NAVY” was not as popular as the doughboy. Only seven of these statues are known to exist.
Local volunteers started construction of the stone base for the WWI monument and the pond that would surround it at the end of April 1928. Ora Gruninger, a Kingman contractor, supervised the work and spearheaded the collection of donations. The base cost $150. The $2,650 for the monument included $1,000 apiece for the statues with the remainder being used for the machine gun, and the bronze plaque.
A Memorial Day To Remember
The statues were shipped from Chicago on May 1, 1928. According to newspaper accounts, the dedication ceremony on May 30, 1928, started at 9:30 a.m. with a parade from the firehouse near Fifth and Beale Streets. The parade then made its way to the Mohave County Courthouse. The parade was led by Ed Wishon, the commander of the local American Legion post. At 10 a.m., Mr. Wishon performed as master of ceremonies for the dedication. Judge Ross H. Blakely invoked the dedication.
At some point around the turn of the century the machine gun was stolen. On June 29, 2019, a rededication ceremony was held in commemoration of the 101st anniversary of the battle of Belleau Wood. The ceremony included replacement of the Colt 1895 machine gun with a bronze replica created by artist/sculptor Clyde Ross Morgan of Sedona, Arizona.
In Kingman there is one more memorial to Sam Swaskegeme. Fittingly, ithe Kingman the American Legion chapter is designated Swaskageme Post 14. This building on Third and Oak Streets in Kingman, Arizona is a tangible link to WWII and the Kingman Army Airfield. Originally this was parts from two buildings; the base theater and the officers club. In the late 1940’s, a group of local veterans acquired the buildings, cut them into three sections, and transported them along Route 66 to the current location.