News: Neillsville - Historic Plaque Flipped for
Clarity (Jun 2019)
Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon
Surnames: Sturdevant, Barth, Erpenbach, Wachtendonk, Eisenhower, Stillwell, Youmans
----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 7/03/2019
Historic Plaque in Neillsville flipped for Clarity
Neillsville Parks Department worker Regan Barth finishes rotating a historical marker commemorating the life of Charles Sturdevant, a Neillsville resident who went on to have a decorated military and engineering career. The other side of the sign had been fading for several years. Ryan Spoehr/Clark County Press
By Ryan Spoehr
A plaque in Neillsville honoring one of the city’s legendary figures now has a different look to passers-by on Hewett Street.
With help from the Neillsville Parks Department, the plaque outside Neillsville Public Library honoring Major. Gen. Clarence Sturdevant has been rotated.
Regan Barth of the parks department rotated the sign on June 27 after a request of assistance from Natalie Erpenbach of the Clark County Historical Society and resident Chris Wachtendonk.
“This marker that was once so bright and shiny is now showing the effects of being outside in the sun and elements,” Erpenbach wrote in a statement prior to the rotation. “Looking fatigued, the words are no longer readable from the sidewalk.”
This historical marker, like many others, was built with the same likeness of the individual being honored and the text telling the story of history behind the person.
Barth did some unscrewing earlier in the day and rotated the sign so the side with information on Sturdevant is clearer with more white paint accentuating it would be shown to pedestrians and motorists along that stretch of STH 73. Prior to that, the side with worn paint was what was shown to passersby.
“I think it’s important because I’m so interested in history,” Erpenbach said. “But if you know your history and where you came from, hos do you know where you’re going?
“In the end, I think it’s important that everyone to be proud of something and someone who came from a small town and someone who did well.”
Sturdevant was born in Neillsville in 1885 and went to school in the city. He was accepted into West Point, the United States Military Academy in New York, in 1904 and graduated in 1908. He graduated with the highest honors, so he was allowed to choose his first assignment, which was the Army Corp of Engineers.
Early in his military tenure, Sturdevant was stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he was joined by West Point classmates Dwight Eisenhower and Joseph Stillwell. He was also stationed at an engineer school in Washington D.C. and later the Philippines in 1912. He then returned to Washington D.C. as a captain serving with the chief of engineers.
“Various assignments took him around the country where he was in charge of river and harbor construction assignments,” Erpenbach wrote.
On Feb. 2, 1942, while he was a brigadier general, Sturdevant was named the assistant chief of engineers by the U.S. War Department. The department decreed that he supervise construction of the Alcan Highway. The highway stretches across northwestern Canada and terminates in Alaska. It is now known largely as the Alaska Highway.
Within two days, Sturdevant and the chief of engineers developed a comprehensive plan for the project, according to u-s-history.com. It was a 1,600-mile project.
“The highway was to be built in a frenzied period of war fears in 1942 as our country was preparing for war,” Erpenbach wrote.
Construction started on March 8, 1942, with 11,000 soldiers and 7,500 civilians.
“They faced the challenges of an uninhabited country, unexpected fluctuating weather temperatures, unknown terrain, having to build bridges to get over bodies of water and having virtually no town or village nearby to provide needed supplies,” Erpenbach wrote.
The highway was completed Nov. 20, 1942 and was eventually completely paved in 1960.
Sturdevant passed away in 1958. The historical marker was installed in 1967 by the Clark County Historical Society.
Sturdevant married Beth Youmans, his high school sweetheart, who was also from Neillsville. They had two children – John and Elizabeth. The Sturdevant house where Clarence grew up is on the northwest corner of Clay and West 2nd streets.
The paint on the side of the Sturdevant marker that is now facing Hewett Street, while not as pronounced as the other side, is also showing slight signs of fatigue. Some of the white paint has worn off of it. Erpenbach and Wachtendonk are looking into having the sign touched up to alleviate those issues.
The information released by Erpenbach was collected from u-s-history.com.
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