Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Will it be Crickets for the Circuit Rider's 100th Anniversary on Friday the 19th?

100 years ago on April 19th, 1924, the city and state dedicated the Circuit Rider statue.

June 2023

It was a big deal, and got extensive front page coverage in the papers.

Afternoon: April 18th, 1924

Morning: April 20th, 1924

Today we might have more deeply mixed feelings about it.

From the caption for the afternoon paper of the 18th ("Dedicated to Pioneer Christians"):

This statue, presented to the people of Oregon by the Hon. Robert A. Booth of Eugene, in honor of his father, who was a pioneer circuit rider, is typical of the part that whose hardy and staunch old Christians played in making Oregon a part of the United States of America, and foremost among the state's [sic] in its percentage of pure-blooded American citizens.

April 17th, 1924

The day before the morning paper had said about it and the pioneers generally:

Salem should especially honor those heroes because they settled in Salem, founded the town, and from this base rescued the land from the savages and started it on the road to civilization and advancement.

The Circuit Rider represents an ideological project. It speaks no innocent, neutral history.

As far as I can tell, there are no official observances of the 100th anniversary. Willamette Heritage, Historic Landmarks Commission, Oregon Historical Society, Capitol Foundation are all silent. Maybe something will turn up. 

From here, observing the anniversary seems worthwhile, but also something that requires more context and critique than filiopietism allows.

In a couple of days, or over the weekend, there might be more to say about the ceremony itself.

Previously on the Circuit Rider see:

Update, Sunday the 21st

It was merely not crickets!

Friday on FB the Historic Landmarks Commission did briefly note the 100th anniversary of the Circuit Rider statue.

via FB

They referenced a 2018 history column that focused on the movements of the statue, almost like the translation of a medieval relic of a saint: Its arrival via the Panama Canal, relocation for the new Capitol, rotating it from east-facing to the west in the 1950s, damage in the Columbus Day Storm, and its restoration. "While the statue commemorates the work of traveling pioneer ministers, it, too, has had quite a ride."

April 2018

Neither the HLC now nor the history column in 2018 offered much of a reading for what it meant.

A brief editorial in the morning paper did offer a reading.

April 20th, 1924

It struck a firm note of a Christian civics, even Christian Nationalism.

The dedication of the monument yesterday means something out of the ordinary for Salem. First of all, it means centering the missionary spirit of Oregon In Salem, but what is of much more importance is that it means a re-baptism in the spirituality of those old timers. Certainly this old world needs such a re-baptism, and having secured it, the next thing to do is to harness it and put it to work. The spirit has always lingered around Salem; this city is unusual in that, respect, but of late we have failed to use it sufficiently. This re-baptism, this re-concentration ought to make an appreciable difference to the life of Salem. We believe it will. We believe that there will be an added spirituality among the people.

Mr. Booth, in planning this as a monument indirectly for his father and directly for all missionaries has performed a spiritual service for this community.

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