Being a historian is a lot like being a detective. Both look at evidence from the past for clues to help answer “What happened?” The evidence of choice for historians is primary sources. Alas, sometimes, no matter how many sources a historian has, none of them provide an answer. That is where you, the readers of The Concord Bridge, come in.
This mystery involves a flagpole in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery on Gold Star Hill. The plaque in front of the flagpole reads, “Billsgarden Flagpole; In Memory of Veterans of All Wars; Renewed and Rededicated; November 11, 1987.” Unfortunately, no one knows who or what Billsgarden is. There is no record of who originally placed the flagpole in the cemetery or when it was dedicated.
A 1987 article from the Concord Journal stated 40 years earlier the Concord Elks erected a memorial flagpole on the same spot, but there is nothing about it in town reports. Instead, the Concord Enterprise, from June 17, 1948, records officers and members of the Concord Lodge of Elks dedicated a new flagpole on the Percy A. Rideout Playground in West Concord. Therefore, this source proves the Elks placed a flagpole in town about 40 years earlier, but not the one at Sleepy Hollow.
Searching a little further back in time brought up another article from the Concord Enterprise. A flagpole was donated by the James J. Mansfield Post No. 158 to Emerson Playground around May 30, 1946. The new metal flagpole cost $1,800 and arrived to replace the one that a lightning strike destroyed the year before. Interestingly, the same American Legion Post donated the smote flagpole to Emerson Playground in 1929. Neither is the Billsgarden Flagpole.
After searching newspapers, a quick check of the Annual Town Reports did list one donated flagpole to Sleepy Hollow in memory of George T. Barrett. Alas, the memorial flagpole’s location is at the entrance to Sleepy Hollow, where the procession for the Veterans Day ceremony begins. Additionally, the entrance flagpole was donated in 1967, about 20 years after the article claimed the original Billsgarden Flagpole was first dedicated.
Finally, a video from the 1928 Memorial Day Celebration on the Town of Concord Archives and Record Management webpage clearly shows a large star on Gold Star Hill. When questioning cemetery staff if the flagpole could have been near there and just offscreen, I was told no as the flagpole was located just feet from the Gold Star. The video evidence and the cemetery staff’s knowledge provide a timeframe. Billsgarden Flagpole must have been placed in Sleepy Hollow after 1928.
I now invite the readers of The Concord Bridge to help solve this historical mystery. Please share any knowledge of or documentation relating to Billsgarden Flagpole, including old photos showing the pre-1987 flagpole. Working together, we can answer “What happened?” Please email any information to firstname.lastname@example.org.