Wineka column: Iron Cross will find its way home to Boyden’s grave Saturday
A.H. Boyden might sit up and take notice when the public visits his grave Saturday morning in the Chestnut Hill Cemetery.
Boyden died in 1929, but he would appreciate the Iron Cross being dedicated in his honor and enjoy hearing the route it took through former Confederate states to come back to Salisbury.
Iron Crosses used to populate Southern cemeteries like flowers in a field, marking the graves of Confederate veterans.
Over the years, they have rusted into oblivion, disappeared into the landscape or been taken by artifact hunters and often resold in antique shops.
At one time, Robert F. Hoke Chapter No. 78 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy produced its own signature Iron Crosses, which included the name of the chapter.
Those particular crosses also have pretty much vanished.
That’s why members of the local UDC chapter, reactivated in 1990, are thrilled to have one of their original Iron Crosses back in Salisbury.
How it returned to Rowan County is testimony to the tenacity of UDC members.
It started in January 2007 with Martha Boltz, a UDC member in Virginia. By e-mail, she alerted UDC organizations about an Iron Cross for sale on eBay. It seemed to have an inscription of “R.F. Home” on it, she reported.
Sue Curtis, president of Salisbury’s Robert F. Hoke Chapter, realized the inscription was “R.F. Hoke” and e-mailed Boltz that the Iron Cross probably had been taken from a grave in Rowan County.
Boltz followed up with a note to the seller, who removed it from eBay. Boltz also sent word to Linda Atwell in Maryland and asked for her assistance in meeting the seller in person.
Atwell and her husband, Bill, a member of the I.R. Trimble SCV Camp, successfully recovered the Iron Cross in the name of the E.V. White UDC Chapter. The seller agreed to give up the cross as a tax-deductible donation.
Linda Atwell then asked Dianne Moore of Washington, D.C., to take the Iron Cross to the spring board meeting of the UDC in March, where it was turned over to N.C. Division President Ruthann Bond.
Bond later delivered the Iron Cross to Curtis at a district meeting in Concord.
In preparation for the dedication Saturday, the local UDC lightly sandblasted the rust off the cross and painted it a glossy black.
“It’s rather nice and very lucky on our part that it had the Robert F. Hoke name on it,” Curtis says.
When it came to choosing Boyden’s grave as the place for its return ó there’s no way of knowing which Confederate veteran to whom it originally belonged ó Curtis says Boyden was a pretty obvious choice.
A young Archibald Henderson Boyden served as a courier to Confederate Gen. Robert F. Hoke. He left Wilson Academy in Alamance County and enlisted April 1, 1864, in the Confederate Army against his father’s wishes.
His father was a Massachusetts native and a old line Whig, according to late historian Jim Brawley, and he reportedly told his son he’d rather see him dead than wear the Rebel uniform.
But somehow the father relented and gave Boyden one of his best horses. The boy served out the war with Hoke and apparently was made a courier because he was judged too young and small in stature to carry a weapon.
Sue Curtis and her husband, Ed, think he probably was issued a gun soon enough.
Boyden, nicknamed “Baldy,” became a popular public figure in Salisbury after the war. He fought for improving schools here, served as Salisbury mayor from 1901 to 1910 and was dedicated to honoring the Confederate dead and working for the veterans who remained.
Boyden was the mayor who signed paperwork granting a permanent easement to the UDC for Salisbury’s Confederate Monument, dedicated in 1909. He spoke at the dedication.
When former Union soldiers traveled to Salisbury for dedication of the Maine Monument in the Salisbury National Cemetery, it was Boyden who gave a welcoming speech.
When North Carolina was the only Southern state without a monument in Gettysburg, Boyden worked hard as a public official (including state senator, 1911-13) and private citizen to have the Legislature appropriate the necessary funds. It finally happened with friend and neighbor Walter “Pete” Murphy’s legislative assistance and a $50,000 state grant in 1927.
Boyden served on the 15-person state committee which chose the site on the Gettysburg battlefield and commissioned the monument’s design. Boyden was supposed to deliver the Gettysburg dedication speech for the N.C. monument on July 4, 1929, but he knew his health would not allow it.
He asked Murphy to make it instead.
Boyden died June 18, 1929, a couple of weeks before his cherished monument was unveiled.
Today’s Salisbury High School was named Boyden High in his honor when it opened in 1926, and the name remained until integration.
A side street in the Fulton Heights between Elm Street and Maupin Avenue still bears his name.
The local UDC chapter will hold its Iron Cross dedication and memorial service at 11 a.m. Saturday, and the public is invited. The Boyden monument is located near the Johnson Street-South Fulton Street entrance to Chestnut Hill Cemetery.
The original Iron Crosses usually hung from shepherd’s hooks. Later versions and reproductions were attached to long stakes driven deep into the ground.
The UDC will imbed the Iron Cross at Boyden’s grave into concrete to deter any would-be thieves.
Curtis said it would be especially nice if any ancestors of Boyden could attend Saturday’s event. The UDC also is hoping someone might know the company who made its original Iron Crosses.
Boyden never rose above the rank of private in his service to the Confederacy, But in later years, friends called him “Colonel.” When Hoke surrendered at a Quaker church near Archdale, it is said he gave each of his soldiers a silver dollar for their trip back home.
Colonel Boyden kept it the rest of his life. So when he sits up at his gravesite Saturday, forgive him if he’s also flipping that silver piece.