Today I’m going to do something I rarely do and focus on just one monument instead of covering a cemetery. I think in this case, it’s the right thing to do.

Somewhere along the line, I had seen photos of the monument to Otis Henry. When I realized we’d be in Texarkana, Otis’ monument immediately went on the list. It’s located in Rose Hill Cemetery in Texarkana, Texas. Mind you, there’s also a Texarkana, Ark. The border between Texas and Arkansas runs vertically down the middle of Texarkana.

I normally would have lingered at Rose Hill Cemetery to photograph the rest of it, but we simply didn’t have time. Established in 1874, the cemetery has about 4,250 memorials recorded on Find a Grave.

We drove in the front entrance that morning and headed for the back where I knew Otis’ monument was located. It’s pretty hard to miss.

The story of Otis Henry is almost more about his mother than her son.

Mother and Son

I get a little choked up when I think about Susan Tate, Otis’ mother, because I’m a mother of a son, too. I know that special bond between a mother and her boy. Sean and I have that. I have no doubt that Susan and Otis had it, too. So that’s where I’ll start. With Susan.

Born in Upshur County, Texas in 1859, Susan Tate was the daughter of Thomas Tate and Martha Barnes Tate. Thomas was a farmer. Susan was one of several children the couple had. I noticed that Thomas was from Georgia and Martha was from Alabama, so they grew up in my neck of the woods (so to speak).

In 1885, at age 25, Susan married Jack Henry in Longview, Texas. By the 1890s, the couple was living in Denison, Texas near the Oklahoma border. Their only son, Otis, was born there on June 22, 1894. Jack was working as a brakeman for the railroad, according to the 1900 U.S. Census. By this time, they were living in Johnson County, which is south of Fort Worth.

There is no trace of him after that 1900 census record so I’m fairly sure he died. Susan raised Otis in Denison. She married Stewart Wilder in March 1910 in Arkansas. He also worked for the railroad. I noted that the 1910 U.S. Census reported the fact that Susan had given birth to five children before that time but only one had survived. That would be Otis, making him quite precious indeed. But he was not living with them at that time.

This is what I imagine Otis looked like before he left Texas for France.

Off to France

Otis’ World War I draft card gives us some clues as to what came next. I noticed he listed his home address as 1002 S. Leila in Texarkana. It was a bit of a jolt to discover that Rose Hill Cemetery is located at 104 S. Leila. He apparently had lived very close to his final resting place.

At that time, however, Otis was working as a “soda dispenser” (often called soda jerks back in the day) at a drugstore in Shreveport, La. But in 1917, he was putting on an Army uniform along with thousands of other young men. He served in the 359th Infantry, 90th Division, Company H.

Doughboys of Company M, 359th Infantry, 90th Division, going in on the Argonne sector, Dombasle-en-Argonne, Meuse, France. This photo was taken on October 22, 1918, about two weeks after Otis Henry died.

After completing individual and collective training, the regiment served in France during World War I, including duty in the Villers-en-Haye, Battle of Saint-Mihiel, duty in the Puvenelle Sector of Lorraine, and the Meuse–Argonne offensive. It must have seemed like a totally different world to Otis.

A Mother’s Grief

We don’t know exactly how events transpired, but Corp. Otis Henry died on Oct. 6, 1918. His monument says he was “gassed one kilometer southeast of Vincey (Lorraine)”. Otis would be noted as the first man from Bowie County, Texas to be killed in World War I. His death came only a few weeks later when Germany signed an armistice agreement with the allies on Nov. 11, 1918. Otis was only 24 at the time.

The details of Otis’ death are inscribed on the back of his monument.

I could not locate an obituary for Otis but I’m sure his death made headlines in Texarkana. I’m also sure Susan was devastated. By 1920, she and Stewart were living in Texarkana. Otis’ remains were returned to her in 1921.

Susan made it her goal to provide a monument that expressed her love for her son and recognized his sacrifice on the battlefield. But she and Stewart were of modest means. It would take a lot of scrimping and saving until 1931 until it would be erected. The Henry plot is surrounded by an handsome iron fence.

This is what the Henry family plot looks like when you first approach it.

I learned that according to the Smithsonian Institute, the monument was designed by Morris U. Allen, Sr. and built by his company, Allen Monuments (located in Texarkana). However, according to, the statue of the doughboy at the top was probably fabricated by McNeel Marble of Marietta, Ga. It seems appropriate that it came from there considering his father was from Georgia. This is one of five known stone designs similar to American sculptor Ernest Moore Viquesney’s “Spirit of the American Doughboy” but which lack the full battle gear.

In one hand, Otis is holding aloft a grenade while in the other, he is holding a rifle that rests on a tree stump. As you know from my past posts, a tree trunk symbolizes signifies a life cut short. On the ground below, we see the statue of “suited Otis” as he likely appeared before he left Texas. I think there’s some kind of symbol on his belt buckle, but I cannot make out what it is now.

The statue of the doughboy is thought to have been produced by McNeel Marble of Marietta, Ga.

Two angels flank the “suited Otis” on the ground below. One is looking down with her arms folded across her waist, holding onto the end of an inverted torch by her side. The other hand holds a flower wreath that contains roses, which can mean valor rewarded. The inverted torch usually signifies death or a life snuffed out.

The smaller angel has one hand resting stop an inverted torch, which often means death or a life snuffed out.

On the other side is a larger angel. She is in a typical pose of mourning and her tunic is covered with stars, representing the five wounds of Christ. One of her hands, unfortunately, has broken off.

The larger angel has five stars on her gown, signifying the five wounds of Jesus Christ.

Stewart died of a heart ailment in January 1937 at age 69. He has a memorial on Find a Grave and is listed as being buried at Rose Hill Cemetery. He may be in the Henry family plot, but I noticed he does not have a stone there. As it was 1937 and the depths of the Great Depression, perhaps Susan couldn’t afford a marker for him. She died on April 9, 1941 at age 81. She and Otis share a small marker at the foot of his monument. Finally, she and her boy were together again.

Susan Tate Henry Wilder died in 1941. She was finally reunited with her beloved Otis.

As I told you, this one hit me hard. I thought of Susan, mourning for her Otis. How the memories of him as a baby in her arms, the shouts of laughter as he chased a butterfly, the day he got his first job must have haunted her. The agony of knowing he had been killed in France. At times, they must have washed over her like a flood. Perhaps planning, saving, then seeing his monument erected gave her some degree of comfort.

I have seen quite a few doughboy statues in cemeteries, but they are almost always located in the Midwest or in other parts of the country. We just don’t have that many in the South. I don’t know why but we don’t. So this one was special to me for that reason as well.

It was time to head on for Shreverport, La. next. But as I got into Sarah’s car, I thought of one of the last pictures I took of the larger angel. Inscribed twice below the folds of the gown were the words “Remember, Remember”.

I will remember Otis and Susan. I hope by telling their story here that you will, too.