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Perennial rose bushes grace either side of the monument; and for the past 90 years they have faithfully sent forth abundant blossoms. It is as if the rose bushes themselves acknowledge the great service rendered by the soldier whose remains rest beneath the ground under their outstretched roots.
In 1923, five years after his death, the mother of the soldier walked from her Kentucky River farm on Point of Rock Road to the Monterey Masonic Cemetery. Here the still grieving woman dug into the rich earth and carefully placed perennial rose bushes, one on each side of her son’s grave stone. What makes this monument unique is the fact that affixed to the face of the marble is a bronze relief of the young soldier in his WWI uniform. Crossed rifles on the collar of his jacket designate his assignment as an infantryman.
Boyd Chester Hudson, referred to as Chester by family and friends, was born in January of 1897 in Henry County, Kentucky. He was one of eight children whose parents J.E. and Lucy Bell Hudson owned a farm along the Kentucky River in Owen County.
Early in 1917, Chester Hudson moved to Arizona where there was a possibility for work in the mining industry.
While there, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Camp Pike in Arkansas. He trained in the Camp Pike Infantry Replacement and Training Camp. These servicemen were to replace fallen troops in France. Chester was one of the 46,475 men stationed at Camp Pike.
Although sanitary conditions had improved since the Civil War, disease was rampant in these military installations. The lack of antibiotics and other life-saving drugs resulted in the death of many soldiers exposed to these serious viruses.
From August to October, Lobar Pneumonia combined with the Spanish flu sent thousands of men to Camp Pike’s Hospital. Among those was Boyd Chester Hudson.
As the Spanish flu wracked his body, Lobar pneumonia found a foothold in his lungs.
On Oct. 9, 1918, Chester Hudson took his last breath and departed from life.
At the request of his mother, Lucy Bell Hudson, Chester’s body was shipped to Monterey to be buried in a family plot alongside his father who had died of a heart attack in 1911.
Chester had been a member of Monterey Camp Number 13139 of the Modern Woodsmen of America and had taken out a $1,000 life insurance policy.
His mother was named his beneficiary, but instead of using the money for personal or family needs, Lucy Bell Hudson chose to spend the funds on a monument in memory of her son. Lucy had a cherished photo of Chester posing in his uniform and hired an artist to create a bronze relief of him from this image.
According to the family, this monument was placed in the Monterey Cemetery in 1919, and today despite its age is in excellent condition.
The relief of Chester Hudson depicts a young man standing straight and tall in his U.S. Army uniform, one hand on his hip. His serious face reflects a commitment that seems to be entrenched in the hearts of the young and patriotic to defend and protect our country whatever the cost.
According to Mariam Houchens in her book, “History of Owen County, Kentucky,” Owen furnished 413 volunteers and drafted men to the war effort in WWI. Like Chester Hudson, many died of the flu, pneumonia or other diseases. Others were killed in battle. Those who returned home picked up the pieces of their lives and continued to build their families and communities in Owen County.
The story of Boyd Chester Hudson and those of many others who served our nation remain a rich legacy to be cherished and passed on to future generations.
In honor of those Owen countians who served in WWI the Owen County Historical Society Museum is displaying artifacts, uniforms, pictures and letters from WWI. One jacket, hat, and mess kit belonged to a young man with the last name of Smith who lived in Sweet Owen.
Pictures of Owen County soldiers are displayed as well as several letters from young men in the area. Please make an effort to bring your family and take a tour of the museum. In an age of TV and fast action video games, take the time to share with your children the lives and times of their forefathers whose sacrifices made possible our freedoms.
You won’t want to miss the next historical society meeting April 11, 7 p.m. at the I.O.O.F. hall. Our special guest will be Charles H. Bogart who will present a program on the railroads and their vital contribution to both the North and South during the Civil War.