By Warren Miller
Nine years after Buckey O'Neill, the young mayor of Prescott who had led his compatriots to the Spanish-American War in Cuba, fell on the battlefield, Prescott honored him and the Rough Riders by erecting a monument on the Courthouse Plaza. This heroic equestrian bronze was created by world-renowned sculptor Solon H. Borglum, brother of Gutzon Borglum who would later win fame for sculpting Mount Rushmore.
The war was still a fresh wound to the people of Prescott and many Rough Rider veterans and officers participated in the dedication of the monument. Community feeling and patriotism were running high and Prescott's business stopped for the day so all citizens could attend the dedication.
Pageantry surrounding the dedication included a parade, with mounted Rough Rider veterans (they had been deprived of their horses for the fight in Cuba by lack of ship transport space and had to fight on foot) and Buckey's own black horse ridden by Grand Marshall F.E. Andrews. Twenty members of the Grand Army of the Republic, Civil War veterans, marched in the parade. After the dedication baseball games involved teams from surrounding communities, there were two band concerts and a Free-For-All 100 Yard Dash with prize money of $100.
The dedication ceremony was opened by Robert Morrison, chairman of the Monument Commission which had raised the funds for the monument. A twenty-member military band from the "Fighting Fifth" at Fort Huachuca played marches and patriotic tunes. Speeches were given by Major General A.L. Chaffee, Brig. General E.D. Thomas, and Governor J.H. Kibbey. Judge R.E. Sloan, associate justice of the Supreme Court, presented the monument. At each mention of O'Neill's name, the crowd cheered boisterously.
Chairman Morrison spoke about the impact of the war on the people of Arizona:
"You well remember, most of you, that it was here, in this very plaza that the Rough Riders gathered and were given God speed by the citizens of our town, and they went forth under the command of brave and intrepid soldiers and citizens. They went forth from this Territory of our s with a Brodie, with a McClintock, with a Franz, and with Buckey O'Neill. They went into Cuba, and the history of the Rough Riders is known to every man, woman and child within the sound of my voice. . . . A few years thereafter, almost at once, I might say, it was decided that there should be erected a monument that would be a credit to the dead and living soldiers of the Rough Riders; and after nine years, we are gathered here today, ladies and gentlemen, for the purpose of unveiling the Captain O'Neill Rough Rider Monument that stands before you today, illustrating the generosity and whole heartedness of the people of Arizona".
Major McClintock spoke about the term "Rough Riders":
"Rough Riders" is a name given us, apparently, by the people of the east, who learn to ride in riding schools. None of you ever heard of the term, "rough riders,' before the war. We thought that a man who could mount a bucking bronco and stick to him was doing a fancy feat in riding. But the idea prevailed in the east that if a man could mount and stick to a horse making contortions at the rate of one hundred revolutions to the minute, he was a 'rough rider'."
General Thomas paid this tribute to Prescott and Arizona:
"Prescott has indeed changed, and those . . . pioneers . . . often on the point of giving up in despair . . . have today a prosperous land, settled by the very best people in the world, and soon, it is hoped, will be enjoying the rights and privileges and benefits of statehood."
At this point, the band struck up the "Start and Stripes Forever" march.
A reticent Solon Borglum was introduced: the newspaper reported that he "was as mute as the magnificent statue that he was about to direct the unveiling of, and confined his remarks to a single bow." The monument unveiling was accomplished by Maurice O'Neill, Buckey's adopted son, and Katie May Hickey, daughter of M.J. Hickey, one of the principle organizers of the Monument Commission.
Following the dedication, there were receptions sponsored by the Territorial Firemen's Association at Firemen's Hall, the Knights of Columbus at the I.O.O.F. Hall, and by Brig. General E.D. Thomas at the Yavapai Club.
At 1:00 pm on July 3, 1998, 100 years after Buckey O'Neill died on the Cuban battlefield, the monument will be rededicated amid similar pageantry. It will have been refurbished, cleaned, and the missing sabre and rein reattached.
Warren Miller is Curator of Education at the Sharlot Hall Museum.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (misc121pg2). Reuse only by permission.
This photograph of the Rough Rider Monument from about 1910 shows the original sabre and reign. Both items, which had been removed, will be replaced this week and the statue will be rededicated Friday, July 3, 1998 at 1:00 pm.