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In celebration of the 100th birthday of The Rifleman, the bronze Civil War sculpture standing in Jack Kilby Square, north of the Barton County Courthouse, a rededication ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 7. The public is invited to attend this brief program and enjoy refreshments afterwards.
The City of Great Bend and the Barton County Historical Society recently paired with nationally recognized monument restoration experts Ronald Harvey and Dr. Dennis Montagna to complete the professional conservation of The Rifleman. Not only is this an opportunity to commemorate the centennial of this monument, but the project is an excellent way “to raise awareness of all the treasures we have and why they’re important,” explained Beverly Komarek, executive director of the Barton County Historical Society.
Komarek, along with historic preservation consultant Tracy K. Aris and Barton County Historical Society Research Coordinator Karen Neuforth, celebrate The Rifleman an exceptional piece of art, as well as a slice of history. Its plaques list the names of Grand Army of the Republic officers and members at time the monument was erected in 1915. It includes many pioneer settlers of Barton County, both black and white. As illustrated by the origins of the veterans named on the plaques, Kansas, “The Soldier State,” was settled by pioneers from a broad swath of the United States. Fifty years after the end of the Civil War, these men were still saying “Lest We Forget” and we continue to echo that sentiment, Aris said.
The Rifleman was commissioned by Great Bend resident Ira D. Brougher, Commander of the Department of Kansas, Grand Army of the Republic, and a former member of the Kansas House of Representatives. It was created by prominent Chicago sculptor Frederick C. Hibbard, who produced more than 70 major sculptures in his lifetime, including the monumental equestrian statue of General Ulysses S. Grant, which overlooks the battlefield at Vicksburg, Mississippi, as well as the Confederate Monument at Shiloh Battlefield in Tennessee, commissioned by the Daughters of the Confederacy. In addition to the work in Great Bend, Hibbard’s sculptures can also be seen at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, the old Sedgwick County Courthouse in Wichita, and at the Mt. Hope Public Library.