Boll Weevil Centennial

Who is the oldest, living Enterprise native-born son or daughter?

That is the person that the Enterprise Centennial Committee is trying to locate.

With the city of Enterprise celebrating the centennial of the Boll Weevil Monument Dec. 11, the committee wants to include the oldest living Enterprise native in the historic commemoration.

It’s hard not to notice the white statue of a woman dressed in flowing robes holding a boll weevil in her upstretched arms in the center of the intersection of College and Main Streets in Enterprise.

The reason for her existence is the focus of history, legends and songs. The citizens of Enterprise dedicated the monument in 1919 “in profound appreciation of the Boll Weevil and what it has done as the herald of prosperity.” That is what is inscribed on the historic marker near her.

The Boll Weevil Monument represents the triumph over devastation that ultimately put Enterprise on a new path from stagnation to prosperity. Enterprise proved that it was possible in the face of disaster to transform an economy completely.

A look back in history to an agricultural economy almost entirely dependent upon “King Cotton” is needed to truly understand the devastation the six-millimeter, six-legged beetles caused as they migrated across the Rio Grande from Mexico through Brownsville, Texas, to Virginia in the late 1800s.

Agriculture experts call the bug the “cotton farmer’s worst nightmare. By the end of 1915, Enterprise area farmers had lost 60 percent of their cotton crop.

George Washington Carver—a former slave and the South’s foremost agricultural innovator—advocated peanut-based crop diversification. Growing peanuts led to side products like oil and nut butters and the peanut plant’s use for hog feed led to a meat processing market. Peanuts also returned vital nutrients to soils depleted by cotton cultivation.

Facing economic disaster in the early 1900s a coalition of Enterprise growers and businessmen arranged to exchange their cotton crop for, literally, peanuts.

By 1917, Coffee County produced and harvested more peanuts than any other county in the United States, according to information garnered from the Pea River Historical and Genealogical Society.

By 1919, Enterprise leaders, under the direction of Bon Fleming, were confident enough in the town’s economic future to commission a cast-iron statue from Italy in the form of a monument to the boll weevil, the herald of prosperity through diversity.

“The statue has brought recognition to the city for all of these years as the only monument in the world honoring a pest, but the original intent of the monument was to memorialize a much greater message,” said Tourism Director Tammy Doerer, who co-chairs the Centennial Committee with the city’s Special Projects Coordinator Kay Kirkland.

“We hope this celebration will revive the message for those who are already familiar with the boll weevil story and create a new understanding among those who have never heard it before,” Doerer said.

Plans include a presentation of centennial tribute markers, burial of a time capsule, downtown tours, vendors with centennial memorabilia, showings of living history films featuring Enterprise storytellers, book signings by guest authors, music and the Boll Weevil Monument rededication ceremony.

“We envision it to be a great reunion of our native Enterprise citizens, those who have chosen Enterprise as their home and those who will return here to help us remember and share the Boll Weevil story,” Doerer said.

Centennial events planned include:

• The Boll Weevil Arts Festival and Poster Contest sponsored by the Downtown Business Association Sept. 14 and 15. This is a juried show.

• A Pre-Football Game Centennial Celebration at Enterprise High School’s Wildcat Stadium Sept. 20 will be a tribute to the Boll Weevil Monument’s 100th birthday and of the 100th anniversary of the original city school, the former College Street Elementary School building, which now serves as the Enterprise Career Tech Center.

• The Miss Centennial Pageant, hosted by Altrusa International of Enterprise, is in October at a date to be announced.

• The Boll Weevil Fall Festival, hosted by the Enterprise Chamber of Commerce, is Oct. 19.

• “An Old-Fashioned Christmas” Parade Dec. 3 will be hosted by the Enterprise Chamber of Commerce. A special award will be presented to the float with the best design commemorating the Boll Weevil Monument’s anniversary/history.

• The City of Enterprise Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is Dec. 5. The theme will feature a connection to the Boll Weevil story.

• “A Monumental Celebration,” on Dec. 11 will feature activities that begin mid-morning with evening activities starting about 5 p.m. Confirmed times will be announced later.

More information is available at the Centennial Facebook page or at www.enterprise100.com.

Other sources for centennial information are: The tourism website, www.visitenterprise.com; the city website, www.enterpriseal.gov; and the chamber of commerce website www.enterprisealabama.com.

Those with contact information about the oldest living Enterprise native are asked to contact Kirkland at (334) 348-2310, (334) 406-1394 or kkirkland@enterpriseal.gov; or Doerer at (334) 389-1554 or director@visitenterprise.com.

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