Honoring Bart King: Marquette Regional History Center, local scout troops commemorate Sugarloaf monument
MARQUETTE TOWNSHIP — Alanson Bartlett King could be considered a local legend for his involvement in scouting, teaching and the U.S. military.
That’s why a monument in his honor still sits atop Sugarloaf Mountain in Marquette Township today.
The stone monument turns 100 years old this fall. Built in 1921, it was the idea of Perry Hatch and Boy Scout Troop 1 of Marquette. This was King’s troop, where he served as an assistant scoutmaster alongside the leadership of Hatch, Morris Stevenson and Tracy Kaye.
Seven years after the troop’s formation in 1910, each member enlisted with the U.S. military in the midst of World War I. King was a private with the 107th Engineers of the 32nd Division that fought on the frontlines in France.
“Bart” died of pneumonia at the age of 24 on Oct. 7, 1918, while in France. Three years later, Troop 1 constructed the monument at which is now one of the Marquette area’s most popular hiking spots.
“While standing on the beach at Little Presque Isle, we could think of only one place to build the monument for Bart; it was the place he liked best — Sugarloaf,” said Hatch, according to a document from the Marquette Regional History Center.
Now, a century later, the monument is still in place today.
Last Wednesday, MRHC and local Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs commemorated the monument’s centennial with a presentation and ceremony at the summit of the mountain.
“It’s been 100 years since they finished this monument to Bart,” said Betsy Rutz, museum educator with MRHC. “It was actually November of 1921, so we thought with the 100th anniversary of the centennial of that monument, we should recognize that and the scouts and the community members who put so much effort into building a monument to a World War I veteran.
“All of Troop 1 signed up for the war, and Bart was the one scout from the troop who didn’t return. So, they were able to really commemorate him.”
And it wasn’t just build and be done with it. The monument took a significant amount of time to construct.
“It took a long time,” Rutz said. “It took multiple weekends to build that stone monument. Over the years, the monument has changed. The (Marquette) County took on the property in the 30s, the WPA (Works Progress Administration) were the first to build the steps, there’s been many fires, but the monument has been rebuilt and fixed up a couple of times, and it’s in pretty good shape today for 100 years later, and still commemorates that World War I soldier and scout.”
The centennial commemoration was a collaborative effort between MRHC, local scout troops and other volunteers.
“We love to do programming that is open to the public and really welcomes the community,” Rutz said. “We worked with multiple different volunteers and collaborators, and then there were scouts saying ‘We want to do something too.’ So, we said, ‘Let’s work together.'”
The program began at the base of the mountain where attendees were greeted with an informational handout, artifact display and a chance to purchase a commemorative centennial T-shirt.
As individuals ascended the mountain to make their way to the ceremony at the summit, they were greeted by scouts from Troop 372 along the way sporting various uniforms and styles to signify the eras of scouting through the years.
Once everyone reached the top, a speech was recited by Dr. Nick Dupras, a professor in the Department of History at Northern Michigan University.
“The story of Bart King and the monument started in Marquette more than 100 years ago,” Dupras stated. “In fact, it starts over 110 years ago. There was a group of boys and young men who would gather from the First Methodist Church in Marquette and they would canoe along the shore past Sugarloaf towards Little Presque (Isle). Then, they would load all of their materials, their canoes, their packs, and they would hitch a ride on the boat of the local fishermen out to Big Bay. They would spend a week camping and living in the woods, canoeing, fishing, all of the things that we associate with Boy Scouts. This was all happening before the scouts ever arrived in America. The group was an outgrowth of the Methodist’s Sunday School class, they called themselves the Junior Epworth League. Their leader was Perry Hatch, but he had several other young men that would help him lead the troop as they became a formal scout troop in the beginning of the 1910s. Perry Hatch was called the ‘Grand Old Man of Scouting’ or the ‘Father of Scouting’ in Marquette and even ‘Mr. Boy Scout.’ He had with him a number of other young men who helped him lead the troop; Morris Stevenson and Alanson Bartlett King, or Bart, as he was known to all his friends.
“Bart was born on Feb. 5th of 1894, and according to Perry Hatch, he said, quote, ‘I don’t think I had met a lad with as much desire to do the right thing. He was a smart young man, he was really something, and everybody loved him.'”
Hatch passed away in 1975, and Dupras finished his remarks with a poem Hatch wrote in 1935:
“Today, I should climb to a mountaintop, where the air is free from strife. I should struggle on up, and then should stop, and take a new view on life.”
After his remarks, scouts who attended the commemoration were invited to place a stone at the base of the monument. Stones were provided to each scout at the base of the mountain, similar to the way members of Troop 1 had to carry up large beach stones to construct the original monument in 1921.
According to Martha Hatch, Perry’s wife, Troop 1 scouts, parents and community volunteers “carried the stones in their shirts by tightening their belts of their britches, so that they could use their hands to help climb up the rough north side.”
King was born in Marquette to parents William and Lilia. In 1914, he completed his teaching certificate from Northern State Normal School, known today as NMU, and went on to teach in the logging town of Thompson.
After his death in France, his body was returned to Marquette and was buried at Park Cemetery where his grave sits today. King received the Croix de Guerre, a French military decoration “created to recognize French and allied soldiers who were cited for valorous service during World War I,” according to Wikipedia, but he did not live long enough to physically accept the award.
The original monument required 4,000 pounds of sand, 1,600 pounds of cement, six tons of trap rock and 1,500 boulders, according to MRHC. The finished obelisk featured a four-sided point. Standing 12 feet high atop Sugarloaf, it was said that the King family could see the monument three miles away from the second-floor windows of their home on Hewitt Street.
The monument was reportedly repaired in both 1940 and 1950, but there are few archives to verify this information, according to MRHC. A major rebuild of the monument occurred in the summer of 1988 with stonemason Bill Smyth overseeing the project, which was completed by more than 160 volunteers from scout troops across the Upper Peninsula, the Marquette Exchange Club and the Kiwanis Club. Nine hundred new rocks were used in the rebuild, as well as plastic bags of mortar and milk jugs full of water to replace the gunny sacks from 1921. Replicas of the bronze plaques were created by Diane Lantto’s Cub Scout pack in Harvey for the new monument.
For more information on the Marquette Regional History Center, visit www.marquettehistory.org or call 906-226-3571. The history center is currently open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and closed on Sundays. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $3 for students and $2 for ages 12 and under.
Ryan Spitza can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. His email address is email@example.com.