The Boll Weevil Monument: The Only Monument in the World
Dedicated to a Pest, 1919

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     Dedication of the Boll Weevil Monument, 11 December 1919.   It stands in front of Farmers and Merchants Bank (now WKMX Radio station). To the left of the bank is the General Store owned by Edgar Laney and Roscoe Conklin Fleming.
     The Mexican boll weevil, a member of the beetle family which feeds on the silky fibers inside the bolls (seed pods) of the cotton plant, had moved across the border from Mexico into Texas in 1892, and gradually made its way north and westward into the prime cotton-producing lands of the South.  In spite of efforts by Coffee County farmers to destroy the pest, by 1915, their cotton crops were failing and the output of Enterprise cotton gins dropped from 15,000 to 5,000 bales. Farmers were unable to pay their debts, and merchants were caught in the squeeze.  In a desperate effort to save the local economy, banker and cotton merchant H. M. Sessions and County Agent John Pittman travelled to North Carolina and Virginia to search for alternate crops.   They became convinced that peanuts would produce well in south Alabama, and bought a load of seed peanuts, "North Carolina Runners", which they shipped home. Mr. Sessions convinced one local farmer, Mr. Baston, to plant his entire acreage in peanuts.   Meanwhile, all the other farmers planted more cotton than ever before in hopes that the boll weevil would leave some to pick.  At harvest time, the cotton farmers found that the weevils had destroyed most of the crop -- only 1500 bales were produced in 1916.   Mr. Baston, however, harvested a peanut crop worth $8,000.  Much of his harvest became seed peanuts for the other famers, who rapidly abandoned cotton when they saw what Baston's farm had produced.  In 1917, Coffee County produced over one million bushels of peanuts that sold for more than $5,000,000.  By 1919, Coffee County was the largest peanut-producing area in the United States. 
     One day in 1919, Roscoe Owen Fleming, grandson of John Alexander Fleming, told a friend that the boll weevil had done so much for the economy of Enterprise, "we ought to build a monument to that insect."  He originally had been joking, but as he thought about it, the idea appealed.  He ordered a statue from Italy, which sat at the local train depot for six months while he tried to collect enough money to pay for it.  He ended up paying half the total cost of $1795.00 from his own pocket. 
     The monument was dedicated in 1919.  Dr. George Washington Carver of Tuskegee Institute was scheduled to deliver the oration, but was unable to make his train connection.  The dedicatory speech was given by Luther Fuller of South Carolina. On the base of the monument is the following inscription:

In profound appreciation
Of the boll weevil
And what it has done
As the herald of prosperity
This monument was erected
By the citizens of
Enterprise, Coffee County, Alabama

     The monument has been altered several times over the years. Originally, it was just a statue of a woman. Later she was given a boll weevil to hold aloft.  The original bug was stolen (some said by a rival football team, others said by Camp Rucker soldiers who took it to Korea), and the replacement bug disappeared a few times as well but has always been found (once on the roof of the courthouse).  The fountain has been redone numerous times, especially after the several occasions when Dothan football supporters added laundry detergent to the water. 

     Roscoe Owen Fleming was a merchant, the son of James Thomas Fleming (son of Robert Alexander Fleming) and Anna Norwood.  He was locally known for a promotion in which he released a bunch of guineas inside his store and gave a discount to anybody who could catch one.

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