Erected as the nation’s first WWI memorial and dedicated in 1918 to the servicemen of Klickitat County, Washington, who died in the service of their country during the Great War, Hill’s Stonehenge Memorial is a monument to heroism and peace.
Hill erroneously believed that the original Stonehenge was constructed as a place of human sacrifice. Concluding there was a parallel between the loss of life in WWI and the sacrifices at ancient Stonehenge, he set out to build a replica on the cliffs of the Columbia as a reminder of those sacrifices and the “incredible folly” of the war.
Guided by leading authorities on archaeology, astronomy, and engineering, Hill combined their knowledge to duplicate, as nearly as possible, the original size and design of the ancient Neolithic ruin in England.
The original idea was to use local stone, however, when the rock proved unsatisfactory, Hill decided to use reinforced concrete. (The rough, hand-hewn looking texture was created by lining the wooden forms with crumpled tin.)
On June 8, 1918 a total eclipse of the sun was predicted, with the best viewing point in the vicinity of Goldendale, Washington. Consequently, some of the best astronomers of the day were in Klickitat County. Professor Campbell, of Lick Observatory at the University of California, agreed to fix the position of the altar stone. Unlike the ancient Stonehenge, it is aligned to the astronomical horizon rather than the actual midsummer sunrise. This results in a three degree difference from the original structure. Combined with a five degree difference in latitude and the manner in which the surrounding hills obscure the actual horizon, Stonehenge Memorial is difficult to use as an astronomical calendar.
On July 4, 1918 the altar stone was dedicated with a plaque that reads:
To the memory of the soldiers and sailors of Klickitat County who gave their lives in defense of their country. This monument is erected in hope that others inspired by the example of their valor and their heroism may share in that love of liberty and burn with that fire of patriotism which death alone can quench.
Stonehenge Memorial was completed in 1929 and re-dedicated on Memorial Day of that year. The men honored at Stonehenge are James Henry Allyn, Charles Auer, Dewey V. Bromley, John W. Cheshier, William O. Clary, Evan Childs, James D. Duncan, Harry Gotfredson, Robert F. Graham, Louis Leidl, Carl A. Lester, Edward Lindblad, Henry O. Piendl and Robert F. Venable.
These men, all members of the American Expeditionary Force, represented the U.S. Army (Cavalry, Coast Artillery, Engineers and Infantry), U.S. Marines and the U.S. Navy.
When Samuel Hill died in 1931, his body was cremated and the ashes placed in a crypt just below the Stonehenge Memorial. The original crypt deteriorated in the next 25 years and was replaced in 1955 by a granite monument bearing his epitaph: “Samuel Hill: Amid nature’s great unrest, he sought rest.”