UPDATE: Due to weather conditions, the Saturday, Feb. 23, grave marker dedication for WWI veteran Birt Moses Buchanan will be held entirely at the Warrior Exhibit at the Fayetteville Recreation Center. The ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m.
World War I veteran Birt Moses Buchanan, remembered by many as Mose, will be honored posthumously on the 100th anniversary year of his honorable discharge from the U.S. Army with the dedication of an official military issue marker on his grave at Pleasant View Cemetery Saturday, Feb. 23, at 1 p.m.
A reception will follow at the Lincoln County Warrior Exhibit in the Fayetteville Recreation Center at 1:45 p.m. where H.R. Lovell, acclaimed artist who created Buchanan’s portrait, “The Veteran”, will be honored, and the portrait will be on display.
The Kings Mountain Messenger Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution organized these events. Speakers at the dedication include Lincoln County Mayor Bill Newman; Petersburg Mayor Logan Jolly; Joyce Eady, representing the City of Fayetteville; Terry Quick, LC Veterans Services officer; and the Rev. Kimi L. Brown, the last pastor of Caldwell United Methodist Church in Petersburg.
Also attending the event is Maria Cherry, director of the Maria Cherry Gallery and Lovell’s agent. Signed reproductions of the painting will be made available at the reception.
Sherrie Tomerlin, director of the Lincoln County Archives and DAR regent, Mayor Newman, Arden Humphrey, DAR historian, and Quick, are credited with providing the information needed to obtain the government-issue marker. Higgins Funeral Home donated a granite base for the marker and set both the base and the marker in place on Feb. 1.
A fascination with Mose’s life and his military service began when his photo was republished in a 2015 edition of The Elk Valley Times. Many people submitted information about Mose to Mayor Newman, who then shared what he had learned with Tomerlin to aid in further research. Tomerlin assembled the information, examined the 1900 and 1910 census records, military service records and located his obituary.
Since the publication of another Times’ article in March 2017 more information has come to light. Mose’s great-niece Emma Hardin and other members of the community have provided more insight into his personality, and the American Legion in Petersburg dug into the findings.
According to the latest research, Mose was born on Jan. 29, 1896 to Pryor and Polly Buchanan of Petersburg. He was registered for the draft in June 1917 at the age of 22 and by March 1918 was ordered to report to Camp Meade, Maryland, for training. Because of institutional racism, the U.S. Army wasn’t prepared to provide equal treatment to African American soldiers, who were the subject of segregation, discrimination and abuse in training camps. Following his training, he was assigned to Company “D” of the 521st Engineers, then later assigned to the 523rd Engineers, and finally, to the 20th Service Company of the 20th Engineers on June 24, 1918.
About 40,000 African American troops were sent to the European Theatre and assigned to segregated units. On July 10, 1918 Mose was shipped out aboard the USS Martha Washington to cross the ocean and eventually dock at Brest, France. The 20th Service Company of the 20th Engineers harvested timber, operated saw mills, built port facilities, bridges, railroads and other structures that were essential to moving war materials to the battle front. The Allied lines of communication depended upon massive amounts of timber, and the front lines required lumber for dugouts, shelters, trenches, entanglements, prisoner compounds, coffins and much more. Without the efforts of the engineering battalions to supply the great need of lumber and timber for the war effort, the American Expeditionary Force could not have been successful.
With the signing of the Armistice in Compiegne, the guns of war were silenced on Nov. 11, 1918. Buchanan departed from France, bound for the United States, on June 27, 1919 aboard the troop transport ship USS Siboney. His departure was one day before the official end of the war, when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. Despite the harsh treatment that Pvt. Buchanan likely experienced, he was honorably discharged from the military.
Remembering ‘Uncle Mose’
Upon his return to Petersburg, Mose continued to farm and work in various building trades. Tomerlin believes that he may have married his first wife in 1913, but she may have died before the 1920 census. Records show that he married his second wife, Roberta Gaunt, a widow with children, on Jan. 12, 1933.
He was active in the community, a member of the Elk River Lodge No. 100 and was a trustee and treasurer of the Caldwell Methodist Church. Mose had a stout frame and was medium height, and was known as a humble, hardworking man.
His great-niece Emma Hardin has some fond memories of her Uncle Mose – “He called me his daughter,” she said. “He was a good person … He did anything for anybody, and everybody liked him.”
Tony Metcalf, a Lincoln County school resource officer, grew up in Petersburg, and as a small child fondly remembers Mose.
“He was always very kind to us children,” recalls Metcalf, adding that kids would sit with him on the front porch of his little plank-sided house and ride their bicycles beside Mose as he walked very slowly to the town square. When their bicycles broke down, he would fix them “without blinking an eye.”
He always had single pieces of bubble gum or a peppermint for the kids, he continued. “I never heard him say an ill word … He was a good soul.”
Artist Lovell’s first meeting with Mose
At least three decades before the picture of Mose ran in The Times, artist Harold R. Lovell of Cheatham County noticed Mose sitting in front of a feed store as he drove through Petersburg’s town square. Captivated by Mose, Lovell braked the car and knew then that he wanted to paint the man’s portrait.
Lovell drove back to Petersburg the following day and asked Mose permission to paint his portrait. While talking to Mose he learned that he was a WWI veteran and a very humble man. Mose was about 91-years-old at the time, according to Tomerlin’s research.
Although Lovell had been an artist for many years, Mose would be Lovell’s first portrait. He titled the painting, “The Veteran.” Lovell worked on the painting from April of 1987 to April of 1988, and while working on it, heard that Mose had been admitted to the VA Hospital in Rutherford County. Mose passed away at the age of 95 in the Alvin C. York Medical Center in Murfreesboro on May 21, 1991. Through the years the painting has remained one of Lovell’s most beloved paintings.
About the artist
Artist H.R. Lovell grew up on his parents’ farm in Middle Tennessee, and while those around him recognized his artistic talent at a young age, Lovell said he didn’t realize his ability until he started painting pictures of cars in high school. In 1974 he saw the works of Hubert Shuptrine in a magazine and was inspired to start painting with watercolor.
“I was 29-years-old when I started watercolor,” said Lovell in a phone interview with The Times. A self-taught artist, Lovell to this day continually challenges himself to become a better artist, taking as long as he feels necessary to perfect the painting.
“I never had a deadline,” he said. Using a photo-realistic style, his mediums of choice are egg tempera and watercolor. His powerful compositions and rich images bathed in light and shade, are meticulously created.
Lovell paints subjects that evoke an emotion or impact him in a powerful way.
“I’ve always felt that the true beauty in a painting is being able to capture the moment of a person, place or thing that you paint and bring it to life so that when you look back on that moment you can still feel the adrenalin rush that you had when first seeing it,” Lovell wrote in his vision. While he no longer farms, his work at the water department outside of Ashland doesn’t deter him from painting.
In 1980 a realtor friend of Lovell’s showed one of his paintings to world renowned artist, R.C. Gorman, who promptly called Lovell and invited him to show some of his work in conjunction with Gorman at The Navajo Gallery in Old Town Albuquerque, N.M. Lovell balked at the thought of driving to New Mexico during hay season, not realizing who Gorman was until he saw him featured on the “Today Show”. He then packed his car and started driving west. When Gorman saw his paintings, he appraised them and tripled their price. All six were sold during the show. Gorman referred to Lovell as “The Andrew Wyeth of the South.” Lovell was the only artist that he ever invited to show with Gorman, who encouraged the budding artist and remained friends with him until Gorman’s death.
At the Midwest Art Magazine’s show, “Colors of The Heartland”, a fundraiser for the Farm Aid cause in 1984, Lovell’s painting brought the highest price of all the art featured at the VIP event. It was purchased by a North Dakota gallery owner who had purchased a Rembrandt etching at an earlier auction. The buyer walked out of the event with Lovell’s painting under one arm and a Rembrandt under the other arm.
Lovell’s paintings sold so fast, that when he was invited to do a show in 1998 at the new Renaissance Center in Dickson, he had to borrow 53 paintings from collectors in order to have sufficient art to exhibit during the show. Lovell was voted Tennessee Artist-in-Residence 2001-2003 as designated by the Governor and General Assembly, for expressing the spirit and assets of Tennessee through his works.
Maria Cherry Gallery
The collectability of Lovell’s paintings has continued to rise over the years and have found their way into the homes of Mel Tillis, Alan Jackson, Roy Acuff, R.C. Gorman, Tanya Tucker, Randy Travis, Tricia Cast, Mario Pasin and many more.
Lovell donated his most recent painting, “Sweetwater”, to Alan Jackson, who bought a farm near the Cumberland River that belonged to Lovell’s ancestors. Lovell felt honored and privileged to donate the painting to Jackson, said Cherry.
She and Lovell clicked as friends more than two decades ago, and in 2000 he asked her to represent his art. After much consideration and prayer, she accepted.
“I am very proud of this moment,” said Cherry regarding the dedication. “… This could be a part of a big legacy.”
Cherry has an extensive background in art, interior design and is preparing to launch a line of children’s clothing. Lovell’s original artwork is available for viewing by appointment outside of Nashville and his art is displayed online at www.hrlovellart-mariacherrygallery.com. Maria Cherry Gallery is a full service gallery that offers original artwork and top quality giclée reproductions and creative framing. Cherry arranges viewings of the original art outside of Nashville. She provides background information, descriptions and notes from the actual paintings created by H.R. Lovell and how they came about.
She may be contacted about Lovell’s art at Mariacherrygallery@yahoo.com or by calling 323-326-9569.