By KARYN SPORY
Two decades ago, Darrell Maples was antiquing with his wife when he discovered and purchased a Civil War-era medal. Although Maples was thrilled to own the piece of history, he always felt it was a shame the medal had been separated from its owner.
This week, Maples was able to return it to its original family. On Wednesday night at the Boone County Historical Society, the Sons of Confederate Veterans inducted Dale Smith, 60, of Brigham City, Utah, into the group and presented him with his great-great-great-grandfather's Southern Cross of Honor.
George Holton, a Boone County resident, earned the medal, but it somehow ended up in a display case at an antique mall near Midway, where Maples found it.
"The medal was an original" from the "United Daughters of the Confederacy from the early 1900s," said Maples, commander of the Missouri Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. "I tried to play it cool, but I couldn't because I knew what it was."
Maples said he paid $85 for the medal — he was so stunned, he didn't even try to negotiate the price. He said once he got home he immediately started researching Holton, whose name was inscribed on the medal.
Maples, who lives in Jefferson City, went to the state archives and found the original United Daughters of the Confederacy interview with Holton. "I have held on to this thing preciously, to the point I've almost melted it in my hand," he said.
About a year and a half ago, the members of Searcy Camp, the local SCV organization, placed a picture of the medal on its website. Dale Smith, Holton's great-great-great-grandson, just happened to be surfing the Web and came across it.
Maples said his "heart was so full of joy that a direct descendant" was found. On Wednesday, Smith finally made it back to his family's former home to collect his medal.
Like his great-great-great-grandfather, Smith was presented the medal by a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
"Family history is very important to me," Smith said, adding that this was his second trip to Mid-Missouri. Smith said he grew up hearing his grandmother talking about Boone County, especially Holton's Cave near Perche Township.
Smith said over the years he has learned that Holton volunteered for the Confederate army and was in an infantry battalion led by a Capt. Caleb Perkins.
"We're talking a lot of history here. And history isn't the cold hard facts we all got a 'C' in — that's not history; history is really about people," Smith said.
Smith thanked the group for preserving the thoughts, memories and sacrifices of the people who fought in the war. "I thank you for realizing ... the importance of families and history. How many of these have ended up in some old junk drawer and get thrown away ... because they didn't realize" the significance?
This article was published in the Sunday, October 20, 2013 edition of the Columbia Daily Tribune with the headline "Civil War medal is back with family: Antique shop find is given to descendant."