Colonel Doane's flagpole

Colonel Doane's flagpole

A rather non-descript, but very significant college landmark stands at the south end of the football field at Memorial Stadium.  The American flag that flies during sporting events is mounted on a wooden pole that Col. Thomas Doane, the college’s founder, had especially made in 1895 as a class gift -- the year he received his honorary degree from the college.

The towering pole was made according to Doane’s strict specifications.  Notes in the college archives describe the 75 and one-half-foot- tall pole as a two-part mast of American cedar from Washington state.  Doane dictated that it should be painted white.  

The pole was originally mounted west of Merrill Hall in a seven-foot-deep pit filled with charred wood, brick and sand mortar, and cement.  The pole was braced below ground level with timbers, covered with dirt and thoroughly soaked.  Engineer Doane made certain that the pole would stand straight and not waver in the wind.  The flag was raised by “means of two-legged shears” of pine about 40 feet long, and lashed together with ropes.  They were raised by tackles passed into a second floor window of Merrill Hall.

During the dedication ceremony the 1895 graduates, in caps and gowns, marched from Boswell Observatory to the flagpole site to watch Thomas Doane unfurl a large flag. His brother, retired sea captain Charles W. Doane, raised the masts. Patriotic songs and speeches were part of the event.

It was long thought that the flagpole had either been removed before the Merrill Hall fire in 1969 or had succumbed to the fire.  Recently, however, sleuthing and tips from interested people revealed that part of Thomas Doane’s flagpole indeed stands on the football field.

Apparently former vice president, the late David Osterhout, fought hard to save it from demise and replacement over the years.  This historic pole, shorter than its original height since just the bottom half remains, holds the flag during events held on the field. The pole is well cared for, still painted white, and rests in metal collar, which was custom-made many years ago by local welder David Fette.

The flagpole story is still developing.  It is not known when the bottom of Col. Doane’s pole was moved to the field or what happened to the top portion.  If readers have any stories involving the pole, please contact Janet Jeffries in the Doane College Archives.


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