The only memorial honoring an insect, the Boll Weevil Monument in Enterprise, Coffee County, stands as a reminder of the cotton boll-devouring beetle's role in reshaping agriculture in the region. The destruction wrought on the cotton crop by the pest in the early twentieth century forced Alabama farmers to diversify, leading them to plant successful new crops, chiefly peanuts. Although such an honor for an insect is unusual, it is a telling reminder of the insect's place in Alabama's agricultural history.
The boll weevil expanded into the United States from Mexico in the 1890s, and the beetles ate their way across the cotton fields of the South. They arrived in Alabama sometime in 1910 and soon decimated cotton harvests throughout the state, forcing farmers to heed the advice of such agricultural scientists as Tuskegee Institute's George Washington Carver and diversify their planting to include peanuts, sweet potatoes, and soy beans. By following Carver's advice, Coffee County, in contrast to the rest of the state, rebounded economically in 1917 with the largest peanut harvest in the nation.
In 1919, Enterprise city councilman Roscoe Owen "Bon" Fleming proposed a commemoration of the pest for turning Enterprise's economy around, and on December 11 of that year the city dedicated a statue to the boll weevil in the middle of Main Street. The original stone monument consisted of a life-sized Classical Greek female figure standing atop a pedestal surrounded by a fountain and holding a small fountain above her head. An inscription at the base of the statue reads: "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."
In 1949, the fountain in the statue's hands was replaced with a sculpture of the boll weevil itself after artist Luther Baker
suggested it and fashioned a four-legged model of the insect from linotype metal. That boll weevil was stolen in 1953, and
a larger, more accurate sculpture with six legs replaced it. The statue has suffered vandalism; the entire statue was once
hauled away, later to be found or returned. Most recently, in July 1999, the statue's arms were torn off and taken along with
the weevil. Vandals also have placed alligators, soap, and other foreign objects in the fountain around the base of the pedestal.
Enterprise has repaired and replaced pieces as needed, and the monument now is surrounded by a spear-tipped fence. The monument
gained negative notoriety in 2008 when Comedy Central's The Daily Show mocked Enterprise for honoring the pest instead of Carver's contributions to the state's agricultural well-being.
Associated Press. "Bug Monument Is a Complex Topic." Seattle Times, April 1, 1999.
Bragg, Rick. "A Town Once Menaced by a Bug Wants it Back." New York Times, July 27, 1998.
Pearson, Theodore Bowling. "Boll Weevil Monument: The Only Monument in the World Glorifying a Pest" in Collected Historical Papers. Grove Hill, Ala.: Clarke County Democrat, 1995.
Published August 10, 2009
Last updated June 7, 2013