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Kristen Watson

Estimated cost to haul statue nearby would be $15K

Profile image for By Bj Lewis and Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe
By Bj Lewis and Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe

The battle cry for those against the Confederate Soldiers Memorial on the Courthouse on the Square lawn is simply to remove it.

Of course, there are factors to consider, such as the cost, time and work that would go into relocating it.

Commissioners thus far have stated no desire to do anything about it, and some protestors have suggested adding more information to the statue display.

Peggy Riddle, director of the Denton County Office of History and Culture, supports this suggestion and said she thinks more information can help the community navigate the growing furor over a sensitive topic.

“I think it’s always a good thing to bring information about Denton County history. We present it in different ways through exhibits, educational programs, publications [and] through our website,” Riddle said. “Though the Confederacy ... there has not been as much scholarship in this field [as] what needs to do be done.”

Riddle said she has the information on how many people in the county owned slaves and who they were, along with more information on the secession vote in Denton County she feels is important for people to know.

“If you voted against secession, you were a unionist. But because of where you lived, you had to serve in the Confederacy if you were the right age and health,” Riddle said. “It didn’t matter if you didn’t believe in the cause, you were going to fight unless you moved to another state or fled to Mexico.”

Riddle noted that many people on the frontier, including Sam Houston, were among those who did not want to secede and lose the U.S. protection.

“I think we’re open to whatever we can do that is feasible for the interpretation,” Riddle said. “I think it’s a great topic. We’re still discovering new information all the time about that time period. That monument is similar to monuments in 254 counties in the state of Texas. It’s something we can lead the way in interpretation for other counties with communities that have similar monuments.”

Riddle said she does not want the memorial relocated. She said it would likely cause more harm — if not destroy the statue — to have it moved. Wherever it was moved, it still would be in Denton County, she said.

If done, county commissioners would have to handle the to-do list of moving the monument, including finding a new location and paying a masonry company to handle the job.

Officials at the Texas Historical Commission said a good mason could do the job. At least two masons in the state have done similar work. Hunt Restorations, based in San Antonio, has performed restoration work for the state commission.

The company has been in business for 37 years, said owner Michael Hunt.

Hunt estimated it would take about five days and cost about $15,000 to dismantle and reinstall Denton’s Confederate monument, provided crews hauled it to a nearby location.

To do the work, the company would install scaffolding around the monument, Hunt said.

“We’d start from the top and take the gentleman down first,” Hunt said.

The crew would start by taking the mortar out of the joint between the Confederate soldier figure and the archway to look for pins or other kind of anchoring. With either a crane or forklift, they would secure the figure before continuing to dismantle the joint. Then, they would lower the figure to a pallet and secure it before moving to the next highest pieces of the monument.

Each piece would come down one by one and be secured to a pallet for the move to a new site.

Dale Sellers of Phoenix One in Farmers Branch said although his company had the expertise to do the work, it wouldn’t take the job.

“We preserve history, not destroy or embellish it,” Sellers said in an email. “A good interpretive graphic sensitive to all placed near is appropriate.”

However, he said he thought the water fountains could be made functional.

The last time local activist Willie Hudspeth pushed for the monument to be moved and was unsuccessful, he proposed fixing the water fountains as a compromise.

Historians have said they have no evidence the two fountains near the base of the monument were functional, but some Denton old-timers recall drinking from the fountains as young children.

Riddle said there are better ways to use the monument to teach people about respecting other cultures.

“If better interpretation of that monument can help that, I am all for it,” she said. “The education of our young people is what I am most concerned with. If I could have a group to meet with me to talk about this [memorial] and make a difference, that would be a positive thing for our community and make everyone feel good.”

 

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.

 

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.