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Yesteryear from June 1918: Confederate memorial commemorated on Square

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DRC staff

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following article was published in the Denton Record-Chronicle on June 4, 1918. The story has been lightly edited for typos, and the final section, "Sketch of Chapter," does not appear here because of length. That section, a history of the Katie Daffan Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, can be viewed in the original document online. 

Commemoration of Confederate deeds given here Monday

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Monday was a big day in Denton and marked an epoch in the city's and county's history — a culmination of long years of work for the cause of commemorating the deeds and sacrifices of Denton County patriots during the days of '61. It was a day long to be remembered by the lovers of the Old South and its people. It was a day of commemoration of past events and of inspiration for future events. It was a fitting recognition to the veterans of the gray and a fitting observance of the natal day of the South's great leader — Jefferson Davis.

The day was of much pleasure to the veterans from Denton County and other counties and many made pilgrimages to the old home to revisit the scenes of years ago and re-meet old friends made during boyhood or during the war. The gray beard and gray hair were in prominence everywhere Monday. It was their day and they made the most of it. Sitting upon the big platform behind the speakers, they formed an inspiring background for the services, their faces alight with the joy that came of knowing that they had performed their mission well and were at last being given due recognition. They sat with the dignity of Southern gentlemen, drinking in every word that was audible and at the mention of their old leaders or of some pleasant incident connected with their service, they showed their approval with cheers and laughs or by calm meditation.

Big Crowd Here

The occasion brought to Denton one of the largest crowds that has been in Denton recently. Thousands witnessed the formal ceremonies of the unveiling surrounding the speakers' platform on the south lawn of the court house and passing along the entire south side of the square, both in the roped-off streets and under the awnings, seeking protection from the blazing sun which beat down fiercely on both speakers and auditors.

The dedication services were of a two fold nature — they honored the soldiers of other years and inspired the soldiers and citizen soldiers of today. Every speaker said something in connection with the present war, for, in fact, this phase could not be overlooked, as not more than fifty yards from the stand was a troop of Denton county boys just mustered in and drilling in preparation for their country's service.

<p><span style="font-size: 1em; background-color: transparent;"><p>This 1902 photo shows a large group of "ex-Confederates" from the Sul Ross Camp in front of the Denton County Courthouse on the Square. (Denton Public Library/<span style="font-size: 1em; background-color: transparent;">The Portal to Texas History, UNT Libraries)</span></p></span></p>

This 1902 photo shows a large group of "ex-Confederates" from the Sul Ross Camp in front of the Denton County Courthouse on the Square. (Denton Public Library/The Portal to Texas History, UNT Libraries)

Senator Wiley Talks

The services opened with a fervent prayer of thanks for the safe-keeping of Confederate veterans to this day and for the success of allied arms in the war, after which Hon. Alvin C. Owsley introduced former Senator James R. Wiley as an eminent public servant and a true son of the South. Senator Wiley said this was a great day in the history of Denton county, in the lives of the men who survived the Civil war and in the lives of their daughters who has worked for this day to come. He declared it fitting that the monument to the Confederacy should be placed where it was on a spot made sacred by the feet of Denton county boys who had drilled there and by the feet of those who had left the court house for the nation's call. He believed there is a Divine hand directing all things, making it possible for the boys of today to march to the defense of liberty which those same old men on the platform had fought and bled for in time agone.

"Historians do not do them and their work justice," he said. "They have been forced to submit to teachings and doctrines unfavorable to themselves. I hope in the future a history will be written that will tell of their deeds as carefully and as truthfully as it should be told. The Confederate soldiers were not traitors — the men who went out from the South were God-fearing, patriotic men who believed their cause was just."

The speaker briefly reviewed the causes of the war, showing that it was not slavery which was the real issue — that the real issue was that of state's rights. He told of the beginnings of slavery and said there was no real moral issue in the question at that time — that the real cause of the North's attitude in the beginning was that slavery was not profitable in that section. The John Brown episode and the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin were told of as being causes of the war.

"I don't want to be understood as defending slavery," Senator Wiley said. "But I do want to be understood to say that these were true-hearted men who were supported by words written and imbedded in the Constitution of the United States. The patriotism of these men cannot be doubted, as was shown in the Spanish-American war when some of the men who themselves fought for the Union and sent their own sons into the war. In every endeavor that helped the United States, these men have helped."

The hardships of the Civil war and the terrors of the reconstruction period were spoken of. He pictured how the Confederate soldier went home forgetting the war and looking forward only to the upbuilding of their shattered homes. How they have succeeded was demonstrated by the speaker by mention of the educational systems, good roads, factories and other development and improvement of the South's natural resources.

"These developments were brought about by the hand of God for some purpose," Senator Wiley said, "and that purpose, I believe, is the fighting out of this war. I believe this is God's cause and God's fight. You are permitted to take part in it. But I don't believe that victory will come to us until we are ready to receive it. It will not come until the spirit of selfishness and the greed for gold are dethroned and the spirit of love is seated in our hearts. We have got to get the spirit of greed out of our system. We must be willing not only to eat cornbread that our allies may have wheat, but we must be willing also to do anything our country calls on us to do."

Monument Presented

Following Senator Wiley's address, Mrs. T.E. Berry, historian of the Katie Daffan chapter, read an interesting historical sketch of the work of the chapter, and read an original poem dedicated to the veterans. Mrs. C.C. Yancey, president of the chapter and during whose administration the funds for the monument were chiefly raised, presented the beautiful monument to the people of Denton and Denton county in a beautiful talk. Acceptance for the city was made by the City Attorney H.R. Wilson, who said that Confederate soldiers did not fight for what they believed was right, but for what they knew was right. County Judge Fred M. Bottorff, in accepting the monument for county, expressed his gratification at seeing the figure of a private soldier on the monument and paid tribute to the Southern private, saying that the officer usually gets the praise and the privates goes to the grave without recognition. "I lift my hat to the private of the Civil War," he said, "than whom no age of history has produced a better or a brave soldier. The Civil war was not fought in vain because it gave to the world the character of the Confederate soldier."

A touching address was that of J.C. Parr, commander of Sul Ross Camp, U.C.V., who accepted the monument on behalf of the Confederate veterans of Denton county. He said that all the praise should not be given [to] the men for their service and sacrifice in the war but that a share should be given to the women and girls who stayed at home and wore home-spun clothes, without whom the South could not have made the brilliant showing that she did. He said he was sure that children of coming generations would be proud to hear the story of the Confederacy as related by the monument just as he was proud of the fact that both his grandfathers took to his grave a bullet received in the war of 1812.

Following this address, a number of girls selected from the Denton Schools gave a pretty flag drill in front of the monument which was then unveiled. Before it was unveiled, the statue was draped in Old Glory and the Stars and Bars and as these were released showers of red, white and blue confetti fell over the figure.

Music for the service was furnished by the Harrison band.