• Why is a Confederate memorial in Seattle? A Q and A about its creation

    By: Casey McNerthney

    Updated:

    The private memorial for Confederate soldiers at a Seattle cemetery – one that was dedicated in 1926 – was created by the same sculptor who created a statue honoring Chief Sealth, the city’s namesake.

    The sculptor, James A. Wehn, who made a bust honoring Sealth's daughter as well, also completed the official bronze City of Seattle seal in 1936.

    There is debate about Confederate monuments on public spaces in other states. Lake View Cemetery is on private property, and there are no public Confederate memorials in Seattle. There also was a protest on Wednesday at the Vladimir Lenin statue in Fremont. Follow this link to read a Q and A about the Lenin statue, which includes details about the protest.

    Here is a Q and A on the statue with information from HistoryLink.org, Lake View Cemetery, public records, The Herald of Everett, and Seattle Times archive reports from 1909 to 1973.

    When was the memorial dedicated?

    It was dedicated at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 23, 1926.

    The cornerstone was set the afternoon of Sunday, April 11, 1926. More than 200 Southerners who moved to the Seattle area attended. Daniel F. Dodge, a commander of the John B. Gordon Camp of Confederate Veterans, was an honored guest. Dodge was buried there the following year.

    Is it on private property?

    Yes.

    The cemetery was closed after angry calls on Wednesday. Seattle police did not immediately comment on possible threats. 

    Are there are other Confederate monuments in Washington State?

    Yes. There is Jefferson Davis Park in Battle Ground, Wash., which has two monuments. Follow this link for a video on that park. Those monuments used to mark places on State Route 99 (which is Aurora Avenue North in Seattle). In 1939, the Washington State Legislature named the road the Jefferson Davis Highway, as part of the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway. It was renamed in 2016 for a Civil War soldier with ties to Snohomish

    Who paid for the private memorial in Seattle?

    The Robert E. Lee Chapter, No. 885, of the United Daughters of the Confederacy paid for the monument. The Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy paid for a Confederate plot in Lake View Cemetery beginning in 1911, according to a Seattle Times report from 1926.

    The Robert E. Lee Chapter, No. 885, of the United Daughters of the Confederacy paid for the monument and the idea began on Dixie Day in 1909.
    © 2018 Cox Media Group.

    What led to the monument?

    The United Daughters of the Confederacy held a banquet for Confederate veterans during the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, the first Seattle World’s Fair. August 10 of that year was Dixie Day at the fair, where people of Southern birth or ancestry celebrated. Southern veterans also spoke.

    “There will be nothing suggestive of the universally deplored strife, the whole purpose being to bring Southern people together for not only a good time among themselves, but to show their good will toward all who dwell with them north of the Mason and Dixon line,” The Seattle Times reported before the event. “Dixie Day is to be one of amity, sweet ‘taters, watermelon and plantation melodies.”

    Dixie Day became an annual picnic sponsored by the Seattle chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Funds generated by the event were used to purchase a burial plot and to erect the Confederate monument in Seattle's Lake View Cemetery, AYP historian Paula Becker wrote.

    Who are the men buried at the monument?

    James K. Rabb, 1843-1908

    Capt. W.C. Dutton, 1842-1921

    Joseph B. Pritchett, 1847-1945

    Major O.C. Myers 1837-1925 and his wife Elizabeth H Myers 1859-1939.

    Edward A. Barker, 1832-1909

    L.D. McMeekin, 1844-1929

    Daniel F. Dodge, 1840-1927

    Col. Jas. N. Gilmer, 1839-1920

    James Morgan, 1840-1912

    Dr. John L. Neagle, 1837-1909

    Capt. William R.I. Dalton, 1841-1931

    A capsule is also preserved below the the monument made from the 10-ton piece of granite.

    What is the design?

    The stone monument is surmounted by the Southern Cross and has the insignia of the Daughters of the Confederacy.

    How tall is the monument?

    It is 14 feet high.

    Where was the granite from?

    It was brought to Seattle from the Stone Mountain in Georgia. The 10-ton piece was first sent by train to Savannah and shipped through the Panama Canal. unloaded in Seattle from the steamship Monticello on February 26, 1926.

    Who was the sculptor?

    James A. Wehn, a famed Seattle sculptor who also created the City of Seattle bronze seal in 1936 and the bronze statue honoring Seattle namesake Chief Sealth. He also created the first bust of Princess Angeline, Sealth’s daughter.

    Wehn also created a bust of Sealth in 1909 that was unveiled in Pioneer Square.

    The Chief Sealth statue near 5th Avenue and Cedar Street is the oldest statue in the city. That was completed in 1912, seven years before Wehn became the first head of the U.W. Department of Sculpture. Wehn was born in Indianapolis and came to Washington with his family in 1889, according to his Seattle Times obituary.

    Wehn’s work is on display at some Seattle schools, the downtown library, other city buildings, and he completed a memorial for Princess Angeline, Chief Sealth’s daughter. The Henry Broderick memorial fountain at Seattle University was completed by Wehn in 1950.

    Wehn, who received an award of merit from the Seattle Historic Society for his Northwest history preservation work, also served on the Seattle Art Commission and has works preserved by the Washington State Historical Society Museum in Tacoma.

    Wehn’s father owned Salmon Bay Brass and Iron Foundry and built the family home at 710 29th Avenue South where Wehn lived until his death in 1973 at age 90. The house, which was constructed in 1889, still stands.

    Wehn was cremated and his remains are also at Lake View Cemetery.

    Who did the carving?

    Edward C. Messett of Seattle. Both Messett and Wehn were working for the Sunset Monument Company.

    What was the dedication ceremony like?

    Washington Governor R.H. Hartley spoke, as did Seattle Mayor Edwin J. Brown, and Mayor Elect M.G. Tennant of Tacoma, who was the son of a Confederate veteran, gave the dedicatory address. The State Commander of the American Legion Frank M. Brooks, a Bellingham resident, also spoke, among others. The unveiling was presided over by two former servicemen in Civil War uniform, and veterans of the Spanish American War and World War I attended.

    What was said at the dedication?

    Tacoma Mayor Elect M.G. Tennant “called attention to the lasting good that had come out of the struggle between North and South,” The Seattle Times wrote the day after the dedication. “

    “Mrs. May Avery Wilkins, president of the Washington State Daughters of the Confederacy, and Mrs. Bradley T. Fowlkes, president of the Robert E. Lee Chapter, which sponsored the monument, paid tribute to the Confederate soldiers and told of work done by the women to secure the monument,” The Times reported.

    What were some other ceremonies held at the monument?

    On May 19, 1938, a memorial service was held for W.C. Gordon, age 94, who was a courier for General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson. He received the Southern Cross of Honor at that ceremony.

    At the time there were only two others from the Southern Army living in Western Washington. The others were J.B. Pritchett, age 92, and Isaac Newton Presson, 100. They lived at the Masonic Home in Zenith, Wash., about 18 miles south of Seattle.

    Pritchett died in 1945 and is buried at the monument. 

    What have Seattle leaders said about the monument?

    Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who took office in 2014, didn't say anything about the monument at Lake View Cemetery until Confederate monuments in other states -- ones on public property -- were taken down following protests.

    On Wednesday, August 16, Murray said his office called Lake View staff about the monument. Here is his full written statement released through spokesman Will Lemke:

     “We must remove statues and flags that represent this country’s abhorrent history of slavery and oppression based on the color of people’s skin. It is the right thing to do. During this troubling time when neo-Nazis and white power groups are escalating their racist activity, Seattle needs to join with cities and towns across the country who are sending a strong message by taking these archaic symbols down. 

    “The monument to Confederate soldiers in the Lake View Cemetery is located on private property. My office has called the cemetery operator to express our concerns regarding the monument. As we continue our ongoing proactive work to be an inclusive and welcoming community, we must also join the fight against the mainstreaming of hateful and despicable far-right political ideology.”

    On Thursday, Murray called for the Confederate statue and the Lenin statue in Fremont to come down, even though both are on private property.

     “In the last few days, Seattleites have expressed concerns and frustration over symbols of hate, racism and violence that exist in our city," Murray said in a written statement through his spokesman, Benton Strong. "Not only do these kinds of symbols represent historic injustices, their existence causes pain among those who themselves or whose family members have been impacted by these atrocities. 

    "We should remove all these symbols, no matter what political affiliation may have been assigned to them in the decades since they were erected. This includes both confederate memorials and statues idolizing the founder of the authoritarian soviet regime. Both are on private property, but I believe the confederate memorial at Lake View Cemetery and the Lenin statue in Fremont should be removed. We should never forget our history, but we also should not idolize figures who have committed violent atrocities and sought to divide us based on who we are or where we came from.”

    Follow this link to read a Q and A about the Lenin statue. 

    Is there a law that explicitly prohibits the mayor from removing something from private property?  

    No. 

    This is a broad topic and would likely be a matter of private property rights and free speech, which flow from both statutory and common law, King County Law Library staff said in an e-mail. 

    Have Seattle police been involved?

    Lake View Cemetery closed Wednesday, August 16, after angry calls. A Seattle police spokesman did not comment about possible threats. 

    Where did this information come from?

    Information from this Q and A was gathered from the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition Dixie Day on Historylink.org and archived Seattle Times articles on the following dates: October 17, 1904; July 18, 1909; August 23, 1909; August 24, 1909; May 27, 1923; February 26, 1926; April 12, 1926; May 16, 1926; May 24, 1926; May 20, 1938; May 15, 1960; January 20, 1965; October 4, 1973. Information from the King County Department of Assessments, The Herald of Everett, and Lake View Cemetery’s website also is included. 


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