• Washington State Confederate monuments face controversy, again

    By: Gary Horcher

    Updated:
    CLARK COUNTY, Wash. - As they speed along southbound I-5 near Battle Ground, most drivers don't even notice the Confederate flag flown above a private park named for Jefferson Davis, the first and only president of the Confederacy.
     
    A tidy quartz stone walkway leads to two granite monuments, engraved with the words "JEFFERSON DAVIS HIGHWAY No 99."
     
     
    The monuments used to mark the far northern and southern ends of State Route 99 -- the same one which spans Seattle – which used to be called the Jefferson Davis Highway. Years ago, both monuments were removed from public land, one from Vancouver and the other from Blaine, and re-mounted in Jefferson Davis Park.
     
     
    A local group, Sons of Confederate Veterans, owns the park and has received death threats amid a tide of calls to remove Confederate monuments in the wake of Charlottesville violence.
     
    "This is not a symbol of racism, it's a symbol of the south and its way of life." said John Sigmon, Commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
     
    Sigmon indicated the group would protect the private park with armed guards to protect it from vandalism.
     
    "That memorial will be guarded and amply guarded by our membership," Sigmon said.
     
     
    Seattle historian Feliks Banel showed KIRO 7 part of Seattle's Ravenna Park which used to have a tree and a plaque dedicated to Gen. Robert E Lee.
     
     
    "I've always believed that you don't take down statues just because times have changed," he said.
     
    Banel pointed out many local symbols including the highway markers were erected because of the efforts of Seattle's May Avery Wilkins, whose father was a Confederate colonel.
     
    "A lot of people from the South lived in Washington in 1909, whose fathers and grandfathers had taken part in the Civil War," said Banel. "They moved here, they brought their culture with them and it made perfect sense then to honor their ancestors."
     
    Banel believes the monuments should be a learning tool to put history in context and to never repeat it.
     
     
    "It feels to me like we're trying to erase some really important chapters in our history, that if we forget,
    chances are we'll make the same mistakes a few generations from now," he said.
     
    A 91-year-old Confederate Veteran’s Memorial also stands at Seattle’s Lake View Cemetery. Here are some facts on it. 
     
    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.
     
    Who paid for it?
     
    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.
     
    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. Aug. 10 of that year was Dixie Day celebrated by people of Southern birth or ancestry at the fair. Confederate 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 buy 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, 1844-1989
    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
     
    What is the design?
     
    The monument is 14 feet high and is surmounted by the Southern Cross and has the insignia of the Daughters of the Confederacy.
     
    Where is 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, Georgia, shipped through the Panama Canal and unloaded in Seattle from the steamship Monticello on February 26, 1926.
     
    Who was the sculptor?
     
    James A. Wehn, a famed Seattle sculptor who also taught at the University of Washington.
     
    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 Gov. R.H. Hartley spoke at the dedication as did Seattle Mayor Edwin J. Brown. 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?
     
    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 Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Gordon 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, 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.
     
    Where did this information come from?
     
    Information for 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.
     

    TRENDING NOW:

     


    DOWNLOAD OUR FREE NEWS APP

    Next Up: