Since its removal earlier this summer from Forest Park in the city of St. Louis, the Missouri Confederate monument has been stored at an undisclosed location in Franklin County and First District Commissioner Tim Brinker says he would like to see it erected here.
“It’s important to remember history and monuments like this one help us do that,” Brinker said. “It’s honoring those who fought and died for their beliefs, right or wrong.
“Many of them fought simply because their fathers told them to,” he said. “If you look at the inscriptions on the monument it talks about our freedoms we were given by the ‘pen of Jefferson and the sword of Washington.’ ”
Brinker, who said he was speaking solely for himself and not on behalf of the county commission, feels any monument depicting those fighting for their beliefs is part of America’s cultural evolution of provocative thought and looking back on the mistakes of old will help to move forward in the future.
Brinker’s optimism is not shared by Mark Trout, president of the Missouri Civil War Museum, which owns the monument.
Trout says any talk about the monument or where its parts are being stored is just throwing fuel on the fire.
“This issue is a ticking time bomb,” he said. “If this monument is ever reinstalled, it is destined for private property.
“As of now, I wouldn’t consider placing the monument in the hands of any municipality or government entity,” he added.
Trout said the Missouri Civil War Museum was given the monument. The goal is to keep it safe, he said, and it may never be put on public display again.
“All of these (Confederate) monuments can’t be saved,” he said. “And all of them shouldn’t be saved, but some are masterful pieces of art.”
Trout suggested some of the monuments were originally placed in locations out of context to the historic events they depict and should be moved to those historic sites or national parks. But, that too, may not be enough to protect them from vandalism, he said.
“They are going into the cemeteries and vandalizing the graves of Confederate soldiers,” he said. “If people are talking about protesting on the hallowed grounds of Gettysburg, then these monuments aren’t safe anywhere.”
Brinker disagrees with Trout and says this is the exact time this issue needs to be discussed.
He added there are several locations in Franklin County which would be ideal for the monument to be reconstructed, but an exact location has not been pinpointed.
“Franklin County has a rich Civil War history,” he said. “In my mind, we meet the criteria. It would be fitting to honor those who fell fighting for Missouri.”
Brinker added, the reference to George Washington in the monument’s inscription, would obviously link it to the city of Washington, but a more likely home for the monument would be the newly dedicated Veterans Memorial Park in Union.
With Confederate monuments currently being the centers of protest and many being removed across the nation, rebuilding one goes against the growing trend nationwide.
Brinker said he isn’t worried about political fallout and doesn’t mind going against the flow. He thinks many county residents feel the same way.
“It’s what I believe,” he said. “I was elected by people with like beliefs. For the others, we will have to agree to disagree.”
The owner of the property where the monument is being stored, who requested to remain anonymous, says the location is secluded and under 24-hour surveillance.
“I wasn’t too keen on taking it down in the first place,” the property owner said. “I’m kind of proud of the fact we have it. I told the owner I had a secure place to keep it safe. So now we are trying to keep it secret.”
The property owner added, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department is aware of the monument’s location.
The large monument was taken apart in pieces and then loaded onto trucks. Portions of it were driven out to Franklin County for storage. Other parts, according to Trout, are being stored out of state.
“This thing is heavy,” the property owner said. “In all, it probably weighs 500,000 pounds. One piece alone was 72,000 pounds. That’s a lot of tonnage.”
In addition to the well-known monument that was the center of media attention, there are at least two other Confederate monuments in the St. Louis region that may be targets for removal either by protest or pre-emptively to avoid them being damaged.
The property owner said he has been in contact with groups and has offered his property as a storage location for those monuments as well.
The 103-year-old monument stands 32 feet tall and depicts The Angel of the Spirit of the Confederacy looking down on a bronze sculpture of a family sending a soldier off to war.
The monument was originally dedicated in December 1914 and was a gift to Forest Park from the Ladies’ Confederate Monument Association.
After its removal, ownership of the monument shifted from that organization to the Missouri Civil War Museum near Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in south St. Louis County.