Two Missouri Confederate monuments hidden in Franklin County for safekeeping may soon have some company.
The owner of the property where the monuments are being stored, who has requested to remain anonymous, said he has been fielding calls from custodians of other statues and monuments across the region who are considering moving them to safeguard and preserve them. Confederate plaques, statues and monuments, as well as other historic monuments across the country and the world, have been targeted for removal and vandalized, following the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer in May in Minneapolis.
In addition to the Missouri Confederate monument, the property owner also is storing a monument whichwas vandalized and removed from Kansas City in 2017. That memorial was a 1934 gift to the city from the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It recognizes the women who supported the Confederacy and slavery. The landowner said the monument was initially stored in a cave after it was taken down, before it was moved to his property.
“These monuments are dedicated to the soldiers and sailors who fought,” the landowner said. “As long as I’ve got property, they’ve got a home.”
The property where the monuments are hidden is under 24-hour surveillance, and Franklin County Sheriff’s Department deputies patrol the area regularly, he said. The property owner receives no compensation for storing the monuments, which are unassembled.
The Missouri Confederate monument stood in Forest Park until 2017. It 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. At 32 feet, the estimated assembled weight of the monument is 500,000 pounds.
Demands for its removal came three years after the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, which sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. After it was vandalized, the Daughters shifted the stewardship of the monument to the Missouri Civil War Museum near Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in south St. Louis County.
The Franklin County property owner said he then received a call to remove and store the monument, which he agreed to do for free.
“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 monument was taken apart in Forest Park and the pieces loaded onto trucks, he said. Stone portions, including the central piece, which weighs 72,000 pounds, and other stones weighing 15,000 and 10,000 pounds each, were driven out to his site. Other parts are being stored out of state where the damaged bronze plaques and figures connected to the monument are being restored and preserved.
Mark Trout, president of the Missouri Civil War Museum, said if the monument is ever reassembled it would be on private property.
“The goal is to keep it safe,” he said. “It may never be put on public display again.”
Meanwhile, the Franklin County property owner said crews will be visiting the site in the coming weeks to attempt to remove the 3-year-old graffiti and other damage it sustained over its 100-plus years.
Law enforcement officials in Washington and Union said they are keeping a close watch on area historical monuments, including those that honor founding fathers in Franklin County: the Ben Franklin statue outside the historic Union courthouse and the George Washington bust that looks over Washington City Hall and the Police Department complexes.
“We haven’t had any damage. We haven’t had any threats,” Washington Police Sgt. Steve Sitzes said. “I can tell you that the way it stands right now, we’ll take a zero tolerance on any of that.
“If the city, whether it be in the park, or something that’s privately owned, if they want to voluntarily take those down — that’s up to them. But we’re not going to allow people to vandalize and destroy these plaques, monuments and whatever else.”
The Benjamin Franklin statue, which cost $43,000 to install, was erected in 2006 in celebration of Franklin’s 300th birthday. The George Washington bust, which cost $13,000 to install, was dedicated in 2004.
Washington Historical Society Director Marc Houseman said to his knowledge there are no public memorials in Franklin County specifically honoring Confederate soldiers, although there are many buried here.
“Some cemeteries have plaques that acknowledge they recognize all war veterans,” Houseman said.
He said everyone should be mindful and respectful of history.
“There is no reason to attack history just because you don’t like a certain part of it,” he said. “There are parts of history nobody likes. It’s so easy to get angry, violent and full of hate.”