The removal begins

OUR CONFEDERATE HEROES: A TIMELINE OF THE MONUMENT

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With the monument's removal having begun Tuesday night, here's a timeline of its history...

In recent months, key players — the Chatham County Board of Commissioners and the Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy — have been involved, while other groups and individuals have made their presence known at different times.

October 1898: The Winnie Davis Chapter of the UDC is officially organized. At some point, the group lost its charter and was re-organized in May 2019.

Aug. 23, 1907: The monument was first erected in downtown Pittsboro. The total cost was $1,700; it was made by C.J. Harlin of Durham Marble Works. He made the statue of stamped copper and the monument was constructed out of polished Mt. Airy granite.

June 23, 1988: The county commissioners agree to remove the statue from its pedestal for repairs and renovations. It was put back soon afterward.

July 23, 2015: N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory signs the Historic Artifact Management and Patriotism Act, mandated that any “monuments, memorials and works of art owned by the state may not be removed, relocated, or altered in any way without the approval of the North Carolina Historical Commission.” Exceptions in the law carved out space for highway markers set up by the state Board of Transportation, objects that pose a threat to public safety “because of an unsafe or dangerous condition” or items owned by private parties located on public property. The statue at Chatham County’s Historic Courthouse is privately owned on public property, meaning it could fill one of those exceptions.

April 15, 2019: Chatham County’s board of commissioners vote 4-1 to instruct the county attorney to explore options for removing the Confederate monument from its place. More than 40 citizens made comments on the monument and what the board should do. Earlier in the night, the advocacy group Chatham for All made a presentation to the commissioners on why the monument should be removed.

June 17, 2019: The commissioners approve a Memorandum of Understanding with the UDC to discuss options to “reimagine” the Confederate monument.

July 17, 2019: Representatives of the county and the UDC meet to discuss the MOU.

August 5, 2019: UDC President Barbara Pugh tells the News + Record in a statement that the monument “should not be illegally moved or altered” and that it would be “inappropriate that we re-imagine the statue in any way.” She cited the Historic Artifact Management and Patriotism Act as one of the defenses.

Aug. 19, 2019: The county commissioners vote 4-1 to terminate the county’s agreement with the UDC for the placement of the monument. Many in the board room expressed their anger, with a brief scuffle over a camera shot and one man calling Commissioner Karen Howard “island girl” and saying the four board members who voted yes should “rot in hell.” The board sets an Oct. 1 deadline for getting a plan from the UDC and said that after Nov. 1, if not removed, it would become a public trespass.

Sept. 28, 2019: The first in what will be a series of arrests — a Fuquay-Varina man and Chapel Hill man — are made at protests and counter protests surrounding the monument and the board’s decision. Arrests were made in the ensuing weeks, mostly for fights and carrying concealed weapons illegally.

Oct. 1, 2019: The deadline set by the board of commissioners for the UDC to submit a removal plan came and went without any action.

Oct. 23, 2019: The UDC files a complaint seeking a temporary restraining order and requesting an injunction against the county’s future removal of the monument, saying the county had claimed ownership by repairing the statue in 1988 and the removal would be “unlawful” based on the 2015 North Carolina law protecting publicly owned monuments.

Oct. 28, 2019: Judge Charles M. Viser grants the temporary restraining order for a 10-day period. The period is later extended after a court date was pushed back.

Nov. 13, 2019: After a delay in the court’s ruling, Superior Court Judge Susan Bray denied the request for an injunction, essentially saying the county was free to do what it wanted with the monument while the question of ownership was determined. Bray also allowed attorneys for Chatham for All and the West Chatham NAACP to participate in the case.

Nov. 16, 2019: In all 12 arrests are made in another Saturday of protests in Pittsboro.

Nov. 19, 2019: Chatham County officials release the following statement at 10:45 p.m.: "The removal of the Confederate monument outside the Chatham County historic courthouse in downtown Pittsboro has begun.

"Crews are working to safely and respectfully dismantle the Confederate monument, which includes the statue and pedestal. These items will be transported to a safe location where they will be preserved and stored until such time as the Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) finds a more appropriate location to place them.

"Members of the media and the public are advised to exercise caution in the area of downtown Pittsboro as this is an active construction zone, and follow the directions of law enforcement on scene. Some roads in the area will be closed temporarily and traffic will be detoured. Headlines in Pittsboro news have been dominated in the last several months by debate over and the fate of the “Our Confederate Heroes” monument located in downtown Pittsboro, on the lawn of the Chatham County Historic Courthouse."

UPDATE: Chatham officials released this statement early Wednesday morning: 

Removal of the Confederate Monument in Chatham County Completed

PITTSBORO, NC— The removal of the Confederate monument outside the Chatham County historic courthouse in downtown Pittsboro is complete.

Crews worked for several hours November 19, 2019, and into the following morning, to safely and respectfully dismantle the Confederate monument, which includes the statue and pedestal. These items are being transported to a safe location where they will be preserved and stored until such time as the Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) finds a more appropriate location to place them.

“The last several months have been a painful time for Chatham County. We’ve experienced high emotions, division and even violence which have impacted residents, businesses and the overall feel of our community,” said Chatham County Board of Commissioners Chair Mike Dasher. “What's clear now is that the overwhelming majority of our residents are eager to move forward.”

The circle in downtown Pittsboro is located at a major intersection of two U.S. highways. The County decided to conduct the monument removal project at night to better ensure public safety and lessen the impact to the traveling public, especially school buses and other morning commuter traffic. 

All roads in the area that were closed temporarily are now reopened to traffic.

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