UPDATE @ 8:25 p.m.: Acting City Manager Jonathan Westendorf hopes to have the Confederate marker in Franklin moved to Franklin Twp. before the weekend, when a Dayton racial justice group is planning a demonstration.
City crews will need to study the monument before relocating it. They will have to determine whether the memorial plaque is attached to the foundation, for one, and how large the rock and plaque might be.
Vice Mayor Carl Bray, in an email, said, “I don’t want any problems, but I think we should leave it up. Just my viewpoint…”
Earlier Wednesday, Mayor Denny Centers said the monument issue would be discussed at the City Council meeting on Monday.
UPDATE @ 6:48 p.m.:
The Robert E. Lee/Dixie Highway monument will be removed, according to a statement this evening from the city of Franklin.
“Right of Ways must remain clear to avoid the creation of a public safety hazard,” the statement said.
Until today, city of Franklin officials said they were not aware the monument was located within their Right of Way of the roadway.
The city’s statement indicated they would return the monument to Franklin Twp., which previously had Right of Way to the land.
If you blink while driving south on Dixie Highway just outside of Franklin, you might miss one of a handful of markers honoring the Confederacy.
While these types of monuments and markers have sparked controversy around the country, this 90-year-old marker in remembrance of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Dixie Highway won’t be removed, according to city officials.
The marker is on a rock at the corner of Hamilton Middletown Road and Dixie Highway on a city-owned easement across from Woodhill Cemetery.
“We’ve made a lot of progress in the last 50 years and we certainly don’t need to go backwards,” said Franklin Mayor Denny Centers. “Those historical monuments are just that — historical monuments to remind what happened in the past, right or wrong. Monuments are such an itty-bitty piece of this.”
Monuments or memorials such as the one in Franklin don’t promote racism, he said.. If that were the case, Centers said, there would be a lot of monuments coming down from various points in history.
The marker has also created some controversy about where it is actually located — in the city of Franklin or on Franklin Twp. property.
The marker is in the 50-foot easement of Dixie Highway, which the city has owned since the 1980s, according to Traci Stivers, Franklin Twp. administrator, who said she verified the information late Wednesday with the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office and Engineer’s Office.
“We stand by our earlier statement on the importance of remembering the history of our beloved country, and wish the City of Franklin’s elected officials the very best while deciding how they will proceed,” she said.
Centers is not so sure, saying, “We don’t know who the rightful owner is.”
He said the marker was rededicated by township trustees a number of years ago after a car crashed into it. Because of that, he believes the township is the owner.
“We have a lot of things in our easements that we don’t own such as power poles and water lines,” he said.
Centers said the issue would be on Monday’s City Council agenda and it will be up to council to decide on next steps. He also said the city would research the matter further.
Earlier Wednesday, before learning the memorial was located in the city easement, Franklin Twp. Trustees President Beth Callahan said the marker wouldn’t be coming down and said she only became aware of it just in the past few days.
She said it’s history, but the story has to be told.
Callahan said the topic has never come up about removing the stone marker or been discussed, and in her 10 years as a trustee, no one had ever complained about it.
“It’s such a complicated issue,” she said. “There are some things in history that are nasty, but the story has to be told. Hatred and war are awful.”
She likened the issue to the Christians being tossed to the lions in ancient arenas.
“As a Christian, I don’t like that, but the story has to be told,” Callahan said. “Ripping out monuments won’t make the story go away. There is a lot of anger, but we have to forgive and not forget. We have to move forward or history will repeat itself.”
Stivers said she has never received any complaints about the marker and that the township does not maintain it.
“It’s never caused a problem and I see no reason to remove it,” Stivers said. “I would say half the township’s population doesn’t realize it’s there or even know what it is.”
Trustee Brian Morris agreed with Callahan.
“I truly think the history of these markers and the concept of them being racist or unfair to people is blurring the lines between history and opinion,” he said. “I sympathize with anybody who has been treated unfairly in the past because of their ethnicity. However, these items are our history and we can learn valuable lessons and continue to learn.”
Local historian Harriet Foley said a lot of people don’t recognize the marker because of where it is located.
“I think they are a part of our history and should be left where they are,” she said. “I think after close to 100 years, people should accept history and not try to change it.”
Representatives at the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Richmond, Va., did not return requests for comment.