The confederate memorial located at the Denton County Courthouse on the Square was officially dedicated on June 3, 1918, by the Katie Daffan Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The chapter had begun their efforts to fund a public memorial to Denton County’s Confederate veterans as early as 1909 with a proposed dedication in 1911. Yet, fundraising was slow to start and the proposed cost of $5,000 was reduced to $2,000 with a dedication date set for June 3, 1916, to coincide with Jefferson Davis’ birthday. The United States entering World War I delayed the fundraising once again and the unveiling of the memorial was moved to June 3, 1919.
The memorial has now stood for over a century in its original location on the south side of the courthouse. The structure consists of a large granite arch topped with a life-sized statue of a Confederate private, standing at rest, rifle in hand. The manufacturer was the McNeel Marble Company” of Marietta, Ga., the largest manufacturer of Confederate memorials in the south.
The memorial contains the phrase “OUR CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS” and the letters “CSA” above the arch. Each leg of the arch bears an inscription. The left reads, “Erected by the daughters of the Confederacy in Memory of Our Confederate Soldiers, who in heroic self-sacrifice and devoted loyalty gave their manhood and their lives to the south in her hour of need.” The right column bears the words “In memoriam,” followed by an excerpt from Tennyson’s “Tiresias”: “Their names graved on memorial columns are a song heard far in the future, and their examples reach a hand through all the years to meet and kindle generous purpose and mold it into acts as pure as theirs.”
Below these statements are two water fountains with the years 1861 and 1865 inscribed on their bowls. Early work to connect water lines to this segregated source of water were unsuccessful, preventing the fountains from being turned on until over a year after the memorial’s unveiling.
Over its lifetime, the memorial has remained largely the same, with a few notable exceptions. A light fixture that originally appeared directly under the arch is no longer present and in 2015, one of the two cannonball-sized spheres that once appeared next to the Confederate soldier was missing. Additionally, the hardware to the water fountains, which have long been inoperable, is no longer attached.
Over the years, the citizens of Denton County have debated the meaning and impact of this memorial. Much of the discussion has centered on the issues of slavery, white supremacy and their place in historical memory.
In the 21st century, the county has twice acted to interpret the memorial in response to public critiques. In 2004, the county placed an interpretive plaque next to the memorial, the wording of which was revised in 2010 to meet approval of the Texas Historical Commission.
In 2017, the Denton County Commissioners Court appointed a 15-member Denton County Confederate Memorial Advisory Committee to offer recommendations on the memorial. Members of the committee included: John Baines, chair, Denton (appointed by Andy Eads); Mark Bowlin, Flower Mound (appointed by Andy Eads); Ronni Cade, co-chair, Lewisville (appointed by Bobbie Mitchell); Mike Cochran, Denton (appointed by Mary Horn); Kay Copeland, Denton (appointed by Mary Horn); Judy Flowers, Denton (appointed by Ron Marchant); Donna Hernandez, Flower Mound (appointed by Bobbie Mitchell); Willie Hudspeth, Denton (appointed by Mary Horn); Zenobia Hutton, Denton (appointed by Hugh Coleman); Paul Meltzer, Denton (appointed by Ron Marchant); Charlotte Mooneyham, Aubrey (appointed by Andy Eads); Fred Rogers, Frisco (appointed by Hugh Coleman); Alfred Sanchez, Denton (appointed by Bobbie Mitchell); Tim Trylovich, Plano (appointed by Ron Marchant); and Howard Watt, Denton (appointed by Hugh Coleman).
COMMITTEE GUIDELINES PROVIDED BY THE DENTON COUNTY COMMISSIONERS COURT
To appropriately preserve the Confederate Soldier Memorial as a historical artifact.
To ensure that the recommendations from the Committee regarding preservation of the Memorial do not violate or conflict with the guidelines established by the Texas Historical Commission, the National Parks Service, and the American Alliance of Museums.
To follow state and local preservation laws and best practices for any recommendations.
Chair – appointed by Committee; Members – Two appointed by each Commissioner and the County Judge for a total of 10 members. This was expanded to 15 as the committee wanted more women to serve.
Appointment of Peggy Riddle, Denton County Office of History and Culture, as staff support. (Non-voting member)
Use historical resources provided by the County and other authoritative material to determine the correct historical record and context of the Confederate Soldier Memorial.
Consider how best to preserve the Confederate Soldier Memorial in its current location or, if necessary another location, without destroying or affecting the physical condition of the Memorial.
Consider how best to educate the public using a plaque or any other historical markers, on why the Memorial was erected in 1918 and the historical motivators to erecting the Memorial, without rewriting history.
Recommend to the Commissioners Court a viable and fiscally responsible plan on how to present this era in Denton County’s history and the role the Confederate Soldiers Memorial played and continues to play in the County’s history.
The committee had 11 meetings from November 17, 2017, through February 1, 2018, in addition to three public forums held in Denton, Crossroads and Flower Mound. At these forums residents offered oral or written comments. The final meeting results are best summarized in the following document from the Chair, John Baines:
Dear Commissioners of Denton County,
The attached recommendation from the Confederate Statue Committee is 15 – 0 in favor of leaving the statue, but providing specific “CONTEXT.” Dear Committee Members,
Thank you for your service to the community of Denton County.
In our final meeting on last Thursday 2/1/2018, there was a ten/five vote after every committee member made his or her recommendation. Ten committee members voted to keep the Confederate Statue in its current location and add context to educate those who visited the Statue. Five committee members voted to replace the Confederate Statue with a more inclusive version of the Veterans of Fallen Wars who gave their lives from Denton and other contextual information.
With a “very strongly worded request” from the Commissioners Court, which basically said they have no way to reasonably consider any recommendation which was not either a consensus or a super-majority. In order to move some of the 5 towards more consensus with the other ten, we all (14 members) viewed a very roughly drawn sketch which showed:
(1) The current statue with a
(2) “Strongly worded statement” decrying Slavery and the things associated with slavery, and
(3) Some additional context which would include
(a) An honor to all veterans by name who gave their lives from Denton County in all wars
(b) To tell the real story of race relations in Denton (from the time of Slavery to the present time), and lastly
(c) To use this opportunity to tell the world of all the good things going on in Denton County (i.e.) great Education for all levels, Hi-Tech Jobs, the availability of large tracts of land for Development, great places to live, multi-generational recreation and other things.
(4) We also agreed that the current 15 member committee would not be responsible for creating the strongly worded language decrying “Slavery” and related matters, nor would the current 15 member committee be responsible for creating the content or the Interactive Videos for the Kiosks. Those responsibilities will be given to another committee.
Several of our current committee members are interested in serving on the committees that prepare the wording and the Videos for the Kiosks.
Based upon the foregoing understanding, I am providing you committee members, therefore, with 3 examples of visual concepts which do not represent the final version, but simply a “CONCEPT DESIGN”. Our recommendation will simply provide the Commissioners with an idea of what the final version will be. We are recommending a concept.
I sincerely request your support of the concept. We could not find an internet example of Kiosks which match the same period architecture, but we should be able to find one or design one to match the period of architecture.
Sincerely and respectfully submitted,