Judge considering group’s request to take control of Confederate monument | Winchester Star

BERRYVILLE – A judge is considering allowing a private organization to take over the Confederate monument outside the Clarke County Courthouse in downtown Berryville.

Meanwhile, a jury trial is due to begin on April 8 over the county’s offer to seek ownership of the monument and a small circular parcel on which it sits.

On March 9, Turner Ashby Camp No. 1567 Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a motion for summary judgment in the Clarke County Circuit Court asking to be awarded the assets of the Clarke Calvary Survivors Association (ASCC), “including, but not limited to the Confederate War Memorial and the actual plot on which it sits.”

In a brief hearing Monday afternoon, one of the camp’s attorneys, Bradley G. Pollack of Woodstock, asked if Circuit Court Judge Alexander R. Iden had any questions about the motion. Iden said no. However, the judge did not rule on the camp’s motion before adjourning the hearing and leaving the courtroom shortly afterwards.

“I don’t know what he’s going to do,” Pollack said afterwards. He said Iden could make a decision on the motion before, during or after the trial.

Iden could not be reached for comment after the hearing. Neither did Circuit Court Clerk April Wilkerson.

Earlier in the day, Iden denied another request made by the camp. The motion asked the court to reconsider an order issued Jan. 19 denying a camp request to intervene in the county’s case.

In seeking ownership of the monument and the 25-foot-wide parcel on which it sits, the county claims adverse possession, commonly referred to as “squatter rights”.

Erected in 1900 in front of the North Church Street Courthouse, the granite monument – titled “Appomattox” – lists the names of Clarke County Confederate soldiers who died in action during the Civil War. At the top of the monument is a statue of an unarmed and dejected soldier.

The monument has become a source of contention amid a nationwide racial reckoning since the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis. The Confederacy supported the enslavement of blacks.

For more than 90 years, the county maintained both the monument and the plot, believing that they owned it. The municipality has also taken out an insurance policy on the monument.

Recent historical research has revealed, however, that the monument and plot belong to the ASCC, which is believed to have disbanded around 1930. No descendants of the group’s members have come forward to claim ownership, and no one has determined whether any descendants are alive, officials said.

Last March, a citizens’ committee recommended keeping the monument where it is while researching and sharing more of the county’s history, especially as it relates to African Americans. Possible methods, the committee determined, include placing at least one additional statue on the courthouse grounds and/or naming the building after a deceased and much-loved black person in the county. The committee was formed after some called for the monument to be removed.

The county aims to develop a master plan for the courthouse grounds.

Based in Winchester, the ASCC is a Confederate history organization. Its members believe the association is best placed to take control of the monument because it is an organized group with members with a “personal connection” to it, according to the camp’s petition seeking ownership.

Preserving and maintaining the monument is “the camp’s current top priority,” the summary judgment motion states.

“Many members of the camp have ancestors inscribed on the granite sides of the Confederate War Memorial,” the motion reads. “It is the duty of the camp to honor the dead by preserving and nurturing them.”

The motion claims that camp members have already raised funds for this purpose.

Additionally, the ASCC specified in minutes of a 1916 meeting that in the event of dissolution, it wanted the United Daughters of the Confederacy to receive its assets. The UDC’s Winchester chapter believes the camp is “the group best placed” to take responsibility for the monument, the motion adds.

On April 8, a jury will be seated at the Clarke County Parks and Recreation Department, where there is more room to accommodate a crowd. The selected jurors will then be transferred to the courthouse and the trial will begin, officials said.

About Jessica J. Bass

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