BERRYVILLE — The public’s help is being sought in determining the fate of a Confederate monument outside the Clarke County Courthouse.
Tuesday afternoon, the Clarke County Board of Supervisors announced that a citizens committee will be formed to explore options for the monument. The announcement came after a presentation about the monument’s history and a 35-minute private meeting with the county’s part-time attorney, who told the board it has no power to do anything to the memorial on its own.
“We’re not sure what to do at this point,” said board Chairman David Weiss.
The monument was erected in 1900, more than three decades after the Civil War ended, to honor the county’s Confederate veterans. Although it depicts a soldier, no specific person apparently served as its model, county architectural historian Maral Kalbian said based on her research.
In June, county resident Ross Oldham asked the supervisors to remove the monument from outside the courthouse on North Church Street in downtown Berryville and place it at “a more appropriate location of historical learning,” such as the Clarke County Historical Society or the Battle of Berryville site. He said the monument is a painful reminder of the South’s support of slavery.
Confederate soldiers, “regardless of their personal valor, were on the wrong side of history,” said Weiss, the Buckmarsh District supervisor. “The South was on the wrong side of history.”
Oldham’s request came two months after the General Assembly approved, and Gov. Ralph Northam signed into law, a measure letting local governments decide the fates of Confederate monuments within their jurisdictions. Since then, various monuments statewide have been removed.
During the Civil War era, “the General Assembly probably had no African Americans on it, and the Board of Supervisors had none on it,” Berryville-area resident Adeela Al-Khalili told the board on Tuesday, showing “we are not (considered) equal citizens.”
It has been determined that the monument and the spot on which it sits are not county property, despite being part of the courthouse grounds. In the late 1800s, the county conveyed to the now-defunct Association of the Survivors of the Clarke Cavalry a tract no more than 25 feet in diameter so a monument could be erected there, research has revealed.
“You don’t have the authority ... to remove that statue or relocate it,” county attorney Robert Mitchell told the supervisors, “because it’s not on county property.”
Weiss said he couldn’t discuss what Mitchell told the board during the closed session. However, he said Mitchell didn’t provide any possible options for the statue.
It will be up to the committee to determine options, he said.
How the county will seek residents to serve on the committee has not been announced. Weiss said the panel will be comprised of “a cross-section of the community so the board can realize the different views” that people have.
“I ask for patience from the community ... while we work through this issue,” he said.