BERRYVILLE — Having completed its mission, the Clarke County Monument Committee officially considers its work to be finished.
But that doesn’t mean committee members, individually or collectively, won’t be involved in future projects to teach people about history.
In November, the Clarke County Board of Supervisors appointed the committee of eight people to come up with recommendations for resolving controversy over the Civil War monument in front of the county courthouse on North Church Street in Berryville. The monument, titled “Appomattox” and erected in 1900, is topped by a nameless, unarmed soldier. It recognizes Confederate soldiers from the county killed during the war, which lasted from 1861 to 1865.
Controversy erupted over the monument — as well as similar ones across Virginia and the nation — in the past year because of the Confederate stance to continue slavery.
Deciding how to resolve the controversy was complicated by the county learning it doesn’t own a small plot on which the monument technically sits. It was determined that a private association of cavalry descendants owns the parcel. Nobody apparently knows if any of the descendants are alive and, if so, whether they’re interested in claiming the property. Not owning it, the county can’t legally move the monument or do anything else to it.
Most speakers during a public forum in early March indicated they think the monument shouldn’t be destroyed, although some think it should be moved. However, an engineer determined it would be complicated and costly to move the structure, and it’s so fragile that it might not survive the trip.
Ultimately, the committee recommended keeping the monument at its current location, yet uncovering and sharing more of Clarke County’s history, especially that of African American residents. Possible ways of sharing it, the panel determined, include erecting at least one more statue and/or naming the courthouse after a prominent black person from the county now deceased but who is remembered positively.
No further meetings of the committee are expected, according to a statement on the county’s website.
“The committee was charged with making a recommendation to the board of supervisors, and they have done so,” County Administrator Chris Boies wrote in an email.
During its May work session, Boies said, the board will discuss the recommendations “and decide at that point a path forward” toward implementing them.
“Members of the committee have offered to help as we move forward, he continued. “But no decisions have been made by the board at this point on ... the next steps they will take and who will be involved in the implementation of those steps.”
Committee members included Chairman John Staelin along with John Burns, Gwendolyn Malone, Lee McGuigan, Daniel Nelson, Will Nelson, Meg Roque and Bob Stieg. Three of the eight are African-Americans.