BERRYVILLE — Eight people will serve on a committee that will determine and explore options for a Confederate monument at the Clarke County Courthouse.
The Clarke County Board of Supervisors formed the committee Tuesday afternoon.
John Staelin will be the committee’s chairman. Also serving on the committee will be Gwendolyn Malone, Bob Stieg, Will Nelson, Meg Roque, Lee McGuigan, Daniel Nelson and John Burns.
Supervisors sought people to serve on the committee largely through word of mouth and then interviewed ones who expressed interest, board Chairman David Weiss said.
“We tried to find a cross-section of the community,” said Weiss, who represents the Buckmarsh District. The people selected are open-minded, he said, “and are interested in bringing the community together” to find a solution to the monument dilemma.
As a former Millwood District supervisor, Staelin “has a history of working with people very well” to resolve issues, Weiss said.
He mentioned that Stieg, who is CEO of The Clermont Foundation in Berryville, has an extensive knowledge of local history, and Burns is secretary of the Josephine School Community Museum and Clarke County African-American Cultural Center board.
“The other people are known very well” within the community, added Weiss.
Erected in 1900, the monument — called “Appomattox” — stands in front of the courthouse on North Church Street in downtown Berryville. It depicts an unnamed Confederate soldier.
In June, county resident Ross Oldham told the supervisors the monument is a painful reminder of the South’s support for slavery. He asked the county to move the monument to “a more appropriate location of historical learning,” such as the Clarke County Historical Society or the Battle of Berryville site.
But that idea has proven easier said than done.
Robert Mitchell, the county’s part-time attorney, determined the county cannot legally move the monument because it doesn’t own a small piece of land outside the courthouse on which the memorial sits. Research revealed that the monument is on a small parcel technically owned by the Association of the Survivors of the Clarke Cavalry (ASCC). Records show the association disbanded long ago, having apparently held its last annual meeting in 1918.
Two years earlier, the ASCC asked the Stonewall United Daughters of the Confederacy to take responsibility for the monument when the association ceased to exist. But the latter organization disbanded in 1932.
The county’s unique problem, according to Mitchell, stems from the parcel having been titled to the incorporated association rather than its individual members. So descendants of the ASCC’s members technically own the property now, and nobody knows who or where they are — and whether any remain alive.
County officials say they’ve heard many comments both for and against keeping the monument where it is.
Weiss and County Administrator Chris Boies said they don’t know when the committee will hold its first meeting. They said it probably will be early next year.
“We want citizens to come and be able to listen,” Weiss said, noting that meetings will be open to the public. However, officials want to see how the COVID-19 pandemic evolves so as to not possibly jeopardize anyone’s health, he said.