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story.lead_photo.caption Karen Leydens, of Jefferson City, visits the Civil War Memorial on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, at the intersection of Moreau Drive and Fairmount Boulevard to pray over it in hopes of keeping the monument in place. Referring to this particular stone as a "peace marker," Leydens spent a portion of the morning in prayer as part of a group who asks for intercession on behalf of keeping historic markers and statues in place. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Document: Jefferson City Council resolution to remove Sterling Price marker

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After making its way through two council committees, a resolution to remove a controversial Civil War marker will return to the full Jefferson City Council for a vote Monday.

The council was previously set to vote on this resolution during its Sept. 21 meeting, but the resolution was removed and sent instead to the council committees on Public Works and Planning and Administration for further discussion.

During those meetings, alternative resolutions — which would have left the marker in place — were rejected. Ward 4 Councilman Ron Fitzwater, the only council member on both committees, proposed the alternate resolutions.

Fitzwater said by leaving the marker in place, but adding additional historical markers, the city could provide more of a compromise to both sides of the argument.

The Sterling Price marker was dedicated in 1933 by the Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and recognizes the "battle that never was," 156 years ago.

The plaque reads: "Deciding against attack, the Confederate Army under Gen. Sterling Price turned from Jefferson City October 7, 1864."

In 1864, Confederate forces, led by Gen. Sterling Price, planned to attack Jefferson City to secure a possible victory and help turn the tide of the war, which at that point was leaning toward the Union, which eventually won.

The issue came to the council after removal was recommended by the city's Historic Preservation Commission and Commission on Human Relations.

Some who oppose the marker view it as a representation of racism because ties the UDC had with the Ku Klux Klan and the Confederate Army's views on slavery.

Others argue the marker simply doesn't represent an accurate history of what happened by not paying tribute to the Union forces that kept Price away.

Former Republican state Rep. Jay Barnes, who has been a vocal opponent of the marker at several meetings, presented the council with research about the marker and the UDC.

"That marker is anti-historical," Barnes said at a previous meeting. "There's nothing historical about the rock itself. There's nothing historical about that particular place. It makes Price the center of the history of our city, and Sterling Price should not be anywhere near the history of our city in the Civil War."

Barnes and others argue the city should instead honor the Union forces, anti-slavery German immigrants and freed Black citizens.

Those who want to see the marker remain disagree and feel the marker does provide an important glimpse at history.

Resident Carl Landwehr argued the marker provides educational value, providing residents with a glimpse at Civil War history in the city.

"We have an obligation to preserve history — the good, the bad and the ugly, and yes, there is ugly," Landwehr said. "For the sake of generations to come, let there be a marker that they can discover sometimes the ugly side of America."

Others argue removing the marker could start a chain reaction of changes that could even reach the point of renaming the city.

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"Where does it end? We could be pressured to change the name of Sterling Price Road," resident Bob Scrivner said at a previous meeting. "Is the name City of Jefferson in danger? Rather than cancel history, we should be doing our best to teach and inspire our youth to learn history."

If the marker is removed, crews from the city's Public Works Department will do the work.

Department Director Matt Morasch, during the Public Works and Planning Committee meeting, said the process of removing the marker has some unknowns.

Looks are slightly deceiving when it comes to the marker's structure.

"We dug down and found another couple feet of concrete below grade, so this thing probably weighs close to 15 tons altogether," Morasch said. "Obviously, we don't have equipment to move that, but we could chip away at the base and support the rock at the same time."

Morasch said the apparently egg-shaped rock is possibly more like a surfboard shape, extending down into the base.

Because of the large size and weight of the marker, the plan would be to remove the rock itself from the concrete base by breaking apart the base and pull the rock out.

Morasch said they can remove the plaque beforehand to make sure it isn't damaged, and they would do their best to avoid damaging the actual rock during the process.

The difficulty of the task is unknown. Morasch said they aren't sure if there are any pieces of rebar within the base, which could make breaking it more difficult. But the concrete does show some wear, which could make it easier.

"This could be a 10-minute process — it wiggles right out once we get chipping at it — or it could be an all-day deal," Morasch said. "We just don't know."

Morasch said it could be possible to remove the full marker, base and all, but it would require an outside contractor because the city is not equipped for it.

"That would involve digging down," Morasch said. "It's close to the sidewalk and street; there's probably utilities in the area. That would be a whole other thing and a different budget."

Once removed, the resolution states, the marker would be stored in a city-owned facility. City Attorney Ryan Moehlman said, until a different decision is made on its fate, that is where the marker will remain if it is removed.

Moehlman said the city has not received any formal offers to re-home the marker, but some residents have made offers during public comment at meetings.

Edith Vogel, who owns property which was previously the Union Camp Lillie, has offered to display the marker if the city decides to remove it.

The Jefferson City Council meeting will begin at 6 p.m Monday at City Hall, 320 E. McCarty St.

Residents may attend the City Council meeting in person but must wear a face mask in compliance with the mayor's emergency proclamation requiring face masks during city meetings. Social distancing within the council chambers is recommended.

For residents wishing to participate without attending the meeting in person, there is a call-in option at 1-404-397-1516 or the option to join the meeting via WebEx with the meeting number 146 274 8004 and password 1234.

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