Bastrop County has no plans to remove Confederate memorial
While many cities across the country began removing Confederate monuments from public spaces in 2015 after a white supremacist gunned down nine churchgoers in South Carolina, residents in Bastrop County remained largely quiet about a monument honoring local Confederate War veterans on the courthouse grounds.
In the days after a white supremacist rally protesting the removal of a Confederate monument in Charlottesville Va., turned deadly Aug. 12, Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape said there haven’t been any calls to have the county’s monument removed.
“After the senseless killing of nine black parishioners in a church in Charleston, S.C., we convened an advisory group of community leaders from throughout the county to discuss the Civil War memorial monument on the courthouse lawn,” Pape said. “Since 2015, I have received many calls, emails and letters about the monument. About 90 percent advocate preserving the memorial as it is.”
Some residents have suggested erecting new monuments and markers celebrating civil rights and the progress the country has made toward equality, Pape said. A few want the monument removed.
“To me, this monument reflects the sentiments of the community and community leaders when it was erected in 1910 — 45 years after the end of the Civil War,” Pape said. “We cannot know exactly their thinking or motivation.”
Bernie Jackson, a church pastor and community activist who participated in the advisory group tasked with discussing the future of the local Confederate monument, said the monuments are a part of history and are important to the people who had them erected. However, she said, those monuments represent a part of history that is hurtful to another group of people.
“I pray we do not allow the status of these monuments to become a distraction that causes more divisiveness and keep us from working on the very real issues in our country regarding race, bigotry or prejudice,” she said.
Jackson said the discussion regarding the obelisk on the courthouse lawn should include recognizing that the monument carries a different meaning for different people, as well as acknowledging the history the monument represents.
“History has happened. We cannot erase it by pulling down monuments,” she said. “We should learn from history and find out why we are so fearful of one another; why we feel others are inferior and should not have rights; why we are, after all that we have been through due to slavery in this country, able to feel good about ourselves only when we have someone to look down on.”
Pape agreed with Jackson and said it’s important to preserve history and remember the lessons of past injustices.
“If the monument on our courthouse lawn reminds us of the wrongs of slavery and causes us to treat all mankind as equals both under the law and in social standing, then it has redeeming value,” he said.
But in some cities, such as Austin, whose residents and some leaders have called for the removal of Confederate monuments and markers, they represent an ugly past that glorified slavery and inequality.
“There’s so much we should be celebrating, we don’t need to celebrate a past that has racist or segregationist histories,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said last week on CNN. “We’re responsible now for moving past that.”
The Bastrop County monument was erected by the local United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter in 1910 as a way to remember county residents who fought for the Confederacy. Many veterans were beginning to die around that time, former Bastrop Mayor Ken Kesselus, who has written three books on the county’s history and whose mother was a founding member of the local Daughters of the Confederacy chapter, has said.
“Removing this stone monument will not remove whatever hatred, prejudice or malice there is in our human hearts,” Pape said. “That is the problem, and dealing with it there, in our hearts, is the only solution. Until we as a society, from top to bottom, believe that ‘all men are created equal’ and treat each other so, these Civil War icons will be a source of consternation. Only when we have removed hatred, prejudice and malice from our hearts will these monuments be non-offensive to all.”
A monument honoring local Confederate War veterans sits on the Bastrop County Courthouse grounds. Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape said there haven’t been any calls to have it removed.