The Texas Historical Commission (THC) unanimously approved a plan to relocate the Denton County Confederate soldier monument to the Courthouse-on-the-Square museum within the next six months.
The monument, first erected in 1918, was removed from the south lawn of the old Denton County Courthouse in June 2020. It will now return to the grounds, this time inside of the courthouse. There is not a specific date yet on when the monument will be relocated from county storage.
“People can view Confederate memorials from many different viewpoints,” Denton County Judge Andy Eads said. “Some view them as symbols of oppression, [and] some view them as honoring fallen U.S. soldiers. Regardless of the viewpoint people have, it’s important to preserve all of our history.”
Because the monument in its entirety exceeds the height of the museum’s ceiling, the permanent exhibit will feature the statue of the soldier and two engraved tablets from the original structure. It will be surrounded on three sides by a 3D version of the full monument from when it was located on the courthouse lawn.
The display will include a narrative explaining the history of the monument as well as the history of slavery both locally and statewide. A kiosk placed at the exhibit will feature videos with narrators discussing various related topics including the removal of the monument, the history of slavery in the U.S., the Black experience during the Jim Crow era and Confederate monuments as a whole.
Eads told the North Texas Daily he hoped the display will educate people on the life of soldiers and citizens before and after the Civil War.
“Not all of American history is pleasant,” Eads said. “But it’s important that we accurately preserve artifacts from all of the different eras of American history.”
Concerns over the structural integrity of the monument “drove [Denton County’s] decision” to remove the monument, THC Information Officer Chris Florance said. This included the possibility that the structure could fall over.
Eads said he did not believe the county would still have the monument today “if we did not take the action we did collectively last year.” It is unclear if the judge was strictly discussing the monument’s structural integrity or referring back to previous comments he made in a Commissioners Court meeting regarding concerns that the memorial would be “destroyed” or “desecrated.”
“Certainly we’d been made aware of the controversy within the county on whether it was appropriate to have it on the courthouse grounds,” Florance said.
The monument has long sparked debate within the Denton community. Some residents lobbied for its removal, like local activist Willie Hudspeth, who began his efforts in the late ’90s. In July 2015, two unidentified individuals spray-painted the phrase ‘This is racist’ onto the monument.
The Denton courthouse is a state antiquities landmark, so Texas law requires the state historical commission to issue a permit before significant changes are made to the building or grounds. THC approved the initial relocation request in the summer of 2020 and gave county officials a year to decide the monument’s ultimate destination. THC Chairman John L. Nau III called Denton County’s plan a “model” for the rest of the state when dealing with Confederate monuments.
Featured Image: The Denton County Confederate soldier monument will be moved to museum inside the Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square. Image by John Anderson