- Staff Report
A Confederate memorial in Warren County was removed in the early morning of Thursday, Aug. 17. Franklin officials determined the Robert E. Lee monument was in a public right of way for Dixie Highway and wanted it to be moved before a Dayton racial justice group’s planned demonstration on Aug. 19.
The marker was on a rock at the corner of Hamilton Middletown Road and Dixie Highway, across from township-owned Woodhill Cemetery.
This decision came as officials around the country have worked to remove several Confederate monuments after a counter-protester, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was killed Saturday after white supremacists marched to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue In Charlottesville, Va.
President Donald Trump has criticized the removal of Confederate monuments across the country, calling the moves “so foolish” and the monuments irreplaceable.
Here is a timeline of events that led to the removal of the Franklin monument:
WEDNESDAY, AUG. 16
12:36 p.m.: Franklin Twp. officials say the 90-year-old marker in remembrance of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Dixie Highway will not be removed.
Franklin Twp. Trustee President Beth Callahan said that the marker won't be coming down and said she only became aware of it just in the past few days.
She said it's history, but the story has to be told.
2:36 p.m.: Township officials give more remarks regarding the monument.
Township Administrator Traci Stivers said she has never received any complaints about the marker.
"It's been there so long," she said. "But moving a rock at the corner of the road isn't going to change history."
"I truly think the history of these markers and the concept of them being racist or unfair to people is blurring the lines between history and opinion," said Trustee Brian Morris. "I sympathize with anybody who has been treated unfairly in the past because of their ethnicity. However, these items are our history and we can learn valuable lessons and continue to learn."
4:30 p.m.: Franklin Twp. officials notified this news outlet that after checking with the Warren County Engineer’s Office, the easement where the Confederate marker is located is actually property of the city of Franklin.
The marker is in the 50-foot easement of Dixie Highway, which the city has owned since the 1980s, according to Traci Stivers, Franklin Twp. administrator.
“We stand by our earlier statement on the importance of remembering the history of our beloved country, and wish the City of Franklin’s elected officials the very best while deciding how they will proceed,” she said.
In response, Franklin Mayor Denny Centers, “We don’t know who the rightful owner is.”
He said the marker was rededicated by township trustees a number of years ago after a car crashed into it. Because of that, he believes the township is the owner.
“We have a lot of things in our easements that we don’t own such as power poles and water lines,” he said.
5:45 p.m.: The city of Franklin released a statement announcing the Robert E. Lee/Dixie Highway monument will be moved.
Franklin officials said they were not aware the monument was located within their Right of Way of the roadway. The city's statement indicated they would return the monument to Franklin Twp., which previously had Right of Way to the land.
8:44 p.m.: Acting City Manager Jonathan Westendorf said he hopes to have the Confederate marker in Franklin moved to Franklin Twp. before the weekend, when a Dayton racial justice group is planning a demonstration.
City crews needed to study the monument before relocating it. They said they would have to determine whether the memorial plaque is attached to the foundation and how large the rock and plaque might be.
Vice Mayor Carl Bray, in an email, said, "I don't want any problems, but I think we should leave it up. Just my viewpoint…"
Earlier Wednesday, Mayor Denny Centers said the monument issue would be discussed at the City Council meeting on Monday.
THURSDAY, AUG. 17
5:53 a.m.: Our news partners WCPO reported the stone monument was missing when they arrived on site before 3 a.m.
7 a.m.: Franklin Twp. Administrator Traci Stivers informed this news outlet that no one from the township removed the Confederate monument overnight.
7:28 a.m.: Acting Franklin City Manager Jonathan Westendorf said, "City public works crews were authorized to remove the monument last night. The monument was removed overnight to assure the safety of the crews performing the work and preserve the security of the monument as well as - which is intact.”
Westendorf said the order to remove the monument was given to the public works department at the same time the press release was issued Wednesday night.
10:46 a.m.: A makeshift sign was placed at the site of the monument.
The sign reads, “We do not negotiate with terrorists. BLM is a terrorist organization.”