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Speakers discuss merits, future of Confederate monument in Newton
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CATAWBA COUNTY COMMISSIONERS

Speakers discuss merits, future of Confederate monument in Newton

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Carole Setzer Hovland says Catawba County’s Confederate monument and the large Confederate flags waving throughout the county are embarrassing.

“I think (they) bring a negative image to our community,” Hovland said during a public comment to the Catawba County Board of Commissioners on Monday night.

Hovland was one of two to speak on the Confederate monument during the public comment section of Monday’s meeting. Hovland spoke in support of moving the statue from its current location on county property in downtown Newton, while another speaker, Michael McRee, spoke in favor of keeping the monument where it is.

The removal of Confederate statues happened in many southern states and that push is now expanding to street names. Two Virginia counties, Fairfax and Loudoun, are identifying roads linked to the Confederacy and are pursuing name changes for several state highways. The region in Northern Virginia, which saw some of the biggest battles of the Civil War and for decades was an indisputable part of the South, is now one of the wealthiest regions in the country with waning ties to its Southern roots.

Hovland told the board about a great-great-uncle who was raised by a Confederate veteran of the Civil War. The great-great-uncle didn’t support the monument, Hovland said. She quoted an article she said he wrote in 1897.

“(He) argued that the veteran association’s efforts would be better spent, and I quote, ‘doing some kindness to the coming generation,’” Hovland said.

Hovland said the issue still resonated.

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“I’m proud to have an ancestor who, at the time, chose to disagree,” Hovland said. “His comments were respectful of the soldiers, but he questioned the value of the proposed monument. So do I.”

The monument is a source of pain for residents, she said. She said she feels it represents more than just history.

The removal of Confederate statues happened in many southern states and that push is now expanding to street names. Two Virginia counties, Fairfax and Loudoun, are identifying roads linked to the Confederacy and are pursuing name changes for several state highways. The region in Northern Virginia, which saw some of the biggest battles of the Civil War and for decades was an indisputable part of the South, is now one of the wealthiest regions in the country with waning ties to its Southern roots.

Hovland said she also feels the monument and Confederate reverence hurt business growth and asked the commissioners to consider moving the monument.

“I do not believe that Apple, Amazon and other major players see any of this as a good thing,” she said.

McRee disagreed, saying he feels the monument is only there to remember the Catawba County lives lost during the Civil War.

McRee approached the commissioners Monday with a stack of books and research in hand. He spoke about information he’s found on how many people in Catawba County owned slaves, enlistment of soldiers for the Civil War and how many people in Catawba County died during the war.

“Six hundred and sixty died and 2,200 served,” McRee said. “The monument was erected to honor the men from this county who served who died. Six hundred and sixty. In other cases, that would be classified as genocide against white males. Basically, one in three that went, died. One in seven white male residents of the county died.”

McRee said the monument should not be touched. With public comments limited to three minutes long, McRee said he would be back at another meeting to speak again.

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