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Located on the northwest corner of courthouse square, the 105-year-old statue of a Confederate soldier stirred up considerable controversy in recent years. In July 2020, the Commissioners Court of Bell County held a public workshop to hear from local citizens about what should happen to the statue. According to county judge David Blackburn, the issue generated much public interest and comment, and over 100 citizens spoke at the meeting. He stated that county officials would “digest the comments they heard” and then he would schedule another workshop soon to decide the fate of the statue. As of September 2020, the Bell County Commissioners court decided to keep the statue in place “until such a time as when it can be put on a general referendum.”

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Confederate Statue in Belton, Texas

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Confederate Statue in Belton, Texas

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In 1913 the Bell County chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (U.D.C.) started its fund-raising campaign for a memorial. An ad in the Belton Journal depicted the design of the statue with the following appeal, “This beautiful monument is to be placed on the court house lawn as a tribute not only to the brave Confederate soldiers who went out from this county to fight in the army of the Southland, but also to the soldiers who, since the conflict was over, have made Bell county their home and have through the years of peace fought the battles of progress, education, upbuilding which have put and kept Bell county in the front ranks of the counties of the State.” In the beginning, the appeal for funds was impeded on account of business conditions related to World War I, but the undaunted Daughters re-organized and canvassed the town to solicit donations. By October 1916, the women had raised $1950 and delegated a special committee to raise the remaining $550 in the last days before the dedication.

The U.D.C. contracted with McNeel Marble Company of Marietta, Georgia, one of the most prolific monument makers in the country. The cost of the granite and marble monument was $2500. It featured a young Confederate soldier standing at parade rest against a tree stump. In his hands, he holds a carbine and is flanked by stacked cannon balls. Described as “beautifully artistic as well as sturdily handsome,” the monument stood 19 feet high and 12 feet square in width and weighed 3,800 pounds. When the statue was lowered into place, a “treasure box” containing various mementos was placed in the center of the second section of the base. The contents of the box included fundraising records and donors for the monument, a historical sketch of the U.D.C. chapter, a list of grave markers of Confederate veterans placed by the U.D.C., Confederate bills and coins, a membership list of the Bell County camp of United Confederate Veterans, a copy of the song “For Southland Loved” (the U.D.C. state song), various other Confederate items wrapped in a Confederate flag, a copy of Belton’s city ordinances, and a list of elected officials of Bell County.

December 16, 1916 was scheduled to be a momentous day in Belton with the laying of the cornerstone of the new post office building at 11:00 a.m. followed by the dedication of the Confederate monument at 2:00 p.m. A large group of citizens gathered at Tyler school building on North Main Street, and with D.C. Burkes leading, the parade and band made its way to the courthouse. The Temple Daily Telegram described the events in detail, “Just as the band took up the strains of Dixie, Miss Leland Means loosed the cord which held over the monument the veil of red, white, and red. The veil as it fell was caught by the maids of honor, Misses Alberta Surghnor, Gretta Love, Christine Evetts, Gladys Everett, Louise Yarbrough, Lucile Garrison, Helen Cook, Ethel Fisher and Ethel Hoffman. As though nature were in sympathy and anxious that the beautiful monument should come to its own honor, so soon as the cord was loosed the south wind caught the veiling of red, white, and red and carried it directly to the maids of honor, who wore also the colors of the Confederacy. Master Thomas Gordon Saunders, mascot of the U.D.C., adorned the monument with the emblem of the Daughters—a wreath of evergreen with its streamers of red and white. Those streamers held in place and waving in the breeze a Confederate flag.”

The main address was given by J.C. Hardy, president of Baylor College. He lauded the work of the Daughters in the erecting of the monument and to the soldiers who fought. He encouraged the men present to erect an “equally beautiful monument to the love and labors of the women of the Confederacy.” And finally, he called on the Daughters to build their “high ideals into the boys and girls of our country through its schools, colleges and other institutions of learning and culture.” Then on behalf of the Daughters, he presented the statue to the veterans of Bell county. Commander W.W. Upshaw of the Bell county camp accepted the monument on behalf of the “soldier boys who went out in the two companies from this county, those who since the close of strife came to make Bell county their home, and those who were present today to enjoy the beautiful ceremony.” He pledged love and care for the monument and asked that on each Memorial Day flowers be placed at its foot. The festivities ended with school children singing “America” and the band serenading the crowd with several Southern songs, closing with “God Be With You Till We Meet Again.”

The Temple Daily Telegram published its own flowery tribute entitled "Lest We Forget" which was reprinted in various state newspapers. "The monument to the soldier of the Confederate States of America, just dedicated at Belton, should serve to warn loyal sons of the South that they should study to defend his fair fame against all the cunning detractors who take it for granted that the rising generation has forgot."

“Bell County Chapter U.D.C. Making Progress for Monument.” Belton Journal, November 18, 1915.

“Bell County Commissioners Decide to Keep Confederate Statue in Place until Later Referendum.” Fox44News, September 14, 2020.

Benoit, Patricia. “Backroads: 1916 Time Capsule Beneath Confederate Monument.” Temple Daily Telegram, July 5, 2020.

"Lest We Forget." (reprint from the Temple Telegram). Houston Post, January 3, 1917.

Sanchez, Jacob. “Confederate Statue Prompts 139 to Speak at Meeting.” Temple Daily Telegram, July 15, 2020.

“To Unveil Confederate Monument December 16.” Temple Daily Telegram, December 7, 1916.

“Unveiling of Monument at Belton Draws Crowd.” Temple Daily Telegram, December 17, 1916.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Belton Journal, 7.22.1915

Wikimedia Commons

UMHB News,