FRANKLIN, Tenn. (AP) – The United Daughters of the Confederacy wants a court to declare that it owns the Franklin public square and a Confederate monument that sits on it.
The Tennessean reported the ownership dispute began in September when a group of faith leaders and historians proposed adding historical markers on the square explaining Franklin’s involvement with slavery, the riot of 1867 and Jim Crow.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy threatened to sue the city if anything new was erected.
Although the group cannot produce a deed showing ownership, it has filed letters and affidavits with the court saying group members purchased the property around the turn of the last century.
The city has offered to deed the group the monument and 1,000 square feet around it, but the group’s attorney Doug Jones is asking the Williamson County Chancery Court to declare that it owns the entire square.
As part of its proof, UDC president Carol Holmes in an affidavit cited Williamson County Quarterly Court minutes from 1899. They said the UDC owned the monument and “the land underneath which it sits,” however they don’t give the dimensions of that land.
There is also an article from the Nashville American around the same time noting the UDC awarded a contract to enlarge the area around the monument. And an article from The Tennessean refers to Union cannons placed around the monument by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1909.
UDC chairman Loeida Garrett also said the grass on the square was mown for their group by a former aldermen for 44 years.
Garrett said she has never heard the City of Franklin express an interest “in ownership of the Confederate monument that is in the square or any portion of what is commonly referred to as Confederate Park.”
Attorney Jones, in court filings, also cites a 1996 lawsuit in which a resident sued the city over use of tax dollars to maintain the monument. In that case, the city’s administrator told the court it didn’t own the monument or the land underneath it.
However, court records also show city officials signed an agreement with the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 2010 for the monument’s upkeep and have spent money to repair it.