N.A. Mayor recommends educational additions next to Meriwether Monument
The future of the 21-foot tall Thomas McKie Meriwether monument in North Augusta sparked some civil debate Monday evening during a special called City Council meeting.
Eight men died during the Hamburg Massacre, during which a group of white riflemen clashed with a black militia, near present day North Augusta, on July 8, 1876. In 1916, a monument was dedicated in Calhoun Park to just one of those men. Thomas McKie Meriwether was the only white man who died in the massacre, and the only name on the obelisk that looks over downtown North Augusta.
On Monday night, North Augusta Mayor Bob Pettit presented the findings from an ad hoc committee he created, and made recommendations for what should come next for the monument, including adding the names of the seven black men who were also killed.
They were Allen Attaway, Jim Cook, Albert Myniart, Nelder Parker, Moses Parks, David Phillips and Hampton Stephens. A plaque that includes the name of all eight victims of the Hamburg Massacre sit on land off Barton Road, where the society house, a remnant structure from Hamburg sits.
The inscription on the monument in Calhoun Park has been called inflammatory and racist by some, while some say it reflects the ideas had when the monument was erected, not those held today.
Pettit said Monday night the inscription can cause some to do a double take, and that it is “clearly, in my opinion, promoting white supremacy.”
“In life (Meriwether) exemplified the highest ideal of Anglo-Saxon civilization. By his death he assured to the children of his beloved land the supremacy of that ideal,” the inscription reads.
Pettit said it is time for the city to acknowledge the deaths of the seven black men who died. The city cannot stay with the status quo, he said.
The mayor’s recommendation for the future of the monument includes six points. The first is that the monument and its location, structure and text should not be changed.
Pettit’s second recommendation is that a “defined, distinct area” be created around the monument that would offer education opportunities and a counterpoint to the views expressed on the monument. The education experience would include the names of the seven black men killed, a summary of events at Hamburg, a discussion of Reconstruction, the accomplishments of African-Americans during that period, the Jim Crow era, and the Civil Rights era.
The third point is that any sculpture erected as a counterpoint to the monument must be of similar size and character “so as not to give the impression the obelisk is dominant,” the report says.
Fourthly, an open design competition would be recommended for the undertaking to get the community involved.
The recommendation also says funds to erect the design for installation could come from public sources, private sources, or a combination of both.
“Action should begin immediately upon receiving formal City Council approval,” the report says.
Hamburg was a railroad town along the Savannah River, near modern day North Augusta.
After Pettit’s recommendations, North Augusta residents voiced their ideas and concerns.
One resident, Ed Elser, said he could see the monument from his home, and said he believed using the monument as a teaching method was an “awesome idea” and would be a positive thing for North Augusta. Elser equated Reconstruction to terrorism.
Another resident said monuments should be maintained to preserve history and said “fooling with history” would be wrong.
After the mayor’s presentation and before citizens were allowed to comment, City Council voted unanimously to receive the report as information. Council member Bob Brooks was not present.