Marker embraced by Brian Sharp, membership coordinator for the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The South's Road Marker Shall Rise Again

Jefferson Davis was president of the Confederate States of America -- so why is a road marker dedicated to him all the way up in Vancouver, Washington? That was the question asked by the Vancouver city council in 1998. Finding no answer to its liking, the council voted to remove the marker, installed sixty years earlier by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). It was dug out of the ground and stuck in a shed.

Four years later, according to Brent Jacobs, Oregon division commander for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, his group -- along with groups such as the Sons of Union Veterans, which represent the North -- bugged the city council so much that it asked Vancouver's citizens what to do with the marker. The citizens decided that it should be moved to the Clark County Historical Museum in town. The museum's director agreed, and the marker found a new home on the Museum's front lawn, along with an interpretive plaque that tried to explain why this bland chunk of granite had received so much attention.

Jefferson Davis Highway marker and interpretive plaque.

That compromise ended in the fall of 2006. A new director took over at the museum. The marker was again dug up and stuck in a shed (this time with its interpretive plaque). Various reasons were given, all of them trying very, very hard to avoid stating the obvious -- that the marker mentions Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy.

"They put it in the people's hands, gave them the right to decide, and now they're saying that it really didn't matter," Jacobs says. "That's not very democratic.

"

Jacobs argues, as does the UDC, that Jefferson Davis had a 40-year political career before the Civil War, that as Secretary of War under President Pierce he had traveled to Washington, stayed at Fort Vancouver, and sent out the survey teams that later made possible the roads that made possible the settlement of the Pacific Northwest. The official purpose of the marker was to honor Davis by designating US 99, its original location, as the Jefferson Davis Highway -- a title created by the UDC but not recognized by the state of Washington.

Jacobs concedes that Davis is seen by some as a traitor -- "an evil bastard" he says with a sigh -- and that some view the marker as sneaky UDC propaganda for The Lost Cause. It has the word "Confederacy" on it, Jacobs notes, and in Vancouver "you can't have the dreaded C word."

Amazingly, a solution has again been found. "The city, I guess, felt bad about it," Jacobs explains. "They said they'd store it for six months and deliver it anywhere we want." Jacobs raised some money and on April 6, 2007, bought a small plot of land near Ridgefield, the next town north of Vancouver, on an old stretch of US 99. He plans to re-install the marker as soon as possible -- and the interpretive plaque as well -- next to a large flag pole, which will be clearly visible from adjacent Interstate 5.

"They just want it to be gone," Jacobs says of Vancouver, "and we've finally came to terms with it. More people will see it now than ever before, so we're not upset."

Jacobs, inspired by his success, now wants to travel to Blaine on the Canadian border, where Washington state's other Jefferson Davis Highway marker has been in a shed since 2002. "I'm gonna try to do the same thing up there that we're doing down here."

[04/07/2007]
Address:
NW Maplecrest Rd, Ridgefield, WA
Directions:
I-5 exit 14, east on Pioneer St., cross freeway, veer right and then left. Turn right onto 10th Ave., drive south one mile, turn right into Carty Rd, cross back over freeway, quick right onto Maplecrest. Monument will be on the left.
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