08 Nov Getting closer to Reconstruction Monument in Beaufort County
Sixteen years ago, the Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt visited Beaufort and was inspired to encourage scholars and community leaders to ask his Department to establish of a Reconstruction Era Monument in Beaufort County.
Legislation was introduced in Congress, but, unfortunately, the time was not right and the proposed legislation never got off the ground. At the end of his term, Babbitt went on to The Conservation Land Foundation that works with Congress and the Administration to preserve special places significant to American History.
Meanwhile, Dr. Page Miller a public historian who lives on Fripp Island, developed a list of sites within the county that are important to the Reconstruction story in Beaufort County. While all are not accessible to the public because they are private homes or businesses, they number just over 100.
Fast forward to this past summer when Congressman Jim Clyburn introduced legislation, with Congressman Mark Sanford as co-sponsor, to create A Reconstruction Era Monument in Beaufort County.
Also last summer, former Secretary Babbitt and his staff at the Land Conservation Foundation made a return visit to Beaufort. Given the clock was ticking before the end of the Administration, working with Congressman Clyburn and Richard Moe, the former President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the CLF developed a strategy to move forward as quickly as possible.
They recommended that, rather than the traditional legislative route, use of the Antiquities Act, established by President Theodore Roosevelt, provided a more direct and certain path. Furthermore, they recommended five sites to be included in what is called a multi site monument with the idea that other sites could be added over time.
The sites include:
The Emancipation Oak Tree on the Naval Hospital campus
Brick Church on St Helena Island
Penn Center on St Helena Island
The Old Fire House in downtown Beaufort
The Robert Smalls House
Last week Mayor Sam Murray and I joined Pastor Abraham Murray and Ms. Ethel Sumpter from Brick Church, and Board Chairman Clifford Bush and Director Dr. Rodell Lawrence of Penn Center on a one day visit to meet with officials in Washington, DC.
We left Washington, cautiously optimistic that the monument will be created but also knowing that the Administration wants to know that the community supports the initiative before they take action.
Since the meeting the small working group has solicited and received endorsements from local and state governments and organizations whose focus is history. Furthermore, we have been encouraging individuals to sign an on-line petition that was created by city councilman Stephen Murray.
As the parties continue to weave through a complicated process and sometimes arduous process, we are asking for your support by signing the petition.
Thanks for your help. By working together we are making Beaufort an even better place to live, work and stay.