EASTON — The Easton Historic District Commission unanimously voted to approve the removal of the Talbot Boys statue in a meeting Monday evening, in another chapter in the long and contentious battle over whether the Confederate monument should stay or go.
Following the approval, the commission will issue a certificate of appropriateness to the county — a document that states that the proposed project is appropriate and meets criteria in the local code. Once the certificate is obtained, the Talbot County Council is permitted to begin working on the project and could begin enacting the council’s Sept. 14 administrative resolution to relocate the statue to a private Civil War park in Virginia.
Prior to the vote, attorney Daniel Saunders represented the county council in asking for the certificate and answering questions from commission members and members of the public, saying that he wanted to “err on the side of transparency” in his presentation.
Members of the town’s Historic District Commission questioned Saunders on how the Talbot Boys statue would be removed, what would happen to its previous location after its removal and what considerations would be given to finding a new location.
Saunders told the commission that the county council “may be open to other proposals” on alternate locations for the Talbot Boys statue. However, it ultimately comes down to the commission to review applications and consider the larger context of the county’s public health, safety and welfare in possible new locations.
“It is controversial, it is divisive, sadly, and it is hurtful to certain citizens of the county,” Saunders said.
The commission’s review of the county’s application to remove the Talbot Boys statue comes just a few weeks after Talbot County Council member Frank Divilio first introduced the administrative resolution at the Sept. 14 council meeting. The resolution dictates that the monument would be placed under the custody of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation and relocated to the Cross Keys Battlefield in Harrisonburg, Va.
Three members from Preserve Talbot History, a local group focused on the statue’s historical context, petitioned the county council to create a numbered resolution to rescind Divilio’s administrative resolution at the Sept. 28 meeting. The petition was denied by Divilio and fellow council members Pete Lesher and Corey Pack — the three members who voted in support of the original relocation resolution.
The same three members from Preserve Talbot History who proposed the petition attended the Historic District Commission’s meeting Monday in an additional attempt to block the relocation of the Talbot Boys.
During her comments to the commission, Lynn Mielke, of Easton, emphasized the statue’s historic significance as a prime reason to keep the Talbot Boys in its current location. She asserted that the Talbot Boys monument is not a memorial to traitors or non-veterans; in actuality, the Governor’s Commission on Maryland Military Monuments recognizes the Talbot Boys monument as a military monument.
“The idea of it being a military monument is thoroughly supported by history,” she said.
Easton resident Clive Ewing brought up several different concerns on the county council’s resolution and the possible relocation of the Talbot Boys statue. During his comments, Ewing questioned the definition of a statue and whether or not it includes the base, adding that the county council’s application states that it’s for removing the statue, not the base.
Ewing also brought up concerns about the council’s future plans for the space on the county courthouse lawn if the Talbot Boys statue was removed, asking if a Union Boys statue would be built or if there were other plans. He also asked how the large, fragile statue would be removed from its current location, stating that he didn’t know if anyone had made any efforts to work with the Easton Historic District Commission on relocation.
Preserve Talbot History president David Montgomery questioned if a majority of Talbot County residents actually want the statue to be moved, saying that there was “really no evidence of that whatsoever.”
“Their intention is to move it to a battlefield in the Shenandoah Valley that’s 200 miles away from here,” he said. “That does not help tell the story of Talbot history in Talbot County.”
Montgomery reminded the commission that history has “hard and sometimes unpleasant edges.”
“I’m very glad to hear that the county is willing to consider alternative locations that would allow it to stay in Talbot County,” Montgomery continued. “I certainly hope we can work together to find that out.”
All seven members of the Easton Historic District Commission voted to approve the removal of the statue from the county courthouse lawn. The certificate of appropriateness is expected to be issued in the next few weeks.
Natalie Jones is a reporter at The Star Democrat in Easton covering crime, health, education and Talbot County Council. You can reach her with questions, comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.