The future home of the Confederate monument that was erected on the grounds of the Lowndes County Courthouse in 1912 is located in the southwest section of Friendship Cemetery, near the graves of unknown Confederate soldiers.
But as the site preparation started there last week, it was a different kind of “unknown” that weighed heavily on the minds of county officials and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History officials.
The first stage of a relocation that will likely continue into the late fall began with excavation work to allow a massive concrete slab to be poured that will bear the weight of the 32-foot tall monument.
“I think we were all pretty nervous about what might be dug up,” said Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Trip Hairston. “We didn’t know what was down there, and the last thing we wanted to find was the body of someone who’s grave wasn’t marked. A guy from Archives and History was there, examining everything that came out of the hole.”
Hairston said there were indeed some things buried in that space — a section of iron fencing, some dishes, a portion of water pipe.
“But no bodies, thankfully,” Hairston said. “And the MDAH guy said none of the items were period pieces, just things that had been discarded and covered over. So we can all breathe a little easier now that the excavation work is finished.”
The discovery of a body would have certainly delayed, if not ended, the work.
As is, the project moves on.
After the concrete is poured, work at the site will be at a holding pattern.
“What they are doing now is pouring concrete level to the ground,” said County Engineer Bob Calvert. “It takes weeks and weeks for the concrete to cure. After that, another concrete base will be poured to prepare the site for the monument to be placed on.”
The monument will be relocated in three phases. The county awarded Danny’s Custom Backhoe a contract for $31,886 for phase one work, which started at Friendship Cemetery last week. Columbus Marble Works, which installed the monument at its original site 109 years ago, will be responsible for phase two, which involves disassembling the monument, at a cost of $47,815.
Phase three, which includes reassembling the monument at its new site, has yet to be bidded.
Site preparation at Friendship Cemetery will resume after phase two begins since the base and monument fit together not unlike Lego pieces.
“A concrete base will be poured once we know the specifications needed for it,” Calvert said.
Hairston said he didn’t have an exact estimate on when the disassembly of the monument will begin.
“I’d say several weeks, at least,” Hairston said. “Right now, Columbus Marble Works is going through the permit process before starting work.”