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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Garfield Park monument drawn into Confederate statue debate

A large grave maker listing the names of Confederate soldiers was moved into Garfield Park more than 80 years ago. But as cities across the country remove monuments to the Confederacy, Indianapolis is considering moving or taking down the marker.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - A large grave maker listing the names of Confederate soldiers was moved into Garfield Park more than 80 years ago. But as cities across the country remove monuments to the Confederacy, Indianapolis is considering moving or taking down the marker.

In a printed statement, the director of Indy Parks said the marker is inappropriate for a city park. However, if the city is looking for monuments some people consider offensive, Eyewitness News learned, they may be in for some surprises.

The towering tons of stone and steel that most people have largely ignored for decades is getting a lot of attention. People who have lived all their lives in Indianapolis said they didn't know it existed until it appeared on the news.

Almost everybody has an opinion.

"It is a monument. It should be respected by all. I live across the street," yelled the driver of a pickup driving past.

But is it really a monument to honoring the Confederacy, or is it something else?

"I see a grave marker," said Marion County Historian Steve Barnett. "I see a grave marker, not a monument to the Confederacy."

According to Barnett, the federal government built the marker about 100 years ago to mark the graves of 1,616 Confederate soldiers. They died defeated and far from home in an Indianapolis prison camp.

The original cemetery closed. Their remains were moved to Crown Hill Cemetery. The grave marker was moved to Garfield Park.

Ashley Niemeier walks past the marker frequently.

"It doesn't resemble an actual character in history is, in my mind, makes it a little bit different," she said.

Some argue it is not different enough from Confederate memorials and monuments in other cities being torn down or moved.

Michael Lutin lives near the park.

"It does designate the people who passed away as Negro slaves. That might be the offensive part," Lutin said.

Barnett says he's seen worse in one of the most unlikely places.

"I think the most offensive things we have in Marion County is on the Statehouse grounds," he said.

There stands a statue of Thomas A. Hendricks. As Indiana governor, a U.S. senator and vice president, Barnett says Hendricks opposed freeing slaves, making African-Americans citizens, or allowing them to vote - or even live - in Indiana.

"To me, that is as much a confederate monument as a statute of Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis," Barnett said.

Right now, the attention is focused on Garfield Park, where Brittany Newell takes frequent walks.

"It is not offending anyone, but it is not in its original home. So maybe we move it back to its original home, it if makes the community feel a little bit better," she said.

According to local historians, about 30 years ago, there was an effort to move the marker to Crown Hill to overlook the graves of the Confederate soldiers. That effort failed for a lack of money.