Commission votes to remove Davis marker from register

Commission votes 6-0; says historical ties broken when it was moved in ’07

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter




Previously: Two markers designating the Jefferson Davis Highway have been on the Clark County Heritage Register since 2002.

What’s new: After a public hearing, the Clark County Historic Preservation Commission voted 6-0 to remove the markers from the register.

County officials voted 6-0 Tuesday night to remove a monument known as the Jefferson Davis Highway Marker from the Clark County Heritage Register.

Chairman Robert Hinds and the other five members of the Clark County Historic Preservation Commission in attendance — Mark Pelletier, Sarah Fox, Sean Denniston, Rob Heaney and Alex Gall — all voted to remove the granite highway marker from the local heritage list.

The commissioners agreed that the marker, which is on private property, failed to meet the established standards for a community heritage site.

“It doesn’t speak to our history,” Gall said.

The marker also lost its historic integrity when it was moved from its original spot near the Covington House, Gall said.

The marker was part of an effort by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to designate a West Coast route as the Jefferson Davis Highway 99. Two markers were placed at both ends of the highway in Washington, in Vancouver and Blaine. The Vancouver marker was dedicated at the north end of Main Street in 1939, and it remained there until 1998.

It was moved to its new home in 2007 along Interstate 5, just south of the Gee Creek Rest Area. The marker, along with the similar piece of granite that had originally been installed near the Canadian border, now are part of Jefferson Davis Park.

The privately owned quarter-acre of property, which includes Confederate flags, is at 24024 N.W. Maplecrest Road, a few yards west of Interstate 5.

The park’s Confederate DNA was a big factor in almost 90 minutes of public testimony in Vancouver City Hall. About 80 people filled the council chambers, and almost 30 people testified: about two-thirds called on the commissioners to take the monument off the heritage register.

“It is not associated with our history,” said Ridgefield resident Chris Dudley.

Others spoke of the racial aspects of a Confederate display.

“It is offensive as a representation of subjugation of a people,” said Sue Marshall of Ridgefield, speaking on behalf of the Friends of Clark County. “It points out that some people are less valuable than others.”

“It makes some of my neighbors feel less welcome and less safe,” said Mike Ellison of Vancouver.

Ten spoke in favor of keeping the Jefferson Davis monument on the heritage listing. They included members of the Pacific Northwest Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who maintain the site.

Rick Leaumont of Pasco, commander of a Confederate heritage group in Pasco, highlighted Davis’s impact on the Northwest. Long before he was president of the Confederacy, Davis was the secretary of war and authorized the construction of roads in the Northwest.

“Every one of us arrived here on a public road, and that system was started by Jefferson Davis,” Leaumont said.

When the commissioners took up the conversation, they noted that the placement of the marker on the heritage register in 2002 didn’t really have anything to do with Davis. It was a nod to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who took on a huge grassroots project with their highway campaign.

In retrospect, that wasn’t good enough, and the original nomination in 2002 was described as “profoundly flawed.”