Ridgefield wants Jefferson Davis Highway markers off register

Public hearing set over status of memorial

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

Published:

 

If You Go

What: Public hearing on Jefferson Davis Highway marker.

Who: Clark County Historic Preservation Commission.

Where: Vancouver City Hall, council chambers, 415 W. Sixth St.

When: 6:05 to 7:05 p.m. Tuesday

Ridgefield is asking that two controversial highway markers south of the city be taken off the Clark County Heritage Register.

The city council made the request Thursday, in advance of Tuesday’s meeting of the Clark County Historic Preservation Commission. A 6:05 p.m. public hearing has been scheduled in Vancouver City Hall to consider removing the Jefferson Davis Highway markers from the heritage register.

After being moved around Clark County several times over the years, the markers now reside on private property at 24024 N.W. Maplecrest Road, a few yards west of Interstate 5.

In the letter to the county, Ridgefield’s councilors wrote that the city’s proud history does not include any connection with the Confederacy “or any of the individuals who led it, including Jefferson Davis.”

But every time there is a national story about Confederate memorials or flags, Ridgefield residents see their city’s name associated with the topic, Mayor Ron Onslow said.

“We get calls about it every time the Confederacy comes up,” Onslow said Friday morning.

While the site known as Jefferson Davis Park has a Ridgefield address, “It’s not in our city, so we have no say over it.

“We’re not against history, but there is no history of this in Ridgefield,” Onslow said.

As a matter of fact, Onslow pointed out, the community’s original name was a salute to the Civil War soldiers who defeated the Confederacy.

“Ridgefield’s first name was Union Ridge, after all the Union soldiers who settled here,” the mayor said. “We have a grade school called Union Ridge.”

The site is maintained by the Pacific Northwest Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The group had to clean up the markers after vandals defaced them with paint and tar on the night of Aug. 17.

The site was dedicated in 2007 on a quarter-acre south of the Gee Creek Rest Area. The stone markers resulted from a 1913 effort by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to designate a route across the South as “The Jefferson Davis Highway.”

They eventually extended the designation up the West Coast to Canada.

The two markers originally were placed at both ends of the highway in Washington, in Vancouver and Blaine.

The Vancouver marker was dedicated near Covington House at the north end of Main Street in 1939, and it remained there until 1998.