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Sickness of destroying historical monuments strikes locally

Ned Jilton II • Mar 27, 2019 at 1:25 PM

How do you deal with people who are more intent on tearing down history rather than building on it? Who are more interested in destruction than education?

Do you have an answer?

It’s almost as if they have a sickness.

The sickness of destroying historical statues and markers continues to spread across the country like a plague. And it’s no longer confined to memorials dealing with the Civil War.

Everything from the Joan of Arc statue in New Orleans to the William Lee (father of the U.S. Airborne) statue in North Carolina has been vandalized. Even the Peace Monument in Atlanta has been vandalized.

And now this sickness is spreading into our area.

Back in January, the historical marker for the Bristol Sessions, marking the birth of country music, was torn down and carried away by a group of youths.

Those recording sessions were held in Bristol, Tennessee, from July 25 through Aug. 5, 1927, by Victor Talking Machine Company producer Ralph Peer.

Among the artists recorded were Jimmie Rogers and the Carter Family.

The very first act to record on July 25 was Ernest Stoneman, who performed “Dying Girl’s Farewell.”

According to the documents I have seen, the Carter Family started recording on Aug. 1, performing “Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow.” Which, if I counted right, was the first of six songs they recorded that day.

A video camera captured the crime as one of a group of males broke the marker loose and knocked it down from its post. Then the suspect carried off the marker which, according to police, had a value of $2,000.

Police later arrested Lawton Ruiz, 21, of Bristol, Virginia, who was charged with theft over $1,000.

And now a vandal has struck again, this time toppling the obelisk part of the Jesse Duncan monument in Boones Creek.

Duncan was one of the early settlers to come into the region. But his claim to fame, according to the monument, was that he was the “First white man that died in Tennessee. Killed by the Indians about 1765.”

The monument was put up in 1904 to mark his gravesite. It is one of many monuments tucked away around the area dedicated to the explorers who risked all to come across the mountains from the Carolinas and Virginia and settle in this area.

Duncan’s wife’s grave marker is next to it.

On March 12, a surveillance camera captured a gray Toyota Tundra pull up to the monument. A young man with long hair quickly got out of the truck and attempted to topple the monument with a flying jump kick from the grave marker of the wife. Failing that, he pushed on the monument until the top half fell.

The Johnson City Police Department is investigating and is seeking the identity of the suspect shown in the photo. Anyone with information that can assist in identifying him is asked to contact the JCPD Criminal Investigations Division at (423) 434-6007, or, to remain anonymous, to call Crime Stoppers at 434-6158. To send a confidential tip, text 423JCPD and your tip to 847411 (TIP411) or send a tip to www.citizenobserver.com.

Ned Jilton II is a page designer and photographer for the Times News as well as the writer of the “Marching with the 19th” Civil War series. You can contact him at [email protected] timesnews.net .

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