By Matt de Simone
Residents of Botetourt County held another Heritage and History Celebration in front of the Confederate monument outside of the Botetourt County Circuit Courthouse last Saturday. The gathering is the third the group has held since last November. Over the past several months, Botetourt County Board of Supervisors’ discussions about relocating the monument led this group to speak out about the ongoing decisions about upcoming courthouse renovations and the overall meaning of the monument itself.
United States Air Force Col. (Ret.) Carter T. Gill opened the celebration by sharing a few words to the group and performing “Taps” on an old bugle. Gill represented one of many opposers of the monument’s removal from courthouse grounds which appeared at the Board of Supervisors meeting last month.
Troutville native Greg Rieley, who also spoke at last month’s board meeting, shared some of his thoughts on the current “tabled” discussions about the future of the Confederate monument. He’s concerned about how the courthouse renovations will affect the possible relocation of the memorial.
“At this point, we don’t know what the front of the courthouse will look like,” Rieley explained to the audience. “[The board] tells us the front is not going to change, but at the same time, they’re telling us that this is valuable real estate and the monument has to go.”
Rieley fears that relocating the spire in front of the Botetourt Historical Museum will eventually cause turmoil amongst other individuals. The process of finding a new location would start all over again. He claimed that the Board of Supervisors turned over the final decision on the monument’s possible relocation to the architects in charge of the courthouse’s upcoming renovations.
Jim Ludington, who is running for the Republican nomination for the Board of Supervisors Amsterdam District seat, spoke to the group about his history and experience seeing other monuments across the country taken down or moved.
“When you start seeing statues toppling and monuments coming down, you’re somewhere near the final stages of the takeover of your county,” Ludington stated to the crowd. “I never thought it would come here to Botetourt.”
Will Smith, a Tea Party Constitutionalist running for the Board of Supervisors Buchanan District seat nomination, also spoke at the event. He added to Ludington’s statements, telling the group that he would never vote to move the monument.
Another Botetourt County resident who spoke at last month’s board meeting, Chris McCloud, talked about Botetourt’s history and what future generations will learn about the county’s past.
“We’ve got to get back in touch with the children… teaching the true history,” McCloud added in the closing moments of the gathering. “People without a history are a people without a future.”
Several citizens who attended the celebration spoke about appearing at the April Board of Supervisors meeting yesterday, which was past the deadline for this week’s publication. More information from this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting will appear in next week’s edition.
RETRACTION: Greg Rieley recently contacted the The Fincastle Herald stating, “I served on the Monument and Memorial Committee. We were tasked with studying the issue and the monument removal. Meetings were held from September of last year up until December. Each person was assigned to a different aspect of the monument’s history to study in several subcommittees. I served on the committee to study information on descendants of enslaved people and the descendants of Confederate Botetourt soldiers. However, the part of the article where I was misunderstood/misquoted was where I ‘claimed that the Board of Supervisors turned over the final decision on the monument’s possible relocation to the architect in charge of the upcoming renovations.’ At the end of the study in December, the Monument and Memorial Committee recommended turning the decision over to the architect, not the board of Supervisors.” The Fincastle Herald apologizes for this error.