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Changes on way for Civil War markers
Changes to Civil War Markers1.jpg
This Civil War marker at Warren County Middle School is slated for removed. A fence was constructed around the school, which makes the “McMinnville Raiders’ Target” marker almost inaccessible to the public. Rather than relocation, proposed is replacing it with a marker dedicated to The Cumberland Female College and placing it at the intersection of College and Donnell streets. - photo by Lisa Hobbs

Significant changes are proposed for McMinnville’s Civil War Markers. 

There are five markers located in Warren County: One at Pepper Branch Park, one at Cumberland Caverns, one at Warren County Middle School and two at Warren County Courthouse. Those markers connect this community to Tennessee’s Civil War Trails, a driving tour of Civil War sites throughout the state. 

“As you all know, we replaced some of the signs. They were in really bad shape. You couldn’t read them. That was a temporary fix,” said Tourism Development Board administrator Dayron Deaton Owens to members of the TDB. 

 “Let’s talk about the one at the middle school,” said Owens. “We know that one needs to be moved. It is behind a gate. You can’t get to it if they’re closed. I don’t know that we need to be sending visitors onto school property without permission.”

Dedicated to “Raiders’ Target,” which pertains to the occupation of McMinnville and the engagement of Rebel Hill, it was placed at WCMS prior to a security fence being placed. 

“If we wanted to keep that marker close to the battlefield site, there’s really not a good area for tourists to pull over, park and look at the sign,” said Heritage Alliance president Cody Prince, who was asked to assist in finding a new location. “Everything has been built on. The battlefield is completely taken over by houses, schools and businesses.” 

Suggested was removing that sign and replacing it with one dedicated to the Cumberland Female College and its use during the Civil War. That new marker could be erected at the intersection of College and Donnell streets on property owned by First Baptist Church.

“Number one, it puts it within walking distance of downtown McMinnville and tourists would be able to walk the entirety of downtown and visit these signs,” said Prince. “Secondly, the building that stood on that ground, before it was the Southern School of Photography, was the Cumberland Female College. During the Civil War it was shut down and used as a Federal Headquarters for some time. So, it still relates to the battlefield in that sense.”

The Cumberland Female College, organized in 1850, opened its first session in 1851. The Civil War forced the school to close but later reopened.

A marker dedicated to W.S. “Dad” Lively, founder of The Southern School of Photography, is currently located there. 

“This is all about tourism,” said Owens. “We want them to go to specific locations. At the same time, we want them to be out and about. The Civil War Trails (board of directors) has asked us to look at these is because they are outdated. They need us to update them. These changes really didn’t start with us.”

“Occupation of McMinnville: Conflict on the Homefront” and “Lion of Ben Lomond,” dedicated to Gen. Benjamin H. Hill, are both located side-by-side in front of the Courthouse. 

“It’s rare to have two markers right beside each other,” said Owens. “So, that poses a problem in itself. It shouldn’t be like that. The reasons we were asked to move them is because those markers are not significant to the Courthouse. We’re telling people a story with the markers. The story needs to match the location.”

Suggested was removing “Occupation of McMinnville” and replacing it with a marker dedicated to Lucy Virginia French. 

“Lucy Virginia French has a really interesting story,” said Owens. “A lot of the Civil War Trails doesn’t focus on minorities and women. That was something they are really recommending for future trail locations.”

French was the daughter of Mease W. and Elizabeth Parker Smith. She was born in March 1825 and married Col. John Hopkins French. She was a well-known author. 

“During her time, she was very well known,” said Prince. “As time has gone on, that has fallen off. People don’t know much about her.”

Suggested was placing the new marker at Riverside Cemetery where French is interred.

“She has a very elaborate tombstone,” said Prince. “We were thinking that we could put the marker at her gravesite. That would get people walking. They could walk down to Depot Bottom, stop and eat at the old store and walk around the cemetery. During the summer, it’s absolutely beautiful.” 

Owens added, “It doesn’t have to be at her gravesite. I understand that it’s special. It could be on the outside of the cemetery and that would be sufficient. We wanted to put this one in the Depot Bottom area to create that walkability.”

Suggested was keeping the Gen. Hill marker, but moving it to his place of burial. 

“He is actually buried at the city cemetery on South High Street,” said Owens. “So, we were thinking about relocating to that area. Again, making it more walkable to try to get to these locations.”

Tourism Development Board members unanimously approval the changes as proposed, however, the decision is not final. Yet to be obtained is approval from First Baptist Church, the city of McMinnville and Civil War Trail Board of Directors. 

TDB must receive permission from McMinnville officials to place markers in the city cemetery on South High Street or Riverside Cemetery in Depot Bottom – both city-owned properties.

Similarly, First Baptist Church elders must also approve use of their property. 

The Civil War Trails, which has more than 1,200 markers in Tennessee, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, is overseen by Civil War Trails, a 501 C-3 nonprofit organization. Its board of directors must also approve the changes to markers within Warren County. 

No changes were proposed for the marker called “Railroad Town” located at Pepper Branch Park or the marker called “Saltpeter Mining in Cumberland Caverns” located at Cumberland Caverns.