Lake Norman & Mooresville

Cleanup of Cornelius Confederate monument underway

A Confederate monument in front of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church was defaced, but it will be cleaned up soon.
A Confederate monument in front of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church was defaced, but it will be cleaned up soon. JOHN DEEM

A blue tarp remains wrapped around the base of the towering statue of a Confederate soldier on the front lawn of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Cornelius, but that won’t be the case for long, says the Huntersville business executive leading the effort to restore the monument.

“There is some additional cleaning that needs to be done and a firm has been engaged to complete the cleaning process,” said David Hodson, CEO of a Huntersville company that sells home warranties and other products. “Once they have completed their work, the tarp will be removed.”

The work follows more than a month of uncertainty about who actually controlled the monument and would be responsible for the cleanup.

On July 20, a Cornelius police officer patrolling near the church discovered the monument had been defaced with graffiti.

The police and public works departments covered the graffiti with a tarp “due to the offensive content” until whoever maintained and owned the monument could be contacted, a Cornelius police spokeswoman said.

That’s when things got complicated. Mt. Zion United Methodist officials insisted the church did not own the monument, although the church has cut the grass and maintained the area around it for decades.

The church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Mary Jane Dye, said church histories have long reported the monument and patch of property on which it sits were deeded in 1909 by R.J. Stough, a former Confederate colonel, a group that raised $10,000 for a monument to Confederate veterans.

County records show that Stough and his wife, Alice, turned over control of the property to a group of five people (including R.J. Stough himself) designated as “trustees of the Mt. Zion Monument Association.”

Mecklenburg County property records list only Mt. Zion United Methodist Church as owner of the monument site. And Dye said at the time that she knew of no modern-day legal custodian of the Mt. Zion Monument Association.

But now, Dye said, Hodson and others have stepped in to revive the Mt. Zion Monument Association to oversee the cleanup.

Hodson said that while he’s happy to lead the effort, he’s disappointed that effort is even necessary.

“It is a shame that someone chose to deface the monument as an expression of hatred as opposed to (engaging in) dialogue. “It is also a shame that it becomes ‘news’ so that (the vandals) are edified.”

Cornelius Police spokesperson Betsy Shores said the investigation into the vandalism continues, and that the reconstituted monument association is “willing to prosecute if a suspect is identified.”

John Deem is a freelance writer: