Cemeteries that contain a Lost Cause monument are the most susceptible to a racial justice challenge. For purposes of our posts, a Lost Cause monument is a Confederate statue or obelisk erected between 1890 and 1920. As discussed in this attached article, Confederate memorial societies actively erected Lost Cause monuments during that period, with obelisks and statues being the favorite forms of monument.
Frequently, a memorial society such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy would purchase a lot without intent to make a burial. The Lost Cause monument would be erected on the empty lot for the purpose of serving as the focal point of future Confederate memorial day services. These monuments often refer generally to the Confederate dead or the Confederacy. When erected on an empty burial lot, the monument is memorializing a cause. For the cemetery, this most likely is a violation of its governing documents. From recorded garden plats to the rules and regulations, cemetery governing documents restrict the use of a burial lot to the interment of human remains and the memorialization of that person. The October 2020 Kansas City Star article referenced in our prior post describes three such Lost Cause monuments.
Fairview Cemetery in Liberty has a 20 foot obelisk and statue erected in 1904 by the United Confederate Veterans. The monument did not reference a specific soldier, but rather the “honor of the confederate soldiers of Clay County”. We would assume the cemetery’s lot book is silent on any burial to the lot because the city has initiated a legal proceeding to revest ownership of the lot. Missouri law permits the revesting of a lot’s ownership when no burial has been made to the lot within 50 years of its sale.
Forest Hill Cemetery’s Lost Cause monument is a 40+ foot tall obelisk and statute erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1902. That monument’s history is provided in this attached article. As the article explains, the cemetery donated lots for the remains of Confederate soldiers to be relocated to Forest Hill. So, the cemetery probably also donated the lot(s) used for the Lost Cause monument.
The Lost Cause monument in Woodlawn Cemetery (Independence) is a 20 foot obelisk erected in 1924 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It too has a generic reference to “The Memory of the Soldiers of the Confederacy”. The following hyperlink is to a webpage about that monument.
While there could be push back to any memorial referencing the Confederacy, a memorial to a soldier buried in the lot at least complies with governing cemetery documents’ burial requirement. A challenge must then be based on whether the memorial complies with the cemetery’s monument regulations. But for a Lost Cause monument, the cemetery could face a legal challenge that by allowing the monument to be maintained the cemetery is violating its own governing documents.
In our next post we will look at the role a cemetery’s rules and regulations may play in a racial justice challenge.