Friday, December 2, 2011


Photo by Margot Kline
A few months ago, we posted a short series of stories about a marker denoting the Knoxville area birthplace of historic first Admiral David Glasgow Farragut was missing.  The 111-year old marker sat  idle on the property of Farragut's supposed birthplace at Lowe's Ferry until this summer when it was reported that the marker went missing.  Speculation arose that the influx of trespassers may have taken it, according to the original report.   

It quickly became a huge discussion of history and memory and private and public ownership.  Preservationists, armchair historians, and concerned citizens alike flocked to the cause of the stone marker.  Many grew aware of the event in fear that the owner would go forward with a plan to develop parts of the birthplace into a residential area.  (Note:  No excavations have been done to verify that the house where Farragut was born is still there in some capacity)

A few weeks after the initial missing report, The Tennessean reported that the owner did in fact remove the marker, giving it to a private collector for safe keeping.  Things have changed again this week, possibly for the better.   

The Knoxville News reports this week that the owner of the property, Lylan Fitzgerald, would consider offering the marker up for public display either in a museum, nearby park, etc.  Ms. Fitzgerald has at least expressed interest in offering it for public display - just not on her property. 
The New York Times, 16 May 1900
Full Speed Ahead?
Craig Swain reported about the marker immediately following the initial disappearance.  At that time in August (Tuesday 39 August), MetroPulse writer Jack Neely knew very little about the marker beyond the fact that it was recently missing.  It is interesting that Neely reported that the owner did not tell her lawyer that she removed the marker and given it to a historic collector. 

Read Craig's post on Marker Hunter for more information on the legality and controversy initially surrounding the marker.  Both Craig's and the Knoxville News articles show that the loss of the marker, be it in either a physical or metaphysical sense, has drummed up support long before it went missing.  In fact, speeches, dedications, articles, and blogs have sprouted up in recent years in popular support for keeping the site there (or as a National Park, etc.).  Even Admiral DeLoach, the director of the Naval History and Heritage Command, spoke of the marker during a 2010 dedication of a nearby park in the town of Farragut. 

The Debate Continues
Where is it now?  According to the Knoxville News, it "might possibly be in Texas," presumably with the private collector she mentioned in The Tennessean.  When approached with the idea to put it near her property again, she responded that that "is not going to happen." 

Surprisingly, the reaction of the marker's possibility for public viewing has stirred up quite a bit of commentary, with 75 responses from readers in just a few days.  Ranging from the poignant to the absurd, these comments dictate how the general public truly feels about preserving a valuable piece of American and naval history.    

Admiral Farragut is one of the most famous naval officers in the history of the United States.  Nobody would dispute that.  Having the marker dedicated by an officer equally as influential (Admiral Dewey) stands reason to give this debate some national attention.  Should it stay there? Should it go?  Our collective memory is held captive by these recent events.   

What do you think?  Please your thoughts here or tweet them @civilwarnavy

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