Civil War monuments take next step

Published 11:12 pm Friday, May 20, 2011

A trail of markers documenting the city of Selma’s Civil War history is one step closer to becoming a reality after a Friday meeting of the city’s Community Development Committee.

April 1865 Society president James Hammonds addressed the committee to discuss the possibility of eventually placing three initial markers in the city if the project is approved.

Hammonds said there are possibilities for revenue-generating tourism within the city.

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“We have talked to the chamber of commerce and there seems to be a need for this type of trail,” he said. “There are a lot of people asking about something like this.”

Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce executive director Sheryl Smedley said she recently had couples from Wisconsin and Chicago pass through on a tour of Civil War and Civil Rights destinations that lead them through Selma, Mobile and ended in New Orleans. A Civil War walking tour, she said, would be a great way to package the city’s rich history and hold the interest of tourists.

Selma City Council member and committee chairman Susan Keith said the markers could also work in tandem with a project she already had on the table. Keith said she has been in discussions with the council to place a marker near the St. James honoring Benjamin Sterling Turner.

Turner, a freed slave, set up a livery stable in Selma. He was also elected tax collector of Dallas County, Alabama in 1867; then later became a councilman for Selma in 1869.

Turner was also elected to the 42nd Congress in 1871.

Because of Turner’s role in the Civil War, Hammonds said the two projects could work very well together.

The idea, Hammonds said, is to begin with three markers and eventually add more each year.

Because of the city’s rich Civil War history, he said the trail could grow each year.

Selma director of tourism Candace Johnson said the advantage of a tour featuring historic markers is that it never closes.

“This is something people can do 24 hours a day,” she said. “This could be an addition to the trail on the civil rights tour and become a tour that is tied to the Battle of Selma.”

The initial sign would cost around $3,500, Hammonds said, and the money would be generated from donations and a fund set up by the April 1865 Society. Other markers would cost around $2,600.

Keith said the plan would be presented to the full Selma City Council during its next meeting set for Tuesday, May 31.