Franklin to File Lawsuit: Who Owns Franklin Public Square?

Posted: 9:55 PM, Aug 29, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-29 23:21:00-04

Thousands pass by the Confederate monument on the Franklin Public Square every day, but now the Franklin public square is caught in the middle of a heated controversy over plans to honor Civil War African Americans.

That controversy has uncovered basic unanswered questions about the public square; questions as basic as who even owns it.

An attorney for the United Daughters of the Confederacy argued Monday night that it doesn't want to see four historical markers put up on the Franklin square, depicting the experience of African Americans in Franklin during the Civil War.  It says it'd rather see them as part of a larger exhibit at the nearby Carter House.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy say they own the property -- both the monument and the entire lawn surrounding it.

"If you want to litigate that, we can do that," said  Douglas Jones, an attorney for the United Daughters of the Confederacy told the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen Tuesday night.  "We take the position, we own it, we own that ground, not just the statue."

Franklin Alderman Dana McClendon says the city will soon take the group up on its offer, and is planning to sue them to find out who owns what on the public square.

The city concedes the United Daughters of the Confederacy does own the center monument itself, and a small area around it, as shown in photos from the early 1900s, but the rest -- manicured landscaping and all -- could belong to the city.

"I'll say this, if the attorney for United Daughters of the Confederacy was correct in what they said last night, they need a landscaper," McClendon said.  "The city has been paying for the landscaping of this property for decades."

But with no recorded deed, it's now left for a judge to draw the lines of this legal mystery.

While the lawsuit may determine whether new historical markers can be placed on the square, the city says they do not have plans to remove the existing statue that's been in place for more than 100 years.