Arson against Confederate memorial is under investigation

When Historic City News got the call in the pre-dawn hours Friday, that an arsonist had attacked the 1879 Confederate Veterans Memorial now located at Ringhaver’s Trout Creek Fish Camp, one source for the story said that they were not surprised to learn about the events still developing.

Thanks to coaching from city manager John P Regan, Sr, the city’s interim mayor, Tracy Upchurch, and just two other elected officials, the city’s vice mayor Leanna Freeman, a candidate for re-election, and the now-laughable “Preservation Commissioner” Nancy Kline, were able to overrule the prior commission’s unanimous decision to protect and preserve the memorial, just two years ago.

Among others who responded to the crime scene this morning was one of the area’s founding families, Wade Manucy.  He spoke to television reporters and was calling for patience and cooperation with local law enforcement officers as they go about their job of developing intelligent leads.  

“Our community is divided over something that means a lot to so many people, a lot of people see it one way, and the other group of people see it the other way,” Manucy said.  “I’d like to see some cameras; I mean there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be a little surveillance out here.”

In the meantime, Manucy said he hopes Ringhaver, who is the owner of the Trout Creek Fish Camp that offered this site to the city manager, or, the city itself, will consider putting in more security so something like this doesn’t happen in the future.

“How could somebody do something so horrible, there’s so much tension going on right now. This doesn’t make things better,” Manucy said.

Manucy explained that tempers have already been rising since the commission vote was announced.  He called on the many local Minorcan families to support one another and to share any information they may have about this crime.

Historic City News has already requested the incident report from the St Johns County Sheriff’s Office, a copy of which has been denied stating that this is an “active investigation”.  Deputies and investigators have not found the person responsible yet.  Right now, they are looking for any surveillance video of cell phone footage that the public can share.

After months of anxiety, the memorial was finally reassembled at its new home Thursday, by employees of Jeremy Patterson, vice president of Progressive Construction.  Crews still need to take support beams off the 141-year-old memorial, which honors 46 St Augustine Confederate soldiers, was finally erected at its new home at the Trout Creek Fish Camp.

In addition to the failed attempt to set on fire the nearly 30-foot brick and stucco obelisk, along with thousands of dollars-worth of wrapping and other protective materials, a spokesman for the St Johns County Sheriff’s Office told local reporters that the surrounding concrete pavement had been sprayed with orange paint that read “You make us look bad” and “Trump 2020”.

By 10:30 a.m. Friday, a fence perimeter had been put up around the memorial by City of St Augustine employees. A delegation of city management responsible for the security of the public obelisk told radio and television reporters that until Ringhaver signs the agreement for the loan of the historical artifact, they shoulder the burden for whatever happens to it.

Whoever vandalized the obelisk trespassed onto Ringhaver’s property, threw oil on it, and then set the packing material on fire overnight.  City officials, St. Johns County investigators and the contractor were all at the scene Friday morning, assessing the damage.  Although the base was visibly charred, there was not much of a blaze, authorities said.