Thursday, May 29, 2008

Jefferson Davis' 200th Commemoration

The first full weekend in June is always packed with things to do in Todd County and this year is no different. Among this year's activities is the annual Jefferson Davis celebration. However, this year's celebration is a little different from the norm. 2008 marks Davis' 200th birthday and as a result the Jefferson Davis State Historic Site is having a shin-dig to acknowledge the Confederate President's bicentennial year.

The Jefferson Davis 200th Commemoration will be June 7 and 8 at the park in Fairview. The annual event includes living history camps, period demonstrations and sutlers (vendors), guest speakers, members of Davis' family, book signings, period music and more.

Davis was born June 3, 1808, on the site where Bethel Baptist Church now stands. He was a graduate of West Point. As a military and political leader, Davis served not only as the president of the confederacy, but also during the Mexican War, congressman and senator from Mississippi and as secretary of war during Franklin Pierce's administration.

The monument, which is comprised of pure concrete, will be open throughout the event. The 351-foot obelisk will open at 9 a.m. Tours will be conducted every half hour until 8 p.m. The tours will cease between noon and 1 p.m.

Events for the celebration include:

Saturday, June 7:
* 8 a.m., gates open;
* 9 a.m., encampments and sutlers open;
* 9 a.m., opening ceremonies by Park Manager, Mark Doss, and Bertram Hayes-Davis;
* 9:30 a.m., period music by Saxton Cornett Band;
* 10 a.m., Varina Davis' memories by Joan Howard;
* 10:30 a.m., lunch basket auction for "The Cause;"
* 11 a.m., Jefferson David remembers;
* Noon, Emilie Todd Helm, by Betsy Smith;
* 1 p.m., artillery demonstrations by Byrens Kentucky Battery;
* 1:30 p.m., authors Ronald and Donald Kennedy book signing;
* 2 p.m., Miss Confederacy pageant. (ages 2-24, Wee, Little and Jr. Miss $10 before May 31, $20 after; Miss and Ms. $15 advance and $30 after May 31. Call 270-889-6100 for more information.
* 3 p.m., The Life of Jefferson Davis by William C. Davis;
* 3:45 p.m., "Jefferson Davis Biography" book signing by William C. Davis;
* 4 p.m., musical instruments of the Civil War by Saxton's Cornett Band;
* 7:30 p.m., re-enactor ball. Music by Saxton's Cornett Band;
* 8:30 p.m., night firing program by Byrnes Kentucky Battery;
* 9 p.m., re-enactor ball continues.

June 8

* 9:30 a.m., gates open;
* 10 a.m., encampments and sutlers open;
* 10:15 a.m., period music by Saxton's Cornett Band;
* 11 a.m., worship service -- Bethel Baptist Church;
* Noon, "A Distant Light" book signing by Justice Bill Cunningham;
* 12:30 p.m., period music by Saxton's Cornett Band;
* 1:30 p.m., "Then & Now" book signing by local historian William T. Turner;
* 2 p.m., artillery demonstrations and cannon firing by Byrnes Kentucky Battery;
* 2:15 p.m., birthday commemoration
* 3 p.m., period music by Saxton's Cornett Band.

The park is located off U.S. 68/Ky. 80 in Fairview, approximately 10 miles east of Hopkinsville and 8 miles west of Elkton in Todd County. For more information call the park at 270-889-6100.

Other events of the weekend include:
* Relay for Life
* Allegre Volunteer Fire Department annual fundraiser
* 400 Mile Yard Sale along 68/80

Photo from


Blogger Ben Wiles said...

Todd County has a lot to be proud of.

From its award-winning schools, beautiful scenery, friendly and welcoming people, and even an award-winning weekly newspaper, this is a wonderful place to live. During my time here, I have experienced good weather, better neighbors, and the best of pleasant country life.

Todd County even has a place in history. In 1905, U. S. Poet Laureate Robert Penn Warren was born in Guthrie. A museum, a WKU Center for Robert Penn Warren Studies, and even a commemorative postage stamp honor his contributions to the literary arts. What’s more, Todd County has produced two major league baseball players, Hugh Poland and Kent Greenfield. Greenfield won 41 games for the New York Giants and Boston Braves in the 1920’s. Poland spent parts of five seasons as a major league catcher.

Todd County certainly has a lot to be proud of. And then there’s Jefferson Davis.

“Jeff,” as he is known to some locals, was born in Fairview. He did not live there long, moving to Mississippi at age two and not returning for almost eighty years (and then only for a weekend). Yet somehow, he is a celebrated figure in the history of Todd County.

Make no mistake. Like any human life, there are many facets to the Jefferson Davis story. He was a war hero. (Of course, so was Benedict Arnold, but we musn’t let one event cloud the rest of the story overmuch, right?) He was politically well-connected, serving as both a Congressman and Senator from Mississippi. He was Zachary Taylor’s son-in-law and Franklin Pierce’s Secretary of War. He was even the first to publicly suggest the building of a transcontinental railroad.

But we must not – in good conscience, we cannot – overlook the fact that Jefferson Davis led the most dangerous insurrection ever mounted against the United States of America. When threatened with the prospect of African slaves living side-by-side in free society with Caucasians, Davis took thirteen states to war to prevent it. And in case one might suspect other motives (states rights, etc.), consider Davis’ own words:

“Everything around . . . [speaks] eloquently of the wisdom of the men who founded these colonies – their descendants . . . contrasted strongly, as did their history and present power, stand out in bold relief, when compared with those of the inhabitants of Central and Southern America.

Chief among the reasons for this . . . the self-reliant hardihood of their forefathers who, when but a handful, found themselves confronted by hordes of savages, yet proudly maintained the integrity of their race and asserted its supremacy over the descendants of Shem, in whose tents they had come to dwell. They preferred to encounter toil, privation and carnage, rather than debase their lineage and race. Their descendants of that pure and heroic blood have advanced to the high standard of civilization attainable by that type of mankind. Stability and progress, wealth and comfort, art and science, have followed their footsteps.

Among our neighbors of Central and Southern America, we see the Caucasian mingled with the Indian and the African. They have the forms of free government, because they have copied them. To its benefits they have not attained, because that standard of civilization is above their race. Revolution succeeds Revolution, and the country mourns that some petty chief may triumph, and through a sixty days' government ape the rulers of the earth. Even now the nearest and strongest of these American Republics, which were fashioned after the model of our own, seems to be tottering to a fall, and the world is inquiring as to who will take possession; or, as protector, raise and lead a people who have shown themselves incompetent to govern themselves.” – Jefferson Davis, addressing the Democratic Convention at Portland, Maine (August 24, 1858) [Emphasis Added]

For Davis, the primary issue in the Civil War was not states’ rights, personal property, culture, or even the propagation of slavery. Davis was fighting for racial purity.

And Todd County wants to honor this? Our award-winning newspaper wants to celebrate the 200th birthday of a traitorous bigot? I mean, it’s one thing to build a park and an obelisk that not-so-subtly reminds one of the Washington Monument, but that was over 90 years ago, and what’s done is done. But by continuing to celebrate this man, we tacitly endorse his legacy and ideals.

To me, the truly sad part of this story is that for some reason, people in Todd County feel the need to honor Davis, as though if we don’t celebrate him, we don’t have anything else to be proud of. That notion I will challenge loudly. By most standards, I haven’t lived here long – just over three years. But I’ve been here long enough to know that this is a wonderful place, one that anyone of any skin color, any national heritage, or any religion can be justifiably proud to call home.

Todd County has a lot to be proud of. We don’t need Jefferson Davis to validate our place in history. We’re better than this. -- Ben Wiles

3:40 PM, June 05, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Mr. Wiles. Jefferson Davis is not a historical figure to be celebrated at all, but his signifigance in the life of President Lincoln should definately be noted during the celebration of Lincoln's birthday. There are tourism dollars (state funded) at stake here and Davis is the county's only unique tie to the Lincoln celebration, sad as that may be. The only way to get the money is to participate.
Todd County is much like Bel Air, Maryland-the hometown of John Wilkes Booth-in this scenario. Booth was also a racist who strongly supported the Southern opposition. I'm sure if Maryland is taking part in the Lincoln 200th celebration, then Bel Air will be that state's biggest draw. Not saying it's right or wrong, just historically signifigant.

6:40 PM, June 05, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should we only remember the "good" history or the history that we have been told is the truth? If you were to examine Jefferson Davis' prior involvement in the development our country as it is today, you would notice that he was very well respected and honorable. Upon his resignation from the US Senate the people of the country were filled with remorse because he was such a well-respected Political leader. His fellow countrymen viewed his departure as a failed attempt to unify our nation.

Were we not "traders" in the Revolutionary War when we rebelled against our Mother Country (Great Britain)? We were standing up for our rights, our new beliefs to create a representative government. As an outcome of this war we built the foundation of our country based on the US Constitution. Our Founding Forefathers ensured in this document that there would be a representative government in which the central government could not become too powerful.

Therefore, Jefferson Davis, who hesitated in his decision to accept the appointment of the Presidency of the Confederate States of America, was only upholding his interpretation as well as the interpretation of the US Constitution. On many occasions he spoke against the institution of slavery; however, he believed in slowly diminishing the use of slave labor in the South. He believed abolishing slavery immediately would only cause financial distress for Southerners who had built their entire way of life based on this type of labor.

If one were to examine newer documentation about Honest Abe, one would find that he repeated referred to the African American race as the "inferior" race. His first thought was to send the slaves back to Africa and not to offer them freedom.

We can not teach or be forced to remember the gloried history of our country. A person can only claim to be truly educated if they are taught and comprehend all sides and components to a story.

11:32 PM, June 05, 2008  
Blogger getAttr said...

Another notable person born in Todd County (Elkton) is Paul Rudolph, influential Modernist architect. Graduate of the GSD (Graduate School of Design) at Harvard University, his most famous building is the Art and Architecture building on the Yale University campus. Rudolph practiced for the better part of four decades and built across the world in places such as Hong Kong, Singapore, New York City, Australia and South Florida. He was born in Elkton in 1918 and died in 1996.

10:59 PM, July 07, 2008  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home