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Don’t Judge History by Today’s Standards

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

I wrote the following two years ago - the last time Confederate Monuments were a major ‘issue’.  While this article concentrated on one particular monument in Helena, Montana (the only Confederate monument in the State) the overall sentiment is certainly indicative of Confederate monuments throughout the country.  The lovely Fountain, and other monuments, has again been brought to the headlines and is going before the Helena City Commission, again.  

Georgia “Nina” C. Young first came to Montana from her home in Marietta, Georgia, as a young woman at the age of 28, circa 1885. Nina was born to David M. Young, of South Carolina, with her mother’s birth place listed as Connecticut in the 1900 Census. Surely a woman with parents from both North and South, understood the War of the Rebellion from both sides of the spectrum. She likely had relatives that fought for both the North as well as the South, as was the case for many families during those times.

 As a Charter Member of the Winnie Davis Chapter of United Daughters of the Confederacy, which was organized in April 1903, and with help from other Chapters of the UDC around Montana, the local Winnie Davis Chapter began raising funds for the Memorial from their inception. Ms. Young, along with two other charter members, Mrs. Will Aiken and Mrs. F. F. Read, were the only remaining members of the Winnie Davis Chapter in Helena when the Memorial Fountain was unveiled in September 1916.

 Worth noting is that Georgia also served as a member of the State Humane Society as noted in articles dated 1902. She was also said to be one of the “best known nurses in the Northwest” and was one of St. Peter’s founders, serving 22 years as its Superintendent.

 What I found also of special interest was that Nina was the first policewoman right here in Helena, having been hired on in August 1915. At that time, the Anaconda Standard noted that she was to be paid $100 per month for looking after “the young girls and youths and would be clothed with all the authority of an ordinary patrolman.” That same article mentions how she would travel East at her own expense to study the “methods pursued by policewomen in other communities”. Yes, Nina Young was truly a woman ahead of her time.

 As noted, she was a woman of mixed Northern and Southern heritage, who dedicated herself to service and the community she adopted before Montana was even a State. Yet she has been lost to history, and many didn’t even realize a Confederate Memorial existed here until the controversy erupted after the brutal and racist slayings of 9 innocent church members in South Carolina, the very State Ms. Young’s father hailed from.

I’m but an amateur historian, and have read about the history of Montana, which during the Civil War, was part of the Dakota Territory. The history during those early days included the importance of the gold flow, of which the Vigilantes of Bannock and Virginia City eliminated the threat of the said flow to the Federal government, thereby having enormous impact on the outcome of the War. We had, in Montana, as well as around the United States, both Northern and Southern interests. Once the war was over, a mutual respect later developed, including various events around the country such as was held here that same year. On Memorial Day, 1916, in Washington D.C., Daughters of the Confederacy joined Daughters of the Union in observing Memorial Day, with President Wilson serving as principle speaker at the ceremony at Arlington Cemetery. Special remembrance was given during that Memorial Day to those who perished on the Maine sunk at Havana and those who died on a submarine which had been sunk off Honolulu.

While for the sake of brevity, I touch upon but a little of our Civil War and subsequent history, it is especially important to recognize that today’s political correctness is not necessarily historic or even ethical correctness. If nearly 100 years ago, representatives of both Union and Confederate joined together in ceremonies across the country, each side being recognized for their service, and each side lending respect to the other, then who are we now to question that nobility. We cannot judge history by today’s standards. I too had family on both sides of the war, with one immigrating to Helena in 1864 and listed as one of the Sons of the Pioneers there. I must wonder if he ever met Ms. Young and believe, as a former Union solider; himself from the South, he would have admired her humanity and Christian charity. We need to speak out about this and other Confederate Memorials that serve as a part of our history, and the honorable history behind many of their placements at that. We were all getting along 100 years ago, and I think we should strive more to doing that now!"

 We must ALL take responsibility in speaking out against racism and all forms of bigotry / hate ... but removing Confederate memorials, including this lovely fountain, doesn't do that.

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