Bill Kirby

Online news editor for The Augusta Chronicle.

Questions surround Augusta's missing William Makepeace Thackeray historical marker

Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013 6:41 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013 1:44 AM
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What has happened to the state historical marker recalling the 1856 Augusta visit of British author William Makepeace Thackeray?

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The William Makepeace Thackeray historical marker stood in the 700 block of Broad Street for 60 years.   MICHAEL HOLAHAN/FILE
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/FILE
The William Makepeace Thackeray historical marker stood in the 700 block of Broad Street for 60 years.

For 60 years, it snuggled up to the front of the former Richmond Hotel in the 700 block of Broad Street, providing the description of antebellum Augusta offered by the writer best known today for his book Vanity Fair.

No longer.

When a reader called to ask about the marker across the street from The Augusta Chronicle’s News Building, reporters began asking around.

Had the plaque – probably containing more than 100 pounds of metal – been stolen by scrap metal thieves hoping to convert it to cash? The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office had no reports or knowledge of such.

Had the city taken it down or perhaps moved it for safety reasons?

City Administrator Fred Russell said he was unaware of such a plan, and neither was Traffic Engineer Steve Cassell.

Had the Richmond Summit housing complex, which now takes advantage of the old hotel’s 130-plus rooms, removed it for some reason?

Calls to its out-of-town answering service were not returned.

But then Erick Mont­gomery, the executive director of Historic Augusta, shared a curious story.

At a meeting Friday of a state history association in Macon, Ga., someone mentioned that one of the old historic markers in Augusta had been removed because someone – described as coming from Washington, D.C. – found its language about slavery offensive.

The Thackeray plaque certainly might qualify. The text of the missing marker contained this:

“Nice quaint old town Augusta, rambling great street 2 miles long, doctors and shopkeepers the society of the place, the latter far more independent and gentlemanlike than our folks, much pleasanter to be with than the daring go ahead northern people. Slavery no where repulsive, the black faces invariably happy and plump, the white ones eager and hard. I brought away 60 Guineas for 2 hours talking, a snug little purse from snug little Augusta.”

If that was the case and the marker was removed by a state authority, it might have been undertaken by the Department of Natural Resources, which seems to have inherited some responsibility for hundreds of old history markers across the state.

When Morris News Service called DNR officials Tuesday morning to ask about the markers, however, no one seemed to know about picking up one in Augusta.

So the mystery continues.

And the marker is still missing.

THE BACK STORY

THACKERAY
IN GEORGIA

BACKGROUND: British author William Makepeace Thackeray made two trips to Georgia. The second, in February 1856, included a stop in Augusta.

THE VISIT: The writer came by train from Charleston, S.C., which then was an 8½-hour trip. Although he liked the money he cleared for his Augusta efforts, he was not the only show in town. According to newspaper advertisements at the time, he had to compete with a singing and dancing act that featured “Wild Men from Borneo.”

Comments (8) Add comment
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TrulyWorried
14535
Points
TrulyWorried 10/22/13 - 10:21 pm
11
1
Holy Toledo

How much more history - I repeat HISTORY - has to be removed? Reminds me of a huge blackboard - write on it today, wipe it off tomorrow - that is really beyond all comprehension. Maybe we'd better dig a HUGE hole and all drop in - out of sheer SHAME!

deestafford
27840
Points
deestafford 10/22/13 - 10:33 pm
12
2
Political Correctness run amoulk.

Sort of like minature versions of a smaller scale of those run by Stalin and Mao to change perceptions of history. Just wipe history clean of the thing you find objectionable.

KSL
131267
Points
KSL 10/23/13 - 06:05 am
7
3
Some just can not deal with

Some just can not deal with the fact that not every slave was beaten or deprived. It does not fit the current agenda.

tom31510
312
Points
tom31510 10/23/13 - 07:40 am
4
0
Surviving American slavery

I just don't get the concept of present day black folks trying to erase any mention of slavery. Folks in Australia who were descended from former British convicts (mostly people who couldn't pay debts, not true criminals) used to try to do the same thing. Now they make every effort to find an ex-convict in their family tree and are proud of their ancestors strength & perseverance to have survived & prospered. Why has that never been the case in this country?

mooseye
266
Points
mooseye 10/23/13 - 08:16 am
0
1
It

must be the white hard eager faces that are so ashamed of our history that want to erase it. Most , what name is not offensive?, people descended from, or think they are, the offensive named people, sing out loud about their history lest we forget.

grouse
1635
Points
grouse 10/23/13 - 08:24 am
0
1
"If that were the case."
Unpublished

"If that were the case." Basic grammar.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 10/23/13 - 02:43 pm
1
0
Took 60 years to offend

Took 60 years to offend someone. That's a record if anything.

prov227
3157
Points
prov227 10/23/13 - 08:45 pm
0
0
Maybe the complainant's true objection was ...

"much pleasanter to be with than the daring go ahead northern people"

Probably still an observation of foreign visitors.

Michael C. Lucas
5
Points
Michael C. Lucas 10/26/13 - 12:34 pm
0
0
Food for thought, out of sight out of mind

People should learn to read with thicker skin, it isn't the color or race that is important. Its the sensibility to rationalize the value of what we tolerate to understand and learn from. British author William "Makepeace" Thackeray made an observation and it is worthy to be considered, nothing in the comment was intended to be offensive towards blacks if anything in fact it was anti-slavery. It would behouve people to actually read Thackeray's words in context to better understand his perspective. The facts are that not every slave was beaten or disenchanted singing the blues, that doesn't mean slavery was a good thing and that I believe was Thackeray's point. That a single individuals uneducated subjective opinion is allowed to distort history is really a shame, it is they who are the bigot and the sign should be put back to maintain the lesson.

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