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State asks for help in finding missing historical markers in Rowan, Davidson counties

By Shavonne Walker
shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Someone stole historical markers from Rowan and Davidson counties within the last few months, and the state agency that manages them is asking for the public’s help.

Passersby may have seen the markers. On West Innes Street, near Grant’s Creek and just beyond the Catawba College campus, sat a marker noting Stoneman’s Raid. The marker, which was originally erected in the 1940s, said that Gen. George Stoneman’s calvary fought a skirmish with Southern troops somewhere near where the marker once stood.

The original marker was replaced in 2012 after it was knocked down, but sometime around August of this year, it was stolen, said Ansley Herring Wegner, an administrator of the N.C. Highway Historical Marker Program.

The N.C. Highway Historical Marker Program is within the Office of Archives and History and administered by the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The Highway Marker Program is collaboration between the N.C. Departments of Natural and Cultural Resources and Transportation.

The other missing marker stood in Davidson County on U.S. 29 at the Yadkin River bridge. It was reported missing Sept. 18. The Davidson County marker had been in place at the bridge for almost 80 years, she said.

Alan Hutton, with the city of Salisbury’s signs and markings division, said he was alerted about the missing marker after someone from the N.C. Department of Transportation was clearing some of the vegetation and cutting the grass. The person accidentally knocked over the sign, Hutton said.

The sign was placed near the guardrail, but someone stole it before the DOT’s sign division was notified about the mishap, he said.

Hutton said he’s done what he could to search for the sign, but it hasn’t shown up.

As to whether they’ll be replaced, a committee will have to decide in December. That’s if they are not found by then, Wegner said.

There are 1,612 historical markers in the state’s system, and 19 of them involve Stoneman’s Raid. All erected at the same time in 1940. There are more Stoneman’s Raid markers than any other in the state. Because of the duplication, it’s likely that the committee will decide not to replace it, she said.

Wegner said each marker costs $1,790 — making whoever stole it, if found, at risk of being charged with a felony offense.

There are a number of reasons people take the markers, Wegner said, including that they love the historical aspect of the marker and think “it’s cool.”

“We don’t want people to think of them as keepsakes or artifacts,” she said.

The agency sees the markers as a museum relic that notes something important and worth noting happened at that location. In some cases, people find the signs on the roadside and don’t know who to call or how to get it back to the right place. It just sits in a shed or warehouse, she said.

It’s often that a marker will be returned years later.

Wegner said it’s unlikely someone stole the markers because they relate to the Civil War. She said the markers it would’ve been vandalized if someone was upset about about the Civil War aspect. If markers been stolen for scrap metal, then “they don’t care about the history all,” she said.

There have been about 10 other markers that have gone missing throughout the state since the summer.

The missing Salisbury marker has an L at the top on the left side and the number 28 on the right side. When the program first began, the state was divided into letter districts. And the Salisbury marker shows that it was the 28th marker in the letter “L” district.

The markers are handmade aluminum cast by Sewah Studios in Ohio.

The local theft was reported to the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office in August as a larceny. Wegner reported the Davidson County theft to the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office.

She said her main goal in reporting the incidents were that, if by chance they were hit by a vehicle, the cost to replace would be covered by the motorist’s insurance. She’s had at least three other cases where drivers have hit the sign.

She said, at the end of the day, “we all love history and are on the same team of loving North Carolina history.”

For more information on the markers or to report the whereabouts of a missing marker, call 919-814-6620 or visit www.ncmarkers.com to to report a damaged one.

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