Bud Kennedy

Look away: Fort Worth has removed and disposed of two Confederate historical markers, one for a Klansman

Two Fort Worth monuments to Confederate Army officers were dug up and delivered to the Texas Civil War Museum
Two Fort Worth monuments to Confederate Army officers were dug up and delivered to the Texas Civil War Museum bud@star-telegram.com

Quietly and without public protest or pushback, Fort Worth has removed two little-known Confederate historical markers from the city's Cultural District.

Granite markers remembering pioneer banker "Major" K.M. Van Zandt and a violent East Texas Ku Klux Klansman, Confederate Brig. Gen. H.P. "Hinchie" Mabry, were removed Aug. 18 for street construction, city officials said.

They were delivered in December to the Texas Civil War Museum in White Settlement, and remain piled there on the front lawn.

"Fort Worth asked if we would take them and we said yes," said Cindy Harriman, director of the private collection of war-era soldiers' relics from both Confederate States and U.S. soldiers.

Fort Worth arranged the transfer last fall, before the museum was considered and rejected amid controversy as a home for a Dallas statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The Fort Worth markers were quietly removed from the Van Zandt Cottage pioneer farmhouse for the widening of Trail Drive. That was the same week City Council began debating the name change of the former Jefferson Davis Park in south Fort Worth to Unity Park.

In an Aug. 24 memo, Parks Director Richard Zavala wrote: " … It made no sense to place the markers back at the Van Zandt Cottage site … as they would be entirely out of context."

Van Zandt did not move to Fort Worth until after the Civil War, Zavala wrote, and Mabry has little connection at all.

Mabry left East Texas when his Klan klavern, the Knights of the Rising Sun, was implicated in the 1868 lynching of two innocent African American men. He moved to Fort Worth in 1879 and practiced law here for about five years.

The markers were put up in 1964 by the Texas Historical Commission, but the inscription on Mabry's might easily have been written in 1864.

It mentions that he became an East Texas judge after the war until he was "removed by radical Reconstruction authorities," a reference to the U.S. occupation of Texas after the Civil War.

Maj. K..M. Van Zandt, a former POW, came to Fort Worth after the Civil War, co-founding a newspaper and leading the city's largest bank. Bud Kennedy bud@star-telegram.com

Van Zandt's marker more calmly recites the military career of a colorful Texas business and political figure, son of the Republic of Texas' ambassador to the U.S.

He grew up in East Texas and captained Texas' strong Confederate regiment at the Battle of Chickamauga. Taken prisoner, he eventually moved to Fort Worth after the war, co-founding a newspaper and serving 20 years on the school board and 56 years as president of Fort Worth National Bank.

"Major" K.M. Van Zandt led Fort Worth National Bank for a half-century and also served on the school board. Fort Worth Star-Telegram Collection UT Arlington Special Collections

The "cottage," 2900 Crestline Road, was a rustic farmhouse remodeled after Van Zandt's death in 1930. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in the 1936 Frontier Centennial, a fair and exposition on Van Zandt's former farm, now the Cultural District.

(The late singer Townes Van Zandt was a great-great-nephew.)

"Major Van Zandt was 'Mr. Fort Worth' — we're delighted to have something about him," Harriman said.

A marker for Gen. H.P. "Hinchie" Mabry calls Fort Worth his home town, but he only lived here a few years late in life. Bud Kennedy bud@star-telegram.com

"General Mabry is not as well known."

(I can see why.)

The museum was assailed by Dallas critics as too pro-Confederate to provide accurate context for the Lee statue. The museum has an unofficial historical adviser, Abilene professor Donald S. Frazier, but is not overseen by historians or educators.

The museum wants to broaden its collection, Harriman said, and is acquiring the jacket and hat worn by a soldier in what was then called the U.S. Colored Troops. They preceded the frontier buffalo soldiers.

The museum did not install the Van Zandt and Mabry markers last winter because it was too cold to pour concrete, and now awaits a crew, she said.

The two markers are not listed in this week's updated report on Confederate symbols from the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center. The center reported that 31 symbols have been removed in Texas, more than in any other state, but that still leaves 209, second only to Virginia.

Subtract another two.

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