Daughters of the Confederacy president hopes removed monument can still ‘tell a story’

The local president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy condemned the violence in Charlottesville, and said she hopes that a recently removed Kansas City monument will still be able to “tell a story and bring about some healing” — wherever it ends up.

After the protests and violence in Virginia, Confederate memorials across the country have become the center of a debate over whether the U.S. should continue to memorialize those who supported the South.

The local Confederate memorial at 55th Street and Ward Parkway was removed by the city on Friday. It was hit last week by graffiti. After an anonymous donor came forward to pay for the removal, the Daughters of the Confederacy agreed it should be put in a secure location.

The future of the local monument is still being determined, but the city says it will not be on public land.

“We’ll have to wait and see where the best location is,” said Trish Spencer, the president for the Independence chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Erected to the “Loyal Women of the Old South,” the memorial was a 1934 gift to the city by a local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Its purpose was to recognize the women who supported the Confederacy.

“(I have) a great deal of sadness that monuments have to be protected that way. There’s a lot to be learned on all sides from this and what we should and shouldn’t do in the future,” Spencer said.

“As far as what went on in Charlottesville, I think most UDC members are completely appalled that kind of savagery and hatred would be unleashed. It’s just wrong,” she said, referring to the protest by white supremacists in which counterprotester Heather Heyer was killed.

Although the Daughters of the Confederacy erected monuments across the country for decades to honor those who supported the South, Spencer said the group no longer focuses on them.

The Independence chapter primarily works on fundraising for local VA hospitals, women’s shelters and providing scholarships for students. They also have ongoing projects at cemeteries to identify graves of Confederate soldiers, and they send that information to the Jackson County Genealogical Society.

There are 14 chapters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy throughout Missouri, totaling about 300 members, Spencer said. The organization has been around in some form since the late 1800s.

The youngest member of the Independence chapter is 19 and the oldest is in her 90s, Spencer said.

The organization has evolved over the years.

“At that time, it was more philanthropic. Today we are a lineage society based on the proven connection to a Confederate veteran,” she said, noting that many members belong to multiple lineage societies like the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Spencer said that just because someone is a member of a lineage society doesn’t mean they agree with what happened or that the actions of people in the past were correct.

“They study it and what happened,” she said, noting there’s an Associated Daughters of Early American Witches society and a Hereditary Order of the Descendants of Loyalists and Patriots of the American Revolution that also exist.

Spencer, 70, started studying her genealogy when she was in her 20s.

She has several ancestors who were part of the Confederacy: Her great-great grandfather William Riley, who survived the war; another great-great grandfather who died from “congestive chill” after fighting at the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas; and several great uncles. Her father’s side, from the northeast, didn’t have any family members fight for the union.

“Our grandmother told us stories about her family… Tracking down her stories got us started and it snowballed.”

Kelsey Ryan: 816-234-4852, @kelsey_ryan