Spanish Fort park director offers to save Confederate landmark by moving it
By Brendan Kirby
February 09, 2010
The notable meeting at the Magee Farm saw General Richard Taylor and General E.R.S. Canby agree to a cease fire prior to the surrender of the last organized Confederate forces east of the Mississippi. The farm may have to close its doors due to poor attendance. The director of Historic Blakeley State Park in Spanish Fort has offered to pay to relocate the financially troubled Magee farmhouse in an effort to preserve the 19th century landmark.
Ben George, who co-owns the Magee property in the Kushla community north of Mobile, said he was open to any idea that could preserve the house where Union and Confederate generals negotiated the surrender of Southern forces east of the Mississippi River at the close of the Civil War.
But he said any arrangement would have to include money to pay off the mortgage, which he said is more than $200,000.
That could be a deal-breaker, said Jo Ann Flirt, the director of Blakeley.
She told a group of Press-Register reporters and editors last week that she is confident that the park can find funds to move the Magee house to Blakeley. "We do not have the money, and would not attempt to get the money, to purchase it," she said.
Flirt estimated the cost of moving the farmhouse at $75,000 to $100,000. George said his best guess is that it would be far more costly — perhaps as much as $2 million.
"It would be a huge expense to disassemble this house and move it," he said.
George said he welcomes any possibilities to save the house, however.
"Our goal is to preserve this history," he said.
Built in 1848 by Jacob Magee, the two-story wood-frame house was the scene of negotiations between Union Gen. E.R.S. Canby and Confederate Gen. Richard Taylor a few weeks after the North won the Battle of Blakeley on April 9, 1865, at the spot where Blakeley Park now sits.
Occurring hours after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Blakeley was the last major battle of the Civil War east of the Mississippi. The actual surrender took place in Citronelle a few days after the Magee meeting.
Flirt said that the Union forces brought a band to Magee that started to strike up "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." The Northern general quickly cut the musicians off, ordering them to play "Dixie" instead, she said.
"That was a very colorful meeting," she said.
The home today features some of the original furnishings and hundreds of Civil War relics. But George said funding from the Mobile County Commission has not been sufficient to keep the home and museum open.
Although the Magee property was intended to be owned by a charity, he said, the bank required him and another man to sign the mortgage.
"In our community and a lot of others, history is not a priority," said George, a Saraland veterinarian. "We’ve lost so much of our history. … It’s an indictment of our community."
Mobile County Commission President Mike Dean, who has spoken with Flirt, said he supports her offer but does not envision a funding role for the county.
Flirt said that Blakeley would display the house on its 2,000-acre property and give period-style tours of its rooms.
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