Jack Neely files this report:
At the center of a years-long controversy concerning possible private development of the old Lowes Ferry site, also known as Stoney Point, off Northshore just east of Admiral Farragut Park, is a large stone monument denoting the birthplace of David Glasgow Farragut. It's been there for 111 years, until lately, that is. Sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution, the marker was installed in 1900 when a flotilla of riverboats bearing national press and dignitaries, chief among them naval hero Admiral George Dewey, steamed to the site from downtown Knoxville. For decades thereafter, the marker was easily accessible to people waiting for the old ferry, and in the late '40s was the subject of a national-park effort that apparently didn't work out.
Since the 1970s, it's been behind a fence, on formally private property. John Fitzgerald owned it then; after his death a few years ago, his widow and heir Lylan proposed to develop the peninsula without necessarily insuring public access to the birthplace and monument, though local officials had been hopeful about working something out, if only a walking
trail from the adjacent county park. During the Civil War sesquicentennial, it has been assumed that visitors would be interested in the birthplace of the nation's first admiral, who gave the order "Damn the torpedoes--Full speed ahead!" at Mobile Bay in 1864. Archaeologist Charles Faulkner has pleaded for permission to look into the property. The cabin, removed long ago, was unusual in Tennessee history in part because it was erected by a Spaniard, Farragut's father Jorge Farragut. (The fact that Admiral Farragut was born in West Knox County is the principal reason there's a community by that name.)
We got word Tuesday that the marker itself is missing. The owner's attorney, who told a reporter last year that the owner had no plans to bother the marker, told us he had not been in touch with the owner lately, and had not heard that the marker was gone.
It's a large rock, nearly the size of a buffet, and would require a bigger-than-average forklift to dislodge. If you see it, let us know.