“ Don't Tread On Me”
The Culpeper Minutemen organized in 1775 on the Catalpa Estate near Culpeper. These patriots organized to defend their freedoms from an overreaching and oppressive government. They are also remembered for their distinctive flag: a white banner featuring a rattlesnake poised to strike and the phrases “Liberty or Death” and “Don't Tread on Me”. This flag is springing up anew all over America today, again to inspire patriotic citizens to rally and defend themselves against loss of their liberties.
The original Minutemen would turn over in their graves today if they knew that the government they earned by bloodshed and handed down to the present generation has regressed to a non-representative overbearing body that actively works against private citizens. The Triplett family came to America through Jamestown in the 1600s and have a rich tradition of expending their blood, sweat and tears freely to develop Virginia, and especially Culpeper into a home to be proud of. From families like this came the spirit that was the Culpeper Minutemen. My grandfather Clifford Triplett, and then my father John Triplett have a long history of goodwill toward the community, very much in the proud tradition of those Revolutionary patriots.
In the early 1900s, Clifford Triplett purchased and developed the land that is the present site of the old Triplett Milling Company. Without compensation, as Culpeper grew, he donated the land that became today's Monticello Avenue. His son, my father, John Triplett continued the family legacy by expanding the business, providing local employment while generating millions of dollars in commerce for Culpeper, not to mention producing the top quality milling products vital locally and abroad. In time he became Culpeper's beloved “Banjo Man”, a familiar community figure.
Times have changed. Now the Culpeper Town Council has arbitrarily, unilaterally and indiscriminately decided to condemn the entire Triplett Milling Company property to demolition, a far cry from their originally stated purpose of identifying and correcting “safety issues” related to the property. The present owner, Gary Triplett, acknowledges the safety concerns, and has been actively involved in ongoing negotiations with the town planner to rectify the concerns; Mr. Triplett, however, feels the time has come to publicly describe the series of events leading to today's situation at the mill property, and to publicly respond to the actions of the town council in their treatment of a private citizen.
The Triplett Milling Company was originally located solely within the County of Culpeper, outside the boundaries of the Town of Culpeper. It had long been a working mill when the town annexed the area that extends approximately one mile west of Mountain Run, encompassing the mill property. This occurred in the 1960s, and by the 1990s, the relationship between the town and the Triplett family had deteriorated. In the 1990s, the town notified the family that town ordinance demanded a clean-up of the property. The town used this ordinance to bring in heavy equipment and remove pallets, drums of molasses, and other items sitting outside unattached to the building. John Triplett was dismayed at this theft of his assets in the name of clean-up, but felt himself too old to pursue the matter. Additionally, mill property was taken twice to allow for the widening of the Sperryville Pike. The second time, in the later 1990s, brought a new dispute over the property boundaries. The owner knew the property line as it had always existed, only to be told that, according to a survey done at the request of the town, the property line was one inch INSIDE the mill building on Monticello Avenue. The town claimed ownership of the land along Monticello Avenue including the exterior wall of the mill. (yes, the same land donated decades earlier by Clifford Triplett). The town claimed ownership of this area to suit their purpose at that time, and today does not acknowledge the fact. The net result to the Triplett family was a bill for the clean-up of the town's construction debris left on site, and a drastic loss of business due to the town's removal of the mill loading docks. The town also built a curb on the site, effectively cutting off access to the mill. In doing these things, the town eliminated any future possibility of business at this site, destroying the business without compensation to the family.
In the 1990s, property ownership changed from the aging John Triplett to his son Gary. As the present owner, Gary Triplett has also faced multiple struggles with the township over the property. There have been numerous break-ins at the property, with thousands of dollars of theft involved. These break-ins and associated vandalism have been reported repeatedly to the Town of Culpeper Police Department without any concerted effort at recovery of property or any arrests. These thefts continued, even to include the brazen theft of an irreplaceable classic car from the property. No serious attempt was made to locate this very unique car, and the owner's offer of pictures of the vehicle were declined by the Culpeper Police Department without explanation. Eventually the owner stopped reporting the thefts, as it was futile. The town's apathetic attitude toward this private citizen became apparent, and more safety hazards were created as a result of vandalism that has continued unabated at this property. Emboldened by the police department's inaction, these perpetrator(s) are still in business in the Culpeper area.
To bring us to today's situation: the town's recent complaint stated that there were “safety issues” with the property, as the roof started to come off the empty house facing the Sperryville Pike. Their stated goal was to address and correct the safety issues. An independent exploration was begun by the property owner to demolish the empty house and rehabilitate the mill building. When no interested investor was found, the thoughts of the owner turned to demolition of the portion of the mill building deemed unsafe, thus satisfying the town, while retaining a portion of the building for safe storage of the very unique and historical milling equipment still on site. A series of e-mails passed back and forth between the owner and town officials beginning in September of 2010. In these messages, the owner repeatedly expressed his desire to cooperate with the town in rectifying the safety issues, with the understanding and expectation of a well thought-out plan to respect the historical significance of the site.
It is the owner's firm belief that the township is violating his civil liberties by insisting today that the entire site be demolished. This is in no way necessary to remedy safety issues. The town states that demolition would even include removing intact concrete pads on this private property, which in no way can be construed to be a safety hazard. Other town residents should take warning: Is your driveway next? Mr. Triplett has been researching a private course of action to correct the safety issues, as should be the right of any citizen. He understands the concerns of his fellow citizens, but strongly feels the town is exceeding its authority in demanding he demolish his entire property, and replace it with a green space, all at his own expense.
Mr. Triplett has traveled to Culpeper on multiple occasions to address town officials with his suggestions and prepared statements in response to their actions. He was reluctantly given a maximum of 3 minutes to speak before the town planning board, and was totally disallowed free speech before the town council. A councilman stated that it is inappropriate for citizens to speak while the items on their agenda are under discussion. Mr. Triplett was denied the right to present his position, thereby denying his right to free speech, a right that should be protected by our governmental officials.
The nature of the ongoing e-mail correspondence changed abruptly at the time of the death of John Triplett earlier this year. On January 18th, the town planner forwarded a message to the owner stating condolences on the death of John Triplett while still requesting to work toward “cleaning up the site”. The planner requested a subsequent meeting. As a result of the town's impatience, the requested meeting never took place. On February 8th, another message received from the town planner stated that the town wanted to move forward to get bids to “demolish the unsafe structures and clean up the site”. Perhaps the Triplett family took too long in arranging their father's funeral and bringing in his children from out of town for the memorial service. What a way to dishonor the memory of John Triplett. While the family was in the grieving process, the town unilaterally went forward and lumped the property in as part of a package deal with two other local properties, and announced that the entire property must be demolished.
The owner's proposal as of today is still to cooperate in curing the safety issues. He is eager to work with an impartial third party who is unrelated to the town or any other governmental agency to identify and cure the safety issues. The town also must acknowledge and accept it's fiduciary responsibilities for past and future actions of it's portion of the property as well as any impact upon the Triplett portion. The town is welcome to be involved as an interested party, to insure that their ordinances are respected. Equally important, citizens' property rights must be respected.
Our ancestors were wise enough to know that liberty is fragile. To give an elite body the power to tax and spend can breed corruption and a government more interested in concentrating power for itself rather than in protecting the rights of citizens. Indeed, this body may attempt to exert dictatorial control over private matters. My personal plea is to ask the public for consideration of this matter and the potential impact YOU, the citizens, members of this community, may need to personally bear in the future. Do you agree that the resources of our town could be put to better use than in working against the people? As citizens we must remember to stand up together for the rule of law and fight for the same liberties we want to hand down to the next generation.
More photos here.....
See the town's actions just one year later....