Tallahassee, Florida ( -- One of the oldest historic markers in Tallahassee is gone, and it's a mystery why it happened.

ThePrince and Princess Murat marker, in the 400 block of East Call Street,disappeared sometime in the past few weeks. The Florida Department ofState, which oversees the state historic marker program, learned of thedisappearance Dec. 16 following a phone call from a newspaper reporter.

Thegreen-and-gold painted historic marker had perched on a small pole. Thepole remains... with a jagged cut where the heavy metal sign once sat.

BarbaraMattick, who oversees the historic marker program for the state Bureauof Historic Preservation, said it's not uncommon for historic markers tobe removed.

"Sometimesthey get hit (by vehicles), sometimes it's vandalism, sometimes peoplewho do not like the sign remove it," Mattick said. "I wonder if a limbfell and broke it off and the city carted it away. Often, when there isroad construction, the DOT removes the signs and forgets them. We learnmonths later they're in a warehouse."

MichelleBono, assistant to the Tallahassee city manager, checked with severalcity departments on Dec. 20; none had any knowledge of what happened tothe marker.

Thestate historic marker program began in 1960. The Murat marker waserected in 1969. At that time, it was the 11th historic marker in LeonCounty and 167th in the state.

There are now 36 historic markers in Leon County and more than 770 statewide.

TheMurat marker was outside St. John's Cemetery, just a few yards fromwhere the Murats are buried. Achille Murat, nephew of French emperorNapoleon Bonaparte, came to Tallahassee in 1825, shortly after the citywas founded. In 1826, he married Catherine Willis Murat, the greatgrandniece of George Washington. They lived on a plantation inneighboring Jefferson County.

PrinceMurat died in 1847; his wife died in 1867. Her Tallahassee home,Bellevue, then on Jackson Bluff Road, also received a historic marker in1969. The home and marker were later relocated to the TallahasseeMuseum, where they are on display.

The Call Street marker honoring the Murats was co-sponsored in 1969by the Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials and the FloridaSociety of Colonial Dames XVII Century. The board of parks and historicmemorials is defunct. The Society of Colonial Dames XVII Century, whosemembership is limited to descendants of families who came to Americabefore 1700, still exists and has several chapters in Florida, includingTallahassee.

When state officials learnedthe Murat memorial was gone, they contacted Mary Allen of West PalmBeach, chair of the society's historic markers committee. Allencontacted Beth Wilson of Jacksonville, the society's state regent.

Bothwomen said they were interested in sponsoring a replacement memorial,but would have to take it to their membership. Allen's next historicmarkers committee meeting is in January; Wilson's next state committeemeeting is in February.

A new marker would cost $2,130. State historic markers are overseen by the state but funded by private sponsors.

"I'mgoing to present it to (members) and tell them the importance of themarker and the history of the family," Allen said. "It's not a donedeal. But I'd be very interested in (replacing the marker)."

Wilsonsaid she wanted to consult the society's records; she wasn't sure theColonial Dames paid for the marker in 1969. But she agreed the markerneeds to be replaced.

"That's a very important marker," Wilson said. "I think there's a good chance we'd be willing to do something."

Matticksaid if the Colonial Dames weren't interested, other sponsors might befound - such as the French consulate in Miami or the sponsors ofFlorida's French Heritage Trail, an online map of Florida sites withFrench connections.

Matticksaid the state's historic markers are made by an Ohio company that hasmade them since the program began in 1960. New markers have to gothrough an application process, and replacement markers sometimes gothrough a review of the wording.

Matticksaid the Murat marker could be approved as quickly as sponsorship moneybecomes available. She said the company in Ohio generally produces newsigns in just a few weeks.

"Sometimeswe have to correct, expand or update information (on replacementmarkers)," she said. "But the text on this one looks fine. It's just amatter of sending (the order) to the company."

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