Archive for Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Park’s significance beneficial to Baldwin

September 18, 2002

Black Jack Park is a small fenced-in area that sits on a gravel road a few miles east of town. It's a neatly mowed section with a few picnic tables under a shelter and a grill.

But it's more than just a cute park for a picnic. Two monuments sit in the middle of section, one rather large that explains the significance of the area.

Some people are very familiar with the area's historical significance.

But Brenda Day is afraid not everyone knows just how important Black Jack Park is, not only to Baldwin, but to the United States.

"The park itself is a very small site just absolutely loaded with history," Day, director of the Old Castle Museum, said. "This was the first battle that engaged federal troops. It started the Civil War."

The park, which is formally known as the Robert Hall Pearson Park, marks the site of the first battle between free and slave states, which took place June 2, 1856.

Day said the battle of Black Jack, which was famous during its time, became the first battle of the Civil War.

She said she has several concerns about the Black Jack site, which is currently not on the state or national historic register.

"My biggest concern is it will be engulfed by houses," she said. "The development is my biggest concern. It's the encroachment on historical areas."

If development around Black Jack Park continues, Day is afraid the site will lose its historical atmosphere.

"You can't ignore it," she said of the development.

But she said she does have hope for the site.

"We are just now, in the mid-west, starting to recognize the historical treasures we have here," she said. "I think it's just now starting to gain the respect needed to protect the site."

She said Baldwin would benefit from having a well-kept, informative historical site.

Black Jack is a favorite stop for Civil War buffs and historical tours, she said, which is why she would like to see improvements made to the area, including better signage, new bathrooms and tours given by local residents.

"There are many economic benefits," Day said. "People are willing to spend money to come see these places. There's lots of economic reasons to pay attention to this."

Being placed on the state or national historic register would be beneficial to Black Jack Park, but another possible option, she said, is having a Battlefield Preservation group formed to care for the park, which is currently owned and maintained by Douglas County.

Day said the preservation of Black Jack Park won't necessarily be easy, but it's important.

"It seems like a little thing," she said, "but it's really a very big deal."

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