Archive for Thursday, April 6, 2006

More volunteers are needed

April 6, 2006

There's a need for Baldwin community volunteers again. Although the fire department is still looking for volunteers, there's another group that could use some help in preserving the rich history of the area.

Maybe risking life and limb in a burning building doesn't appeal to many, but perhaps a worthy cause that could eventually mean a steady stream of tourists to our community might be just as good of an answer.

The Black Jack Battlefield Park is slowly coming together just east of the city thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers who want to showcase the area where many believe the Civil War started. It was June 2, 1856 at dawn when the infamous abolitionist John Brown led a band of Free-State militia in an attack on the pro-slavery camp of Henry Clay Pate just east of Baldwin and south of what is now U.S. Highway 56.

The story goes that Pate had the better position and more men when the battle broke out, but he surrendered to Brown three hours later after an intense fight. It was the first known armed skirmish between pro- and anti-slave forces.

Although there have been monuments in the area for years marking the site, in 2003 two groups -- Friends of the Black Jack Battlefield and the Lawrence Preservation Alliance -- joined forces to purchase the 40-acre tract where the battle occurred. In 2004, the battlefield was placed on the National Register to recognize its historic significance.

Since then, the momentum has steadily built to turn the area into an eventual historic park with all the amenities to attract tourists to the area. That steam has kept rolling and every Saturday now, the group has a work day at the area. Volunteers are needed to help out with the effort as they aim toward the 150th anniversary of the famed battle on June 2.

There's much work to do in the area, which also includes the historic Robert Hall Pearson home. Pearson fought in the battle and later returned to buy land in the area and farmed there for years. The home, built in the 1880s, was placed on the Register of Historic Kansas Places in 2005. It will be restored to its original condition as part of the park.

Many Baldwin residents have been elected to the Black Jack Battlefield Board of Trustees in the past few years and the local momentum continues to grow as the impending deadline nears for the 150th celebration.

Contributions of all kinds are needed. But, what's needed most right now is the efforts of many volunteers to get the area ready for June 2. There are no obligations. The group works every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., weather permitting. Join them in helping to preserve -- and promote -- Baldwin's rich historical heritage.

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