Archive for Thursday, June 8, 2006

Area’s history comes alive with Black Jack

June 8, 2006

It was a long time coming and there was untold effort put into it, but this past weekend's 150th anniversary celebration of the Battle of Black Jack is something Baldwin City and the entire region can be proud of.

Friday marked those 150 years since the battle took place on June 2, 1856. It pitted John Brown's abolitionist forces against Missourian Henry Clay Pate's pro-slavery group. While many events led up to the skirmish, the shots fired just east of what would later become Baldwin 150 years ago lit the fuse to what eventually became the Civil War.

It happened right here.

While many long-time Baldwin residents were aware of it, we'd wager the majority didn't know or at least understand the battle's significance. We'd say the same about others in the region. As history continues to be probed and examined, lessons are still being learned. Now that "Bleeding Kansas" is a well-known part of the Civil War struggle, the area -- specifically northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri -- could be designated as historic areas. There's even a chance that the Black Jack Battlefield will become part of the National Park Service.

Wouldn't that be great?

That's an easy answer. Of course, yes. The best way to make that happen -- aside from lobbying in Washington, which area preservation societies are doing -- is just what's been going on at the site for years.

That's good old-fashioned work. What the Friends of the Battle of Black Jack and the Black Jack Trust have done at the site is amazing. The groups have had help from volunteers, but there's plenty more to do.

It only takes looking at the fabled Robert Hall Pearson home to know that. Pearson fought in the Battle of Black Jack. Years later, he returned, bought the land around the battle site and built a house. It still stands to this day. But, just barely.

We know the community is blessed with talented builders, painters and others -- both professionals and part-timers -- that could be a huge part of the answer. We also know its not regular work. It must be restored in true historical fashion. That can be a roadblock, but it's one that can be overcome.

There's much to do at the house and the rest of the area. Baldwin residents need to be a part of those efforts. Let's keep the momentum, and the work, going.

History will smile on those efforts.

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