Archive for Thursday, May 31, 2007

151st for Battle of Black Jack

May 31, 2007

Although there won't be the same fanfare that graced the Black Jack Battlefield east of Baldwin City last year, organizers are still planning a good time Saturday for the 151st anniversary.

"We want to make it an event every year," said Tony Brown, vice president of the Black Jack board of trustees. "We want to keep it on people's minds. It's tours and a dinner for those interested in finding out more about that battle."

"That battle" occurred June 2, 1856 in an area known as Black Jack about two miles east and a half mile south of Baldwin City. It pitted an anti-slavery group led by the infamous John Brown against a pro-slavery group. Historians consider it the first armed skirmish of what would eventually turn into the Civil War.

Festivities start Saturday with Battlefield Tours conducted by Kerry Altenbernd at 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. At 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., there will be tours of the Black Jack Cabin by the Santa Fe Trail Historical Society. At 5:30 p.m. will be the "Grand Opening of the Black Jack Nature Trail" by the Native Plant Society.

The Campfire Supper and John Brown Ale will be served at 6 p.m. by Free State Brewery. A short program will follow that by Ramon Powers, president of the Black Jack Battlefield Trust.

"Good reasons to come are good food, music and beverages from Free State Brewery and the grand opening of the nature trail," said Dave Hill, another member of the Black Jack board.

Ticket prices are $12.50 in advance, $15 at the gate and $5 for children 12 and under. They are available at MidAmerica Bank and Baldwin City Chamber of Commerce office.

Brenda Day, another board member, said the observance is important and always will be.

"It's always a big deal to me," said Day, who also is director of Baker University's Old Castle Museum. "I never miss the sun coming up on the Pottawatomie Massacre (a precursor to Black Jack) and the Battle of Black Jack.

"It's always a fun event," she said. "Reflect on your freedom. Reflect on your country. Reflect on how we got where we are today."

She said there would be a number of artifacts on display, including a famous painting and bullets gathered from the battle, among others.

"We're going to have all those things on display," she said.

The Battlefield site is a work in progress. Aside from the new trail being opened Saturday, others are planned down the line. Plans also call to eventually restore the Robert Hall Pearson home. He fought in the battle and lived near the Battlefield for decades.

According to Brown, it's all about keeping the project moving.

"If we would wait until the 155th anniversary, five years would have passed," said Brown. "Another reason is this historical area. When it takes off, it's going to explode."

Brown is referring to the multi-county area in eastern Kansas referred to as "Bleeding Kansas" for its major role in developments in the country that led to the Civil War. There's been a historical designation of the area, along with western Missouri, and is likely to bring the area into the forefront of national heritage with parks and other history items.

It includes "that battle."

"It was an arm conflict," said Brown. "It was important. Because John Brown was involved, it was important."

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