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Prairie D’Ane deed acquired

By Staff, 02/23/18 4:55 PM

ACQUISITION CEREMONY 025

PRESCOTT – Normally the passing of a deed doesn’t warrant much attention.

However, this wasn’t the case Friday afternoon as the Life Center at First Baptists Church was full, with more than 100 people on hand to witness the passing of the deed for 808 acres of the Prairie D’Ane Civil War Battlefield.

Paul Ridgell, president of the Nevada County Depot and Museum’s board of directors, welcomed everyone, recognizing special guests in the audience and giving special thanks to Kitty Sloan, who made the final donation for the property in honor of her uncle, John Teeter. Teeter began trying to get the land purchased in the 1970s, and now, almost 50 years later, his dream was realized.

In 2010, Ridgell said, a preservation plan, initiated by Mark Christ, the community outreach director for the Arkansas Historical Preservation Program, was done for three battles of the Camden Campaign. The plan was prepared by Mudpuppy and Waterdog, Inc. and funded by the National Park Service and the American Battlefield Protection Program.

In 2014, he continued, the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Prairie D’Ane was reenacted where the actual battle took place. Ridgell said 2015 brought Hancock Timber into the picture, offering to sell 464 acres of the Elkins Ferry battlefield. This deal was concluded in Aug. 2016, with Dr. Pat Hale offering to sell 808 acres of Prairie D’Ane at the acquisition ceremony. He donated $500,000, reducing the price of the land from $1.4 million to $900,000. Less than two years later, the remainder of the money was raised and the land purchased.

According to Ridgell, the next goal is to prepare both properties for interpretive tours and living history events. Archeological surveys and forestry management will be underway to restore these sites to a similar condition of 150 years ago.

Hale followed, introducing family members on hand for the event, saying his parents accumulated 1,300 acres originally, including the 808 acres sold. Hale told the audience he got most of the farm after his parents died, and first learned of the attempt to purchase it from Jeremy Dickerson after reading about the effort to acquire Elkins Ferry.

Stacy Hurst, with the Department of Arkansas Heritage, was next up, saying she not only loved history, but her department protects the best of Arkansas. “A lot of volunteer work helped make this happen, she said, “and a lot of people were involved.” Hurst added it’s important to recognize historic preservation ties into economic development.

Christ said he came here 24 years ago to try and get the process started and felt he may be run out of town on the rails, tarred and feathered. This, he told those gathered, was a grassroots effort and Hale’s donation made it possible. He continued, saying the effort made in Prescott and Nevada County to purchase these two Civil War battlefields has been recognized as one of the best such efforts in the nation.

However, he added, this is only the first step. Next will be to develop the sites as historic tour destinations.

Mike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), talked about how Prescott and Nevada County have a good relationship with the AEDC, and the efforts of the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Office were vital in keeping Firestone here along with the company adding 230 new jobs.

The AEDC donated $50,000 toward the purchase of the Prairie D’Ane property as tourism is a vital link in economic development. Preston said one new job is created for every 85 visitors to a community.

Events such as this, he said, are important to the state of Arkansas, adding again, how the AEDC has a great partnership with the local EDO. “This is a team effort, not done by one person. It was people getting together working for a common cause.”

As a history buff, Preston said he’s now learning about Arkansas history and can see where projects such as this will help make historic sites destinations for visitors to the area. “This is the first step of a long process. Tourism is economic development and is a huge part of our economy. I can see buses getting off I-30 for this. I know what an investment you have in this and am excited about the opportunity you have here. You were relentless in pulling this together.”

Dr. Carl Drexler, archeologist with Southern Arkansas University, talked about the survey done at Elkins Ferry, saying it was not like an ordinary archeological dig. Metal detectors, he said, were used and where artifacts were found, they were marked and dug up. The locations were plotted which allowed them to see where battles took place and how the units moved around. “This provides a link to the past.”

He said the Elkins Ferry project was a hard one because the area was wooded and prone to floods, but dozens of battlefield-related artifacts were found, many being on display at the event.

Judy Duke, curator of the Nevada County Depot and Museum, said she was nervous about this when it started last year, literally coming right on the heels of the Elkins Ferry purchase, but said the community was supportive and came together to make the purchase of Prairie D’Ane happen.

Mary Godwin, executive director of the Prescott-Nevada County EDO, said the EDO was heavily engaged in the project as tourism is economic development. This project, she added, has the potential to equal a new manufacturing facility.