June Newsletter: SCC Picnic & Slice of History

SHEPHERDSTOWN COMMUNITY CLUB PICNIC *
SATURDAY JUNE 13* MORGAN’S GROVE PARK

You are invited to the Shepherdstown Community Club’s picnic on Saturday, June 13 from 2-5 PM in Morgan’s Grove Park.

Potluck — bring a dish to share.

As part of the SCC’s 70th anniversary,  local historian, Jim Surkamp, will talk about the early history of the land that is now Morgan’s Grove Park.

ANOTHER SLICE OF SCC’S HISTORY

Founded in 1945 the Shepherdstown Community Club (originally the Men’s Club) purchased Morgan’s Grove Park in 1961 for $20,000, and this unusual arrangement of a town’s principal public park being owned by a non-profit has endured to this day.

From Morgan’s Spring near the park, what became known as the “Bee Line March to Cambridge,” originated on July 16, 1775. Commanded by Captain Hugh Stephenson, the company traveled 600 miles in only 24 days to join George Washington’s Continental Army in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This event contributed to the area being listed on the Department of Interior’s National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

Originally owned by Captain Richard Morgan, the property that includes the park eventually became owned by Alexander Boteler, a member of the U.S. Congress and a delegate to the Confederate Congress who served on Stonewall Jackson’s staff. The scene of several Civil War skirmishes and encampments of both Confederate and Union troops, Boteler’s home (known as Fountain Rock) was destroyed,  and the only remaining structure is the Spring House, which you can see and visit down the slope from the pavilion. The spring under the house is a major contributor to the Town Run which flows through Shepherdstown into the Potomac River.

Of the many events associated with this land, the property was the site for the annual Morgan’s Grove Fair from 1885 until the mid-1930s. Most notably it hosted the Democratic candidate for president, William Jennings Bryant, on September 6, 1900 where he regaled an audience estimated at 15,000 probably with his famous “Cross of Gold” speech.

The SCC in, collaboration with Jefferson County Parks & Recreation, now maintains the park. Major capital expenditures, such as new picnic tables , planting of new trees, or saving the ash trees are the SCC’s responsibility, while Parks & Recreation under contract with the SCC mows the grass and assists with other maintenance projects.

The challenges of finding financial resources and volunteers to maintain the 21 plus acres of the Park –  that includes a children’s playground, hiking trails, picnic pavilion, and soccer league fields –  has from time to time occasioned a discussion of whether the Club should continue to own the Park. Most recently in 2004 by one vote (48-47) the Club decided to continue to own the Park. This June 13, 2015 picnic is testimony to that decision and simply the most recent of innumerable events held in this historic space. Have a look at the several historic markers and labels about the Park while you enjoy the picnic.