The Cement Mill story in last week's edition of The Chronicle omitted some very important facts that I believe need addressing. The purchase of the historic Cement Mill property would never have occurred without the efforts of the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association Inc. (SBPA). In summary, SBPA was responsible for $255,000 of the funding for the purchase and responsible for the idea of purchasing the property.
SBPA successfully applied for the two $100,000 Transportation Enhancement grants that were given to the Jefferson County Commission (JCC) to purchase Civil War battlefield land. In order to receive the grants, SBPA was instrumental in obtaining the necessary $50,000 in matching funds from the Civil War Trust (CWT).
In May 2009, SBPA contacted the owner of the Cement Mill property who agreed to negotiate its sale only if the property would be preserved for historical and recreational purposes. On July 30, 2009, SBPA presented the idea to the JCC of using the $250,000 in funds to purchase the Cement Mill property. The CC unanimously approved the idea and further informally agreed that the $100,000 that CC had allocated several years before to purchase battlefield land might also be used.
In July 2010, the CC held a roundtable discussion with all interested parties regarding the purchase of the property. SBPA invited the Superintendent of the Antietam National Battlefield Park who stated his desire, after the County's purchase, to accept the property as part of the National Park. In order to pursue the purchase, the JCC organized a committee which included the County Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC). HLC decided to pursue the purchase.
The negotiations to buy the property were long and arduous and the HLC is to be congratulated for its unwavering effort to save the property. In the spring of 2011, several members of the JCC indicated that they would renege on their previous commitments to help in the purchase. A public hearing was held and the press reported that 40 residents attended the meeting, 19 spoke in favor of the purchase and only one spoke against the purchase. Despite hearing from the public, on June 23, 2011, the JCC voted 3 (Manuel, Pellish, and Noland) to 2 (Morgan and Widmyer) to rescind their initial commitment of $100,000 to help purchase the Cement Mill property.
However, through the efforts of the HLC more funding was found. The Save Historic Antietam Foundation donated $34,000, SBPA donated $5,000, and the CWT agreed to provide at least another $50,000. After negotiating a final price, the HLC needed $25,000 and Delegate John Doyle successfully requested that sum from West Virginia Governor Tomblin and the purchase closed on December 20, 2011. None of this could, or would have happened, without the tireless efforts of SBPA President Ed Dunleavy, the resolve of SBPA and its more than 100 dedicated members and supporters.