Response to ‘Safeguarding American history in our backyard’
I’m a member of the Shepherdstown Community Club and past board member, as well as having served as the club’s secretary under three club presidents. As one fascinated by Shepherdstown’s history, I was pleased to read Diana Suttenfield’s guest column in the Nov. 29, 2019 of The Shepherdstown Chronicle.
Since my move to the area 19 years ago, I have collected every book I could find on local history, so Diana’s concern over distinguishing between Morgan Spring and its relationship to the Beeline March, and the separate property of Morgan’s Grove Park, is a concern I also hold. If misinformation is passed around long enough, it becomes the new “facts.”
From my readings of the history surrounding Morgan’s Grove Park and Morgan Spring, Diana confirmed what I have learned, and expanded my knowledge on two points. The first is the placement of the plaque by the U.S. Army in 1988 in Morgan’s Grove Park and not at Morgan Spring. She answered my question of whether or not they knew the exact location of the spring, since the plaque reads “near this site.” The second thing I learned from her column, was that the Shepherdstown Men’s Club voted in August 2003 to name the spring in the park “Boteler Spring,” to distinguish it from Morgan Spring. I have never heard anyone associated with the club mention that fact.
By the way, Diana wrote the two National Register of Historic Places nominations, with assistance from the WV State Historic Office staff. Her work led to both historic properties being added to the Federal Historic Register.
Where I disagree with Diana, is her assertion there is an intent (by unnamed sources, but the Shepherdstown Community Club is implied) to spread a false narrative, which seems to be focused on deleting Morgan Spring from history. She cites as an example the name “Beasley Spring,” rather than “Morgan Spring” appearing on Google Maps. I can assure everyone that the SCC had no part in how that happened! The club have no involvement with, nor influence over, Google.
There are a few reasons for the confusion over these two historic locations.
First, the fact that “Morgan” is in the park’s name invites confusion to anyone without knowledge of local history (no, I’m not suggesting a name change). Diana indicates why the name is incorporated in the park’s moniker, but she also points out the Morgan family never owned the land that has become the park. If “Boteler Park” or “Fountain Rock Park” had been chosen instead, would this confusion exist? I think not.
Secondly, when the club opted to name the park’s spring “Boteler Spring,” some sort of signage or plaque there would likely have stopped, or at least contributed to, easing the confusion. This measure could still take place.
Thirdly, if the plaque donated by the U.S. Army, which was mentioned in her column, had more specific language, rather than “near this sight,” but something like “at Morgan Spring located .5 miles from this site,” might have ended the confusion.
Finally, the fact that Morgan Spring is privately owned and not open to the public makes it essentially “out of sight, out of mind.” Ask the vast majority of local residents to tell you the location of Morgan Spring, and I’ll be you’d get blank stares or they’ll say “Morgan’s Grove Park.” It’s a shame the site of the beginning of the Beeline March, arguably Shepherdstown’s most significant historical contribution, is essentially hidden away. Hopefully someday that will change.
So, yes, there is and likely will continue to be misinformation surrounding Morgan Spring vis–vis Morgan’s Grove Park. Not by intent, but because of the four reasons I’ve cited.
To learn more about the Beeline March, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP1cttdsdZ4.
Don Davis, of Shepherdstown