By Dr. David Cox
Darke County Parks
June 2021, a turnaround date for Fort Jefferson Park. OHC hired Darke County Parks to manage the site. The new facelift started with the removal of the vandalized, hazardous, foul smelling 80-year-old outhouses. Trip hazards were removed from the abandoned well house, and the broken-down concrete ramp was replaced. A temporary nice porta john was then added to the well house frame. It is a convenient sensible location. The torn-up parking lot was repaved.
The wobbly picnic tables and benches at the shelter house were repaired. A stone was replaced at the monument and volunteers cleaned the brass plaque so it could be read again. Volunteers also cleaned the food tables at the barbeque pits of years of built-up lichen. Old signage was removed and new signs are pending approval. The Friends of Fort Jefferson purchased the 17-acre farm adjacent and just south of the State-owned Fort Jefferson Park. This farm was part of the original fort site. St. Clair’s army camped on this ground and twelve soldiers were killed while making hay on the property. If this ground were added to the present 6-acre park site, the current fence between the properties could then be removed and a noteworthy historic fort trail could be established on both properties. Modern signage could be placed. Most importantly a building maybe even similar to Mrs. Wilkinson’ house in the fort could be placed on the new property. That building could be an interpretive center as was Mr. Joe Beatty’s vision of a possible resource library, site museum, meeting room, and with an audio-visual area.
The Friends of Fort Jefferson are here to stay and watch over the fort site. They intend to have functions at the site. On Oct. 28-29 FOFJ are teaming up with “Wayne’s Legion Research Group” to do a metal detection survey south of the fence row. This survey will be done on the privately owned FOFJ property. Over the years, volunteer trees have invaded the farmland south of the fence. The trees have been removed, but not the tree roots. While the roots are being pulled, the archaeology survey will be done. We expect a lot of trash will be in the sod layer, but who knows what will be in the unexplored deeper ground. No doubt the usual musket balls, buttons, and buckles will turn up. There will be some surprises.
The public is invited to watch. A display of past artifacts found on private property around the fort will be at the shelter house. Original pictures of the fort and a model of the fort will be on display. The new Lewis and Clark book will be on sale for $8.00 or will be given free for anyone that wants to join Friends of Fort Jefferson with a $25 donation.
If you care to watch the dig, stay awhile and bring your own chair. Feel free to ask questions. We plan to have a porta john on site. Friends of Fort Jefferson will continue to post articles related to Fort Jefferson in the local newspapers. We have a lot of stories to share.
A special note here: It is illegal to Metal Detect the State-Owned Fort Jefferson property.