Archive for Monday, September 5, 2005

Homestead gets historic status

Douglas County site recognized as significant example of housing from 1800s

September 5, 2005


The homestead of a Douglas County settler who fought in the Battle of Black Jack near Baldwin received a spot on the Register of Historic Kansas Places last week.

The Robert Hall Pearson Farm, 163 East 2000 Road, was accepted to the registry because the home on the property is a significant example of housing from the 1800s.

"When Robert Hall Pearson built the house in the 1880s, it was pretty typical," said Dale Nimz, a historic preservation consultant. "But now it's uncommon.

"There were many houses built during that time. But there are relatively few that have been preserved and are in good condition."

But Nimz said Pearson's farm doesn't just tell the story of a house. It reflects on the experiences of Pearson and life in the 1800s.

"He grew up experiencing a lot of things and traveling," he said. "As a mature man, he settled and became a relatively good farmer. In that way, we can kind of see the typical progression that many men made during that time period."

Born in 1828, Pearson's family moved to Pennsylvania from England when he was 4. He worked in Wisconsin, Missouri and Iowa. By 1851, Pearson went to the gold fields in California. He came to the Kansas Territory in 1854 when the area opened for settlement, Nimz said.

But Pearson joined John Brown and others in 1856 to fight slave state intruders in what became known as the Battle of Black Jack. The battlefield is located just outside Baldwin. Following his stint in the Union Army during the Civil War, Pearson returned to the Baldwin area and purchased land by the battlefield. He farmed and raised cattle.

"In the 1880s, he built a house that overlooks the site that is presumed to be the battlefield of Black Jack," Nimz said. "What's the interesting thing to me is why did he come back to that spot? Was it a coincidence? It could have been. Was it that he could look out his window and imagine being in that battle? Maybe. But he didn't provide any reasoning."

Pearson lived in the home until he died in 1906.

Folks involved with the Black Jack Battlefield Trust hope to someday have the Robert Hall Pearson Farm nominated and placed on the National Register of Historic Places, along with the battlefield.

"I think this site has been a sleeper in Kansas for decades and people haven't paid attention to it," said Carol von Tersch, a trustee of the Black Jack Battlefield Trust.

She said the farmstead site along with the battlefield provide a great educational opportunity. The battlefield provides insight into the Civil War while the farmstead gives the opportunity to see how people lived during the mid-to-late 1800s.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.