Blacksmiths will forge piece of history

Blacksmith Kate Dinneen, of Lawrence, works at Walt Hull’s shop in Pleasant Grove. Dinneen is putting together a workshop of blacksmiths to design a gate for the Black Jack Battlefield park east of Baldwin City.

Local blacksmith Kate Dinneen has been hammering red-hot rods of steel into leaf-shaped pieces of art to raise money for a gate at Black Jack Battlefield and Nature Park.

Dinneen pounds out a piece of hot metal at the blacksmith shop. She has been selling metal leaves to raise money, but hopes that fundraising will accelerate after a comprehensive design is decided on.

Blacksmith workshop

The blacksmith design workshop will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 9 and 10 in Lawrence and Baldwin City.

The workshop will include visits to Black Jack Battlefield, a presentation of the history of the site, time to draw individual designs and a group discussion on the designs created.

For more information contact Kate Dinneen at or at 841-6271.

The black leaves, which can sit in the palm of a hand, sell for $20 apiece.

This fall, Dinneen hopes to speed up the fundraising process by bringing together blacksmiths to help design a commemorative gate for the historic battlefield just east of Baldwin City.

“I’ve tried raising money without a design. I figured if we get the design, then I will have something concrete to show people,” Dinneen said. “And, we’d have a better idea of what it might cost to do.”

The intent is to install a gate that will act as a security measure, welcome mat and informative piece for people visiting the site that many historians consider to be the true first battlefield of the Civil War.

“This is really just a nice thing to do,” said Carol von Tersch, president of the Black Jack Battlefield Trust.

Dinneen, who works at Walt Hull’s blacksmith shop in Pleasant Grove, south of Lawrence, said blacksmiths from around the country are expected to attend her workshop, as well as student artists in the region. Students from Van Go Mobile Arts will assist Dinneen.

She envisions the piece being crafted by a community of artists. Leading the group will be internationally known English blacksmiths Peter Parkinson and Terrence Clark.

Both Parkinson and Clark have worked on community projects in England that earned recognition from the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths, a trade organization that dates to the Middle Ages.

Parkinson created a 10-foot-tall chicken that sits in a roundabout in Dorking, England. It’s a piece of artwork that has its own Facebook page for people who have climbed it.

And Clark was recognized for the International Pillar of Friendship, a 15-piece pillar that he completed with a team of blacksmiths from all over the world.

This won’t be the first time Dinneen has worked on a commemorative gate. She contributed a piece of metal work for a gate outside the modern-day Globe Theatre in London, the one of William Shakespeare fame.

“What we will decide during the workshop is what is important and what do we want the gate to symbolize and how exactly do we want the gate to look,” Dinneen said. “Along with the basics of, how do you put a gate into place like this.”

The designers will pull their ideas from a site that holds a rich history.

For centuries, nearby natural springs made the piece of land a favored camping spot for Native Americans and later people traveling along the Santa Fe Trail. Ruts from covered wagons can still be seen on the property

However, the site’s true fame comes from a 1856 battle between abolitionist John Brown and pro-slavery sympathizer Henry Clay Pate.

While no one died, historians view the gunfight as the first battle between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces.

“It’s really the first time we have people from either side of the issue shooting at each other. Before that it was a war of words,” local historian and Black Jack Battlefield Trust board member Karl Gridley said.

Whatever the blacksmiths design, Gridley hopes the gate will be a backdrop photographed many times by people who visit the battlefield.