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  • Emery Compton

Black Jack Battlefield Gate Project- Written by Walt Hull

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

In 2010 Kate Dinneen and Walt Hull, working with the Black Jack Battlefield Trust, organized a hands-on design/build workshop to craft a decorative entrance gate for the Black Jack Battlefield site. They invited other blacksmiths from Kansas, Missouri, and elsewhere, including two Master Blacksmiths from Britain, Terrence Clark and Peter Parkinson to participate. High school aged students in Lawrence's Van GO JAMS program (Jobs in the Arts Make Sense) also took part.

In October of that year the project began with a visit to the historic site, including a presentation on its human and natural history. After the visit Terrence and Peter led a discussion on the design and construction of such gates and how one could be designed for the site. Participants then drew thumbnail sketches based on what they had learned from the site visit and discussions and reached a group consensus on a design which all could feel happy about, that was exciting, stunning, and attainable. Peter took the idea back to Britain with him and drew the design to be used to start the actual building of the gate which began with a work session in May of 2011. Several additional group work sessions followed, but the organization funding the project fell on hard times and the project seemed to be abandoned.

In July 2021 a blacksmith who had participated in the project visited the Battleground site during a trip to Kansas. He contacted Walt regarding the status of the project and Kate and Walt got in touch with the group currently overseeing the project and were able to get it moving again.

They reviewed the work that had been done and developed plans for the project's completion. The gate itself was basically completed and had been stored at Kate's workshop for several years. Some decorative elements remained to be forged as well as the gateposts and framework to install it. They scheduled a work session for mid-July 2022 and got in touch with fellow blacksmiths inviting them to participate in the project.

A group of around ten smiths met at Kate's shop and made good progress. After the large group session, the project was moved to Walt's shop and the work on the details was continued by smaller, more local, groups as time permitted. They were able to finish up the main leaves of the gate and have them powder coated in time to set them up for display at the Battlefield during Baldwin City's Maple Leaf Festival the weekend of October 15, 2022. After the gate display it was taken down and the gate stored. Walt and Kate then got together to review and plan the remaining work to be done. Another group work session or two will be needed and will be scheduled in early 2023 with the goal of having the gates installed in time for the Battlefield anniversary events in June of 2023.

PLEASE NOTE: All labor to build the gates has been donated by volunteer blacksmiths. However, the Black Jack Battlefield Trust has been funding materials and supplies, the cost of powder coating and site work. Donations to the Trust to support the project are very much appreciated. They may be sent to: PO Box 44, Baldwin City, KS 66006

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