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A Message From Our President


January 31, 2017

 

It is hard to imagine topping the achievements realized during the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Natural Bridge in 2015 with the unveiling of the refurbished battlefield monument. But 2016 represents another banner year for the Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park and the NBHS-CSO. On October 25, 2016, Governor Rick Scott and the Cabinet agreed to purchase the 11,027 acre Horn Spring property representing the largest Florida Forever acquisition since 2006. In addition to protecting numerous springs and valuable water resources in the area, the importance of the acquisition to us is that the southern portion will be added to the State Park and be managed by the Florida Park Service. With this addition, the original battlefield and its approaches are now protected State lands. The NBHS-CSO has worked and waited diligently to see this acquisition come to fruition and now looks eagerly forward to working with our partners at the Park Service to expand the educational, interpretational, and recreational aspects of the Park. On March 3, 4 & 5, 2017, the NBHS-CSO will host the 40th annual reenactment and 152nd anniversary of the Battle of Natural Bridge. As is customary, local schools will be provided with educational tours of the Park and reenactment encampments on Friday March 3rd. On Saturday and Sunday, the Park and encampments will be open to the public. Full scale reenactments of the battle will take place on both days. We are fortunate to have again received Visit Florida and Visit Tallahassee grants to advertise and promote the 2017 reenactment. We also are very grateful to the Magnolia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society for providing funds to plant over 36 native yaupon hollies and wax myrtles along the edge of the reenactment field which will help mask the reenactor parking area from view during the battle reenactments. The NBHS-CSO has also purchased and installed 5 new sets of bleachers which will vastly expand seating availability for our visitors. We also purchased a new dual-use public address system to assist with communications both during the reenactment and at the Ladies Tea/Ball tent. As you know, the annual battle reenactment is the major fund raising event for the NBHS-CSO. Proceeds from public admission donations provide a large part of the funds needed to support the event (insurance, porta-lets, fire wood, hay, etc.) and pursue program services such as those described above. Membership dues are also essential to cover administrative costs and support program services. Please take this opportunity to renew your membership for the upcoming year and also please invite other friends and family to join us in our efforts to preserve and promote the historical, cultural, and recreational value of the Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park. We wish you and yours a Happy New Year. Thank you for your continued support.


March 5 & 6, 2016 151st Anniversary

 

2015 – An exceptional year!

At the March 2015 reenactment we commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Natural Bridge with the unveiling and dedication of the new eagle sculpture atop the battlefield monument. With the installation of the new eagle coupled with earlier masonry repairs, the NBHS has realized one of its primary goals. The CSO provided over $9,500 toward the complete restoration of this important historic monument. Many thanks to our CSO members and other individuals who made donations during our fund raising drives and special thanks to the generous support we received from the Anna Jackson Chapter #224 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and Leon Lodge #5, International Order of Odd Fellows.

During the summer and throughout the fall, the CSO worked with Dr. William Lees of the Division of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of West Florida (UWF) to conduct a metal detecting survey of areas of the battlefield recently acquired by the state. The primary areas of interest were a more extensive survey of the 55 acre Rakestraw property which was initially surveyed under a CSO grant from the State in 2009 and an additional 55 acres on the east side of the St.Marks river known as part of the Gerrell Plantation. During four separate weeks of investigation, CSO members with metal detecting experience worked under the supervision of Dr. Lees and a team of student archaeologist lead by Janine Johnston, a Master’s Degree candidate. Other members of the CSO also performed kitchen duty, preparing lunches to enable the volunteers to remain on site throughout the digs. The result of these efforts were phenomenal; over 900 artifacts relating to the battle were uncovered, the majority of which were small arms and artillery shot, shell, and shell fragments. These will be cleaned, preserved, identified, and cataloged at UWF then returned to the Park Service for future public display. In addition, a map of the location of each artifact will be developed which will provide significant insight into the scope and magnitude of the battle.

As we prepare for the upcoming year, the NBHS-CSO has again received a grant from Visit Florida to advertise and promote the 2016 reenactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge. We will be running radio and newsprint ads regionally prior to the event and will have electronic bill boards this year in Ocala, Mobile, and here in Tallahassee. And as usual, look for our road sign at the Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad State Trail (bike trail) on the Woodville Highway. The date for this year’s reenactment is March 5 & 6, 2016, so please plan on coming down to the Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park and enjoy.

On a sad note, we are sorrowed by the passing in November of one our own, Colonel Don Bowman. Don was one of a handful of reenactors that participated in the very first reenactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge in 1978. He went on to become instrumental in the growth and development of the hobby in Florida. He was widely respected for his love of history and his unswerving devotion to the men of his command. He will be sorely missed.

In closing, thank you for your continued support. Nothing can be accomplished without it.


March 7 & 8, 2015 Sesquicentennial

 

Well it’s here – the Sesquicentennial (150th) Anniversary and 38th Annual Reenactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge will be held on the weekend of March 7 & 8, 2015. We have big plans for this year’s event including more reenactors taking the field, an expanded civilian camp, additional period merchants, music by the Shut Yer Trapp Family Band, and authentic glass plate photography by renown Civil War photographer, Windall Decker. And, as usual, we’ll have period military and medical demonstrations, historical orators, civilian activities including a Ladies Tea Saturday afternoon, and a tent dance Saturday night with music provided by the Panhandle String Band. Food services will again be provided by the Tallahassee Elks Lodge.

In addition, the weekend will be highlighted by the unveiling of the new eagle sculpture for the battlefield monument on Sunday, March 8. The restoration of the eagle has been a long and arduous process. The original eagle sculpture, which had been vandalized by gunfire and patched and repatched over a 50 year period, was removed for restoration in 2011 but determined to be unrepairable. The Florida Park Service and the Department of State’s Bureau of Archaeological Research partnered with the University of South Florida’s Alliance for Integrated Spatial Technologies to use laser scanning to create a 3D computer model of the eagle to be used to create a mold for a replica brass foundry casting. After the initial computer modeling, the remaining work languished due to lack of funding - the total cost being in excess of $30,000. Through the persistent efforts of the Park Service and the NBHS-CSO, the required funds were budgeted this year with the CSO providing $7,500 of the required amount. Many thanks to CSO members and other individuals who made donations during our special fund raising drive last year and special thanks to the generous support we received from the Anna Jackson Chapter #224 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and Leon Lodge #5, International Order of Odd Fellows.

Also in preparation for the sesquicentennial event, the NBHS-CSO received local and state grant funding from Visit Tallahassee and Visit Florida to promote this year’s event. We will be placing ads for the event in several local and national publications. New road-side signage has been made which will be erected at the trailhead of the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail (bike trail) on the Woodville Highway. We also have had new posters printed which will be distributed to local businesses for display. And finally, professional quality flyers for the NBHS were printed. Special thanks to Harry and David Bosman at the UPS Store at Capital Circle and the Crawfordville Highway for their help putting these materials together for us.

Finally, we couldn’t have accomplished any of this without the support of our members. We salute you and appreciate your continued support. The annual meeting of the NBHS will be held on Saturday March 7th at 5:00 P.M. at the Park but keep checking the website at www.nbhscso.com for any changes. Please plan to join us for the one-and-only Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Battle of Natural Bridge.


April 2013

 

This past year was an exciting one for the Natural Bridge Historical Society. Most recently we welcomed Jim Willenbrink as our newest board member. We also want to welcome our new Park Manager, Rob Lacey, who comes to us from McClay Gardens where was the Assistant Park Manager. Rob is young and full of energy which is revitalizing everyone's hopes for our park. This year at the Battle of Natural Bridge reenactor registration was handled entirely by the Park Service. I hate to admit it, but I believe they did a better job of getting the required information and signatures than we have in the past. Our hats are off to Rob and all the Park Service staff for all of the hard work they completed before, during, and after the event.


As you may know, the annual reenactment in March is the major fund raiser for the NBHS. Donations from the public at the gate as well as from corporate and club sponsors pay for event expenses. Any remainder is used to support the CSO's projects and goals.  While this year's battle reenactment went very smoothly, we were disappointed in the number of park visitors. Last year's severe thunder storms on Saturday and this year's cold weather appear to have kept the number of visitors down. We hope this trend will not continue and are doing everything we can to continue to improve the quality of the event. This year, both the Saturday and Sunday battles were held on the additional property acquired by the State in 2009 as part of our mutual goal of expanding State owneship of the original battlefield. This free up some additional space for reenactor camping and will allow us to increase the number of reenactors participating in the event for all future years. We have already received commitments from two additional companies to start attending the event next year.

And, with the approach of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Natural Bridge in 2015, plans are underway to ensure that the sesquicentennial reenactment is the best ever. We are studying designs for a commemorative pin or medal as well as special advertising options. Plans are also underway to recreate the Union march from the St. Marks Lighthouse to the battlefield. Drew Bell of the Leon Rifles and a CSO Board member is spearheading the effort to obtain permission from landowners to use the same trails used by the federal troops in 1865.

On other fronts, restoration and return of the eagle to the battlefield monument continues to be a top priority. 



we tried to acquire an iron fence for the monument.  After many unsuccessful attempts to force the company in Texas that we contracted with to complete and deliver the fence we have written off the fence and returned the donation by the UDC. We have had some materials donated to the park which may allow them to complete the project on their own.



 Restoring the Eagle and returning it to the monument is also a goal for the 150th. Rob has promised to do all that he can to have an eagle on the monument by the 150th.

We have offered our service to Rob Lacey to help make the Rakestraw house ADA compliant and to assist in building a permanent bridge across the old logging canal. We are looking forward to suggestions from the Park Service as to how we may be able to assist the.  We are also contacting the owners of the two acre parcel that touches the NW corner of the park. We have offered to buy the land in the past, but they were not willing to sell at that time.


March 3 & 4, 2012

 

Rained on Saturday but had a beautiful Sunday for the 147th Annual Reenactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge.

Work repairing the mortar joints on the Natural Bridge Battlefield monument have been completed. The eagle atop the monument has been temporarily removed and is being restored by the State.

Please welcome our new directors Ed Buist and Drew Bell to the NBHS Board of Directors.


January 2012

 

January 31, 2012 Dear Member: Thank you for your continued support of the Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park. As we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War (1861-1865 ~~ 2011-2015), planning has begun for the annual re-enactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge which will be held on March 3 & 4, 2012. While this will only be the 147th anniversary of the battle, we expect this year’s event will set the stage for the upcoming 150th celebration. After many years of effort to expand State ownership, and hence protection, of the original battlefield, this year’s reenactment will take place entirely on the Rakestraw property which was purchased by the State in 2009. We will still have planned activities located on the original park grounds (i.e., living history demonstrations, period merchants, and food vendor), but use of the new property will enable us to expand the battle reenactments on Saturday and Sunday and provide a much more lively scenario. We also hope to increase reenactor attendance by providing additional space for the period camps. All-in-all, we are working toward making the Battle of Natural Bridge one of the premier reenacting events in North Florida. The NBHS-CSO has also made significant strides this past year toward our long term goals. Work has been completed on refurbishing the masonry joints on the stone monument, which had been showing significant signs of decay since its original construction in the 1920’s. The eagle atop the monument has also been removed and is currently undergoing restoration by the Division of Historic Resources, Florida Department of State. Plans also continue for the installation of a wrought iron fence around the monument in the fashion of one that existed at the park in the 1960’s. In addition, the State recently announced the successful acquisition of sections of the Gerrall Plantation which will expand the southeastern edge of the park all the way to the St. Marks River run. We wish to acknowledge the dedication of our members such as Ed Buist who provided oversight of the masonry repairs and the ladies of the Anna Jackson Chapter of the UDC for both financial and overall moral support of these projects. Last, but not least, thanks to all the Park Service staff for their cooperation and assistance. When you next visit the Park, make sure to give a hearty slap on the back to Mark Stevenson and Brian Keeffer, the two park rangers who managed to physically wrest the eagle from its perch without dropping it. In closing, it continues to be a joy working with such dedicated state employees and volunteers. I encourage more of you to take an active part in your CSO. Please take the time to renew your membership. Annual membership dues continue to support the day-to-day expenses and long term project goals of the NBHS, Inc. Also, if you are willing and able to help out at this year’s reenactment, even for just a few hours, please contact Bob Trapp at (850) 222-6192 or email btrapp@nbhscso.com Thank you again for your continued support. Sincerely, William “Buzz” Gifford, President


May 2011

 

Tuesday May 17, 2011 – Today the Governor and Cabinet approved the purchase of a 55-acre addition to the Natural Bridge Battlefield State Park. The purchase of the Gerrell Plantation represents another important step toward protecting the second largest Civil War battle in Florida. The Gerrell property lies on the eastern edge of the battlefield and was used as an approach and retreat route by the Union 2nd and 99th USCT regiments. Buzz Gifford and Bob Trapp of the NBHS.Inc. attended the meeting of the Cabinet Aides to answer questions and support the acquisition. The Civil War Trust (CWT) also fully supports the purchase and has offered to pay up to $20,000 of the closing costs for the property.

AND IN OTHER NEWS FOR THE DAY.

The Museum of Florida History presents Emancipation Day Celebration at The Knott House Museum Corner of Park Avenue and Calhoun Street Tallahassee, Florida Friday, May 20, 2011

For more information about the day’s events: 850.922.2459

Portions of the total program include,

Friday, May 20

10:45 a.m. Riley House Museum Civil War Grave Decorating Commemorative Service at the Old City Cemetery on M. L. King Street between Park Avenue and Call Street. Reservations are not required.

Sunday, May 22

12:30—4:30 p.m. Tallahassee Museum Bellevue Plantation; tour the exhibit, The Plantation Communities. Request free admission as part of Emancipation Week festivities.


Spring 2011

 

Another exciting year for the Natural Bridge Historical Society, Inc. (NBHS), Citizen Support Organization (CSO), in our continued efforts to preserve, enhance, and promote the Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park. As you know, following the purchase of the Rakestraw property by the State in February, 2009, the NBHS applied for and received a $25,000 grant from the Florida Department of State, Division of Historic Resources to conduct a Phase I Archaeological Survey of the new property. After navigating a number of bureaucratic hurdles, the CSO retained the services of the archaeological firm, Environmental Services, Inc (ESI). With the help of NBHS member volunteers, hundreds of pre-historic and battle related artifacts were recovered documenting this area as the heart of the battlefield. The primary “dig” was conducted in early December, 2009 with a follow-up in May 2010. ESI’s final report has now been delivered and the artifacts have been identified, catalogued and turned over to the State of Florida. The ESI final report will serve as the basis for our future efforts to interpret the Battlefield. On May 7, 2010 the NBHS was awarded the Stewards of Heritage Preservation Award by the Florida Archaeological Society.

At the August 7, 2010 summer meeting of the NBHS, Inc. Board of Directors minutes from a Park Planning meeting were handed out describing “next steps” toward developing an interpretive plan for the Park. The Rakestraw House was determined to be a useful structure to house educational programs that can be run by Park staff or volunteers. We were told that Park Planning will organize an on-site meeting to help determine points of interest for guided tours and to develop an interpretive plan for the Park. The CSO expressed its desire to be part of that planning process and submitted a proposed map for an interpretive trail through the Rakestraw property for consideration by the Park Service based on information from the ESI Phase I Archaeological Survey report.

. In October, 2010, District I staff informed the CSO of an $80,000 grant opportunity for fiscal year 2011 offered by the National Park Service. The CSO contacted Ms. Kristen McMasters, Grant Manager for the American Battlefield Protection Program, and determined that the Natural Bridge Battlefield qualified for two types of grants: land acquisition and planning. Applications for the planning grant were due by January 13, 2011. The CSO recommended and began working with the Park Service on a grant application to be submitted for the development of an interpretive plan for the Natural Bridge Battlefield. Authorization was given by District I management to prepare and submit a grant application. However, in December, we were informed that there was not sufficient time for the Park Service to develop and review a grant proposal. To the extent that similar grant opportunities exist for fiscal year 2012, the CSO strongly recommends that they be pursued and stands ready to provide volunteer assistance in the preparation and timely submission of a grant application. However, the Park Service must provide the necessary guidance, leadership, and management of such efforts.

During 2010, at the request of the Park Service, the CSO Board agreed to address the issue of handicapped access to the Rakestraw house. In order for the Rakestraw house to serve as an educational center for the Battlefield, it must be ADA compliant. We were advised that this is the next step in being able to open the house to the public. Concerns were raised about the Park Service’s suggestion to build a wooden access ramp because of the height and distance requirements of such a structure. It was decided that an electrical-mechanical lift providing unobstructed access from a handicapped parking space on the concrete drive to the back door inside the garage would be more appropriate. On November 10, 2010 at 3:22 P.M. an ADA certified lift from the American Medical Supply Company funded by the CSO at a cost of $3999 was delivered to the Rakestraw house and awaits installation.

In the area of public outreach, the CSO has made considerable progress in reaching out to other historically oriented organizations in the Tallahassee area. In 2009, the NBHS entered into a Memorandum of Understanding and Mutual Support (MOU) with the John G. Riley Center/Museum of African American History. Representatives from the Riley Museum were invited and set up an informational booth at the 2010 reenactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge and participated in the speakers program during the event. In addition, members of the NBHS have been working with the Riley Museum to raise and instruct an African American reenacting unit to participate in the annual reenactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge. The NBHS, Inc. has also recently entered into an MOU with the Tallahassee Historical Society and will be working with that organization to enhance public awareness of the importance of the Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park. Working together with these two well-established organizations will greatly enhance our ability to provide historical accuracy to our public education activities.

The NBHS has also established strong ties with the Anna Jackson Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). During 2010, UDC volunteers again provided invaluable assistance with CSO fund raising activities at the reenactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge. Most recently, the UDC has pledged $2,000 toward the erection of a protective fence around the stone monument at the Natural Bridge Battlefield which is currently being pursued by the CSO in concert with masonry repairs to the monument.

Fundraising to support CSO projects continues to be a challenge during these uncertain economic times. Our primary source of funds continues to be derived from the annual reenactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge. Where expenses for this event were once entirely paid for by the State, State funding for this event has all but disappeared. Current funding for the event now comes from donations from the public attending the event, corporate donations, and, to a lesser extent, the sale of T-shirts and medals at the event. After paying for event expenses, remaining funds become available to support CSO projects and program functions. Membership dues are also collected but are primarily used to support the CSO website, insurance, and other expenses. During 2010, we again received support from the Tallahassee Elks Lodge #937 who provided food services at the reenactment with a portion of their proceeds donated to the CSO. We also received significant support from the Leon Lodge No 5 International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) as well as other smaller donations from some of the local businesses. However, with the change in ownership of the Wakulla Bank, we lost one of our major contributors.

As such, the CSO continues to place emphasis on maintaining and improving the quality of the annual reenactment. We take pride in the fact that our event is known as “fun and family friendly” within the reenactor and living history communities and that we continue to receive positive feedback from the public. With the State’s purchase of the Rakestraw property, plans began in 2009 and into 2010 to expand the reenactment onto the new property. At the 2010 summer meeting of the CSO Board of Directors, we received permission to conduct the Saturday skirmish on the Rakestraw property during the 2011 reenactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge. On March 5, 2011, for the first time in 146 years, Confederate and Union combatants formed for battle on the Rakestraw property. Also, for only the second time since the Battle of Natural Bridge has been reenacted, African American troops representing the 2nd Regiment U.S.C.T. participated in the skirmish. The public present to witness this historic occasion were congenially greeted and escorted to the comfort of bench seating erected in advance by the Park Service staff. Persons with special needs were provided motorized transportation to and from the viewing area. The planning for and execution of this first reenactment on the new Rakestraw property was flawless. Enough can not be said for the considerable effort made by the Tallahassee-St. Marks Administration staff, volunteers, and living historians that worked so hard to bring this to fruition. We look forward to continuing to work with the Park staff to make the Battle of Natural Bridge one of the premier Civil War events in Florida.

In closing, the NBHS reaffirms our dedication and support of the Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park. We look forward to continuing our mission to preserve and promote the historical, cultural, and recreational aspects of the Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park.

Sincerely,

Mark Rominger, Past President 2009-2010

William F. (Buzz) Gifford, President


May 2010

2010-05-07 NBHS Preservation Award.JPG

President Mark Rominger and Vice President Buzz Gifford holding Stewards of Heritage Preservation Award presented to the NBHS,Inc. on May 7, 2010 by the Florida Archaeological Society.


September 2009

 

We recently had our 10-year anniversary. Formed to help protect and preserve the Natural Bridge Battlefield, a core group of members have tirelessly toiled for many years to raise money and find ways to purchase or acquire more of the actual battlefield. These efforts however made only very modest progress.

There’s a saying, that timing is everything. In early 2008 things began to change. First, we reinvigorated and changed the Board of Directors. Next, we partnered with the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), the largest most respected civil war focused not-for-profit in the country. The CWPT listed Natural Bridge in their literature as one of the 10 most endangered battlefields in the country. With this new ammunition, several of us on the Board began to work anew behind the scenes to get the State to take a “fresh” look at the possible purchase of the Rakestraw property.

Then, with the assistance of the Florida Park Service (FPS), several of us on the Board began to attend state meetings on the purchase of the Rakestraw property. In November 2008 the land purchase details were worked out by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), with support from the CWPT. Nearly everything we had hoped for was finally coming to fruition but, we had to wait until the spring of 2009 before the land was finally acquired.

In June 2009 as recognition for all our efforts, the CWPT bestowed on the NBHS the prestigious 2009 Brian Pohanka award for Best Preservation Group of the Year.

Now the real work is just beginning. The FPS has guided us through the application process for a grant to pay for a phase I archaeological survey of the property, which must be conducted. The grant was approved for $25,000 and the work is tentatively scheduled to begin this fall. We now need your participation more than ever. Part of the grant is based on using NBHS members to help with the archaeological work. We need to increase our membership and any active dues paying member can actually participate alongside the archaeologists exploring and excavating the property.

In closing, I want to thank all the NBHS members for their support over the years. A special thanks to:

• Bob Trapp - Secretary/Treasurer for all his administrative / financial work and negotiations with the Elks;

• Buzz Gifford - Vice President for his outstanding help with grants and contracts;

• John Boger - Director for getting the NBHS website going. You should take time and visit the website at www.nbhscso.com

• Sharon Brewer – Director who has been most helpful and made herself available for business;

• Chris Ellrich NBHS Member who has been meeting with the Riley House Museum and is near having a memorandum of understanding (MOU) and working agreement with them.

We need your participation NOW more than ever! I challenge you to bring in new members from your friends, neighbors and people of like minds interested in preservation of history. I look forward to seeing more of you in the months to come as we work on NBHS issues together.

Mark Rominger - President


June 2009

   

Mark and award small size.JPG

The Natural Bridge Historical Society,Inc. was honored Saturday June 6, 2009 in Gettysburg, Pa., where it received the prestigious 2009 Brian C. Pohanka Preservation Organization of the Year Award by the Civil War Preservation Trust. The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) is America's largest non-profit organization devoted to the preservation of our nation's endangered Civil War battlefields. The Trust also promotes educational programs and heritage tourism initiatives to inform the public of the war's history and the fundamental conflicts that sparked it. The award is being presented for the work the NBHS did to encourage the State of Florida to purchase the Rakestraw property. This land acquisition added 55 acres of the original battlefield to the Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park. The award was accepted by CSO President Mark Rominger, who stated: “The receipt of this award and the national recognition it brings represents a significant milestone in our continuing efforts to acquire, preserve, and protect all of the Natural Bridge Battlefield, Florida’s 2nd largest Civil War battle site”.


February 2009

 

The long effort to preserve the most important Civil War site in the Big Bend climaxed Thursday with the state purchase of 55 acres of the Natural Bridge Battlefield in southern Leon County. The state Department of Environmental Protection agreed to buy the site last November, using funding from the Florida Forever trust for environmentally sensitive lands. On Thursday, the DEP closed on the property, paying $3.4 million to the Rakestraw family, the long time owners.


November 2008

 

NEWS FLASH - The Natural Bridge Historical Society, Inc. (NBHS) is excited to announce that on Thursday November 20, Governor Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet approved the purchase of the Rakestraw property where the most intense fighting occurred during the Civil War Battle of Natural Bridge. The addition of these 54 acres of the original battlefield greatly expand the current Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park protected by the State. The NBHS, a Citizen Support Organization (CSO), was instrumental in having this property recognized nationally as one of the 10 most endangered Civil War sites by the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT). Together, the NBHS and CWPT helped make State officials understand the importance of acquiring and protecting the battlefield from future residential development. With the purchase of the Rakestraw property, the NBHS-CSO will focus on assisting the State interpreting the site. The first step will be to apply for a grant through the Division of Historic Resources to fund an archeological survey of the property. The Rakestraw property contains relics of the Civil War and prehistoric settlements dating back 12,000 years. The St Marks River rises and falls through sinkholes and underground caves at least eight times on the property. "It's an incredibly significant piece of property both archaeologically and historically," said Fred Gaske, the director of the Division of Historical Resources, who also serves as the state historic-preservation officer. Cal Jamison, who represents Wakulla Springs State Park as its designated "ambassador," said the property is "every bit as awesome to me as Wakulla Springs." Other plans for the property include converting the Rakestraw house into an interpretive center. The NBHS plans to work closely with the Park Service to establish a museum to describe the events which occurred on March 6, 1865 during the Battle of Natural Bridge. The front rooms of the house are ideally suited to house showcases to display relics and other materials collected from the area over the years. Other rooms will be used as office space by the Park Service, including a place for the NBHS to hold meetings and to store CSO records. We also anticipate working with the reenactment community to expand the annual reenactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge. Hopefully, the 145th Anniversary of the Battle of Natural Bridge (March 2010) will include action on the original main battle field. Members of the Rakestraw family said they were glad the state purchased the property and would preserve the land. "I think it's a great deal for the people of Florida that they acquired this property," Jim Rakestraw said. We wholeheartedly agree and thank the Rakestraw’s for their stewardship of the land for so many years. Special thanks also goes out to the members of the NBHS that helped make this possible and especially to the CSO Board of Directors: Mark Rominger, President; Henry Brewer, Past President; Buzz Gifford, Vice President; Bob Trapp, Secretary/Treasurer; John Boger, Director; and Sharon Brewer, Director, whose tireless efforts over the past ten years have finally resulted in this phenomenal acquisition. We would also like to acknowledge: Barry Burch, Park Manager; Wes Smith, Past Park Manager; and Tom Nobles, Past Assistant Park Manager, as well as all the Park Service personnel that have encouraged and supported the activities of the CSO. With the acquisition of this additional acreage the NBHS will play a major part in planning for the future at the Natural Bridge Historic State Park. With this in mind, we would like to invite and to urge all reenactors, living historians, and interested private individuals and corporations to join and become a member of this organization. The more members we have the more we can accomplish. Please visit our web site at www.nbhscso.com for a membership application or email Bob Trapp, our Secretary/Treasurer at btrapp@nbhscso.com .