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In the Footsteps of History

Posted on Friday, July 29, 2016 at 8:35 am

A weekend honoring Davis and the Bethel Baptist Church

As you travel along Kentucky Highway 68, headed west, you cannot help but notice the rolling landscape.  The hills and valleys are filled with greenery.  The bottoms are farmed by those who are blessed to live in the area.  As you journey forth, you notice a horse-drawn carriage occupied by those known as Mennonites.  As you continue towards the quaint town of Fairview (previously known as Davistown) you spot a man-made structure (obelisk) looming three hundred and fifty feet over the horizon.  That is your destination, for you are going to the Jefferson Davis Monument to celebrate not only his 208th birthday, but also the bicentennial of the Bethel Baptist Church.

Upon your arrival you are greeted by the friendly staff of the park, along with its manager, Ron Sydnor.  He is a native of the area (Russellville) and served in the United States Marine Corps for twenty years.  He graduated from De Anza Community College and went on to UC Berkley.  He joined the park service in 2005, and was assigned to Ken Lake State Park.  He was transferred to Barkley State Park, and in 2010, took the position as park manager of the Jefferson Davis State Historic Site.  He has numerous duties at the site and honors all who have served.  He interacts with the guest and is passionate about the historical role of the park and its history.   Ron is a proud Black man that has Confederate linage.  He is married to Louanna Sydnor and has three daughters, Mallory (32), Caitlin (25), and Michelle (17).  He also has one grandson, Isaiah (11).

After being greeted, you are handed an agenda for the weekend of June 3-5, 2016.  The agenda included an encampment of blue and gray soldiers offering living history as well as a stellar reenactment on Saturday and Sunday.  The premises had a medical demonstration, flag exhibition, and a wondrous presentation of African American culture, along with Native American was given by Barbara G. Marthal.  A ladies tea and social was held at the pavilion, along with a raffle of baskets filled with goodies (the men had the honor of eating with the ladies who made the basket), and a beauty contest.  Mrs. Davis (Joan Howard), Mrs. Lee (Janice Busic) and Markie Williams (Mary Ann O’Neal), a cousin to the Lees captivated the audience.

After an introduction by General Stuart (Wayne Jones) and General Lee (David Chaltas), President Davis (Robert Hayes) talked about his life and held an impromptu press conference.  A meet and greet was conducted by the president and his staff throughout the event, visiting camps and spectators. The Orphan Brigade held its annual meeting and a presentation was offered on General Lewis.

The event ball was indeed grand.  The 52nd Regimental String Band performed for over one hundred people in attendance.  The artillery pieces provided a spectacular display and lite up the night.

On Sunday the Bethel Baptist Church celebrated its bicentennial by having the current preacher, Terry Joiner, introduce former pastors and members.  The service was reverent and worthy of the occasion.  After the service, Mr. and Mrs. Davis hosted the cutting of the 208th birthday cake.

On November 19, 1886, Jefferson Davis spoke at the dedication service to a crowd of over five hundred.  He was in poor health and had to be helped to the pulpit by Lewis Clark (farmer) and RW Downer (pastor).  His words mesmerized the congregation and exists as a testament to the man.  He offered in part the following oration:

“It is with heart full of emotion that I thank you for commerating the spot of my nativity by building this temple to the Triune God. In reply to the question why I am not a Baptist I would only say that my father who was a much better man than myself was a Baptist. I left this place during my infancy, and after an absence of many years revisited it on a previous occasion. On both visits I have felt like saying, “This is my own, my native land.” I see around me now in this beautiful house of worship, the most gratifying use to which the spot of my birth could be devoted. It speaks highly for this community that the most commodious and handsome of all its buildings belongs to God. It shows your reverence and love for your Creator. I rejoice to hear of the continued progress and prosperity of my old home. I am not here for the purpose of making a speech nor would I mar the effect of this solemn dedication, nor of the beautiful and eloquent sermon to which you have listened, by attempting one. I came only to tend to you formally the site on which this building stands. May He who rules the heavens bless this community individually and collectively and may his benediction rest upon this house of worship always. I thus leave it with you. More than this it would be improper for me to say.”

For more information about the park and future events, call the following number 270-889-6100 or you can go to their website at:  http://parks.ky.gov/parks/historicsites/jefferson-davis/.

-By David Chaltas and Wayne Jones


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