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Letter to the Editor

Writer disputes desecration of "hallowed grounds" at Oakley Park

web posted October 18, 2007
Dear Editor:
I would like to clarify some facts that have been distorted by the writer of a previous letter concerning the festival being held at Oakley Park.

In 1941 Johnngary Evans gave (deeded) to the town of Edgefield (43) acres of land and the former home of his Uncle Gen. Martin W. Gary. This home was known then as Oakley Hall.  This was done in memory of his uncle. In this deed there were several stipulations. (A) That the house would be under the control, care and use of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. To be used as the UDC wanted to as long as there was a chapter. (B) The entire premises herein conveyed shall, within a reasonable time be converted into and thereafter always maintained as, a public park for the recreation, pleasure and enjoyment of the citizens of Edgefield County, and shall be named (Oakley Park) and dedicated to the memory of Major General Martin Whitherspoon Gary, C.S.A. who lived and died on the premises.

Then on September 1947, the town of Edgefield wanted to utilize a part of the property to develop ball fields, tennis courts and apublic playground. Therefore, another deed was issued for 7.80 acres of land and the historic home known as Oakley Park to be utilized and maintained by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Again in this deed it also stipulated that the ((premises hereinafter described together with other lands were conveyed to the town of Edgefield by Governor John Gary Evans to be used by the citizens of Edgefield County for park purposes for the enjoyment of the public.))
((That the Edgefield chapter of the UDC shall within a reasonable time to begin additional beautification of the premises by planting flowers and shrubbery, laying out walkways and removing the unsightly underbrush.))  so that the ground will be more useful to the citizens of Edgefield County and the general public as a public park.

This was signed by Mayor W.A. Reel, W.W. Tompkins for the town and by Mrs. Sophia Fair for the UDC dated September 12, 1947. Witnessed by B.E. Nicholson and Ms. Nellie Paul.

Yes, some do reverse the ground and Oakley Park as “Hallowed” ground, however, according to Webster it is not, since it is not a battlefield or cemetery. It is a public park to be utilized by the citizens of Edgefield County. The house itself is the property of the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It is true that the house if referred to as “The Red Shirt Shrine” but truthfully it is much more than that. We respect and maintain the house as a public museum for any visitors who care to come see the documents and artifacts as a stop on the Heritage Corridor and the State Parks and Tourism Department of S.C..

Now on to the vote to have the Heritage Jubilee festival at Oakley Park. The vote count was (12) in favor, (1) against, and (1) undecided. That one has decided that it was a good thing and we should have it again next year. On the night of the vote at Oakley Park, true there was (5) members present and I made many phone calls to all of the other members. Not one of them was against the festival. All of this was done in January 2007.

This was truly a family event. I observed as many children on the ground of the park as I did adults. As for the beer being sold there, this is a standard item at most all festivals. After talking to Police Chief Carter he stated there were no problems incurred on Friday evening or Saturday. I do know that walking around visiting with the venders and cookers they all felt that this was the ideal spot for a festival and I feel everything was well planned and coordinated. Everyone I have talked to have only positive things to say and are looking forward to coming back to Oakley Park next October. This is a good way to bring people to Edgefield, expose them to our true heritage and hospitality.

As for being called a Scalawag, if that is what it takes to promote Oakley Park, our heritage and history, then so be it. We all have ancestors who fought and died for the cause. Note one of them is anymore important than another.

Carolyn Piekielniak, President
Chapter 1018 United Daughers of Confederacy

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