Pioneer National Monument Association and Fort Boonesborough State Park Association Records (Record Group 181)
Eastern Kentucky University ArchivesRichmond, Kentucky 40475-3102
This collection is open for research.
[Identification of item], Pioneer National Monument Association and Fort Boonesborough State Park Association Records, University Archives, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond.
1.60 cubic feet, 2,750 items, 4 boxes, includes map
The history of the Pioneer National Monument Association and the Fort Boonesborough State Park Association can be traced back to the mid-1920s. In 1926 the Kentucky General Assembly passed a resolution appropriating $10,000 for the purchase of land at Blue Licks (in Robertson and Nicholas counties), the site of the last battle fought in the American Revolution on August 19, 1782, in order to erect a monument commemorating the battle. Prominent Lexington attorney and judge Samuel M. Wilson served as a spokesman for historical and patriotic groups interested in preserving Blue Licks. In 1927 the state purchased thirty-two acres, and on August 19, 1928, a monument, modeled after the one erected at Yorktown by the Colonial National Monument Association of Virginia, was dedicated and the Blue Licks Battlefield officially became a state park.
Late in 1933 C. Frank Dunn, executive director of Blue Grass tours, along with Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College history professor Jonathan Truman Dorris, and others began to plan for the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Daniel Boone. On January 20, 1934, the Kentucky General Assembly unanimously passed a bill which Governor Ruby Laffoon signed creating a fifteen-member Daniel Boone Bicentennial Commission to celebrate Boone's birth. Dorris, Dunn, Judge Wilson, and Keen Johnson were among the members selected for the commission by the governor. Colonel William Boone Douglas, president of the Boone Family Association, suggested to the commission that funds for financing the celebration might come from the minting of a Boone half dollar. The commission actively supported the idea, and, primarily through the efforts of Senator Alben Barkley and Representative Virgil Chapman, Congress passed an act on May 26, 1934, authorizing the United States government to mint the Boone coin, with the commission having the right to sell the coins. Congress passed another act on June 18, 1934, providing for the acquisition of four Boone Shrines--Boonesborough, Boone's Station, Bryan's Station, and Blue Licks Battlefield--to be connected by a national highway with the proceeds from the sale of the coins. The shrines would become a "Pioneer National Monument," to be incorporated into the National Park Service. At the meeting of the commission on September 21, 1934, chairperson Wilson presented a proposal to create a private, non-profit corporation to act as an "auxiliary instrumentality" of the commission. Thus the Pioneer National Monument Association (PNMA) was incorporated to "further projects, plans, and celebrations" of the Boone Bicentennial Commission. Judge Wilson was elected president and served in that capacity until his death in 1946 when Dr. Dorris succeeded him.
The PNMA received in excess of $30,000 from the sale of the Boone coins. The association began immediately to acquire land. David Williams, owner of the Boonesborough site, was contacted in 1935 about selling a portion of his land. The association considered his asking price too high but continued to negotiate with him for years. In 1943 the PNMA purchased 252.9 acres adjacent to the Blue Licks Battlefield State Park for $27,500. The association wanted to give the land and see the state park incorporated into the National Park system. However, the National Park Service refused to accept Blue Licks unless the three other sites mentioned in the 1934 legislation were acquired. Finally, in 1950 the PNMA deeded 68.7 acres to Kentucky to increase the size of the state park and sold the remaining acreage for nearly $25,000. Through the years efforts were made to acquire Bryan's Station and Boone's Station, but either the land was unavailable or the price was too high. By the mid-1950s the PNMA abandoned plans to acquire the two properties and focused its attention on securing Boonesborough.
The PNMA gained a foothold at Boonesborough in 1956 when it acquired without cost 7.63 acres of federal property around Lock No. 10 which the Army Corps of Engineers declared as surplus. Senator Earle Clements and Representative John Watts worked closely with the PNMA to guide legislation through Congress for the association to acquire title to the land. That year also witnessed the passage of HB 156 offered by Representative Rodney Thompson of Winchester to authorize the Kentucky Parks Department to acquire land at Boonesborough, not to exceed 200 acres, for a state park. Governor A. B. "Happy" Chandler signed the bill, but no money was appropriated during his administration to purchase the land. Perhaps one of the reasons Chandler did not act was the uncertainty of the status of the Boonesborough site. As a result of the disastrous floods which struck Kentucky in 1937, Congress enacted a law in 1938 to construct a dam for flood control across the Kentucky River at the mouth of Jessamine Creek. The PNMA vigorously opposed the dam because it would have led to flooding of Boonesborough. Finally, in 1961, after years of study and persistent lobbying by the PNMA, the federal government decided to deauthorized the Jessamine Creek project.
The PNMA engaged in an intense lobbying effort during the late 1950s and early 1960s to secure state park status for Boonesborough. The association received information from the National Park Service that they were developing Cumberland Gap as a national park and were no longer interested in the pioneer national monument project. The PNMA acquired in September 1960 an additional 4.10 acres of federal property for $400 which adjoined its 7.63 acres at Lock No. 10. At its November 1960 meeting, the association passed a resolution which called for the state to develop a park at Boonesborough to include a swimming pool, a developed beach, a picnic and camping area, a hotel or lodge with suitable convention facilities and a dining area, an amphitheater, a museum, and reconstruction of Fort Boone.
Shortly after a series of public meetings and a dinner coordinated by the PNMA, recently elected Governor Bert T. Combs appointed an advisory committee to determine the feasibility of a park at Boonesborough. Later in 1961 the landscape architect firm of Scruggs and Hammond was employed by the state to draw plans for the park. As a result of Kentucky voters' approval of a $100,000,000 bond issue in November 1960, which included $10,000,000 designed to develop state parks, and the plan of Scruggs and Hammond, the Combs administration began in earnest to negotiate with David Williams for Boonesborough. In December 1961 the PNMA voted to place in an escrow account all its assets- -land, notes, and stock--in order to give to the Parks Department its assets when the state acquired land for a park at Boonesborough. Finally, on June 18, 1963, the state purchased approximately 75 acres from Williams for $210,000, of which $123,100 came from the PNMA. The acreage was between Route 227 and the Kentucky River from Lock No. 10 to a point down the river below Sycamore Hollow and a few acres on the Clark County side of the river. The land had a beach, bath house, hotel, thirteen cottages, caretaker house, and a barn and tenant house. On October 15, 1963, the Parks Department received title to the PNMA's twelve acres of land at Boonesborough.
At the close of 1963 the Pioneer National Monument Association ceased to exist. By the time Fort Boonesborough State Park was dedicated on October 15, 1965 by Governor Edward T. Breathitt, a group of interested citizens from Madison, Clark, and Fayette counties had just incorporated themselves into a non-profit organization called the Fort Boonesborough State Park Association (FBSPA). The purpose of the FBSPA is "to develop, improve, and promote Fort Boonesborough State Park." Dr. Robert R. Martin, president of Eastern Kentucky State College, was elected chair of the board of directors. Many of the board members had previously served on the board of the Pioneer National Monument Association. Initially the FBSPA sold memberships in the association to raise funds. In July 1968 the association entered into a contract with the Robert B. Hensley Family Foundation, Inc., to receive a consignment of 200 lithographic prints of Daniel Boone at Cumberland Gap, signed by the painter Haddon Sundblom and autographed by famous entertainer Fess Parker, who served as the artist's model for Boone. The prints brought in over $10,000 to the association within a year.
The FBSPA worked closely with state government in promoting the building of a replica of Fort Boone on ground above the flood plain. On August 30, 1974, Governor Wendell Ford helped to dedicate the restored fort which included a small museum. In the museum was a life-size painting of Daniel Boone which the FBSPA paid Winchester artist Jack Hodgkin $2,500 to paint. In 1989 the association helped to finance an archeological dig to determine the exact location of old Fort Boone. Archeologist Nancy O'Malley's definitive publication, Searching for Boonesborough, established the fort to be near the 1907 Daughters of the American Revolution marker. In addition, the FBSPA has worked with the Parks Department and the Kentucky Historical Society to develop a historical walking tour of Boonesborough. Of recent interest has been a concerted effort by the association and other interested parties in convincing the state of the necessity of building a lodge at Boonesborough. The FBSPA is completely dedicated to the continued promotion of Boonesborough as a unique historical site and realizing its full potential as a state resort park.
These records vividly tell a story of dogged persistence by both organizations, especially the Pioneer National Monument Association, in prompting Boonesborough as a historical site and the necessity to bring it into the Kentucky state park system. The records reflect the intense lobbying efforts of a dedicated group of individuals who navigated through the confusing waters of state and congressional politics. The records are very complete; however, there have been no additions since 1976.
The Correspondence Series consists of three boxes of materials covering the years 1926-1976. As mentioned previously, the records of the Pioneer National Monument Association and the Fort Boonesborough State Park Association have been interfiled and are arranged in chronological order. The records contain articles of incorporation, minutes of meetings, newspaper articles, deeds and contracts, publications and promotional materials, correspondence, and financial records. The correspondence of Dr. J. T. Dorris, long time president of the Pioneer National Monument Association, is particularly illuminating. Dorris worked tirelessly to promote the cause of Boonesborough. He received correspondence from Kentucky governors A. B. "Happy" Chandler through Edward T. Breathitt and letters from Kentucky's United States senators Alben W. Barkley, Earle C. Clements, John Sherman Cooper, and Thruston B. Morton and representative John C. Watts. Of particular interest is the lobbying efforts the associations carried on with various representatives of state government.
The Maps and Charts Series is contained in one small document box and covers the years 1928-1965. The records consist of maps, charts, and land surveys of the Blue Licks and Fort Boonesborough areas.
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