Volunteers Converge On Gettysburg Historic Farm
Battling the brush of a battlefield hospital
Webster-Kirkwood Times (MO)
Date: May 22, 2009
Author: GIG GWIN
The forlorn barn had not been in use for several years. Volunteers gather in preparation to clear unwanted growth – Photo by Gig Gwin
Gettysburg Battlefield represented a monumental shift in the Civil War and a milestone in our history. These hallowed grounds have served as a reminder of the human cost of the Civil War, and provide an open book for travelers visiting this National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Recently, more than 300 members of the travel and tourism industry gathered for a two-day volunteer project to clear brush at the George Spangler Farm, located on the grounds of Gettysburg.
The buildings and adjoining property served as a make-shift field hospital immediately after the bloody three-day battle. Thousands of wounded troops from both the North and South were given medical aid, saving many lives.
Once a year, Tourism Cares organizes a volunteer clean-up project that restores neglected national tourist sites. This is a feel-good project in which people in the travel industry can share their time and energy to help save valuable pieces of history for tourists of tomorrow.
The Spangler Farm has been in private hands since before the Civil War, but recently the property was sold to the Gettysburg Military National Park; and they requested we remove unwanted brush and trees which had overgrown the farm for the past 150 years. For travel people who are use to pushing pencils, not shovels, this was a labor-intensive project.
An early morning gathering began with instructions on the use of tools, saws, clippers and such; while reminding the group that the goal was to clear the unwanted trees and brush, and not to cause any serious damage to the enthusiastic volunteers.
Putting sharp cross-cut saws in the hands of less-than-skilled-workers is always a daunting task. But this dedicated core of energetic volunteers managed to carefully remove an impressive number of trees and brush, while inflicting only minimal damage upon themselves.
Work started in earnest and after a few Band Aids, mosquito bites and poison ivy encounters later - progress was steadily revealed. By noon, the neglected barn was showing visual signs of improvement. By 2 p.m., gigantic piles of brush and trees had mounted - and by 4 p.m. the field hospital farm had shown substantial progress.
Hats off, to the many corporate sponsors in the tourism industry - from Gettysburg and across America - for providing the funds, motor-coach transfers, food, beverage and necessities for 300 sweaty, yet zealous, volunteers.
The Spangler Farm is a restoration in progress. Over the next few years, the stewards of the battlefield hope to return this land and its buildings to the landscape of June 1863. In the coming years, visitors will experience this orchard farm which was transformed to an early M.A.S.H.-type unit, for the soldiers wearing both blue and gray, with a chance to feel the emotions of the time.
As for Tourism Cares, this volunteer organization is looking forward to next year's fix-up. Over the past few years, projects have included restoration of a New Orleans' above- ground cemetery; a clean-up of woods around the Mt. Vernon estate in Virginia; building repairs at Ellis Island, N.Y.; and assistance in the Gulf Coast area after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Volunteers left the Gettysburg farm with the satisfaction of giving back to the tourist industry and helping to preserve a small part of battlefield history.
For more information on Tourism Cares, visit: www.tourismcares.org
Gig Gwin of Gwins Travel in Kirkwood is known as the "most traveled" travel agent in the world. In September of 1999, he reached the rare milestone of having visited every country on earth.