Battlefield Property Paid Off!
by Rebecca Blackwell Drake
Friends of Raymond is proud to announce that the organization has liquidated the loan for the 1998 purchase of 40 acres of endangered battlefield in Raymond. The land is now owned by Friends of Raymond and is debt-free.
Since 1998, when Friends of Raymond was established, the non-profit group has serviced the $160,000 debt on the property with fund-raising events and generous contributions from individuals and the community. "Friends of Raymond has been working to secure a grant from the National Park Service since early 1999," commented David McCain, president. "The grant from the National Park Service would have been a two-for-one- funds-match meaning that Friends of Raymond would have had to come up with $107,000 to get a $53,000 match grant. That seemed impossible for an newly established organization."
Recognizing the problem that the 'matching grant' would present not only to Raymond but other sites as well, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History stepped in to help. "In order to help organizations such as Friends of Raymond and others seeking to preserve historic sites," continued McCain, "the Mississippi Department of Archives and History requested help from the Mississippi Legislature. In 2000, the Mississippi Legislature approved $2.8 million to help with the preservation of selected Civil War sites. The amount of money appropriated by the Mississippi Legislature was surprising and awesome. For the first time, Friends of Raymond felt that there would be real hope to save the battlefield. After complying with strict guidelines, Friends of Raymond's grant application was submitted to the National Park Service through the Mississippi Department of Archives and History."
Next came the long waiting game for Friends of Raymond. There were several changes and updates on the grant during the year 2001 but finally the good news came. In August of 2001, McCain received a letter from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The letter included a check to cover the remaining principle of the loan.
Also, in 2001 the Civil War Preservation Trust, the largest non-profit battlefield preservation organization in the United States, named the Raymond Battlefield as one of the ten most-endangered Civil War battlefields in America. "We were really fortunate and gratified to receive this honor," stated McCain. "The other nine battlefields selected in the year 2001 were: Allatoona, Georgia; Brice's Cross Roads, Mississippi; Fort Fisher, North Carolina; Gettysburg, Pennslyvania.; Harpers Ferry, West Virginia; Loudoun Valley, Virginia; Mansfield, Louisiana; Stone River, Tennessee; and the Wilderness in Virginia."
The next step for Friends of Raymond is to develop the 40-acre battlefield site. "The property will be developed into a Civil War Military Park," outlined McCain. The park will include monuments from the various States who had regiments fighting in the war, walking trails, an amphitheater, and a tourist center. "The first State to erect a monument as a memorial to their Confederate dead will be Texas," states McCain. "The monument to the 7th Texas is scheduled to be placed on the banks of Fourteen Mile Creek within the month."
A Founder's Monument Committee is also working to design the Founder's Monument. This will be a large monument listing the names of the generals who have contributed to the preservation of the Raymond Battlefield. The generals so far include: James and Rebecca Drake, David and Traci McCain, Isla Tullos and Butch Ogden, The Gaddis Farms, Inc, Lester Senter, Clarke Stewart and Paula Stewart Strange, Charles and Kathy Pittman, David Barton, Mary Ann Keith, Oliver V. Shearer, Jr., Mary Nell Collins Landin, Mrs. Mary Adams, Mary Kuhn, Pattie Snowball and Hermon Adams, Francis McCain, Dick Kilby, Stanford's Battery, Jack Moss, Martha Gillespie and Mrs. Bessie Long.
"Friends of Raymond is also in negotiations to purchase one acre on top of McPherson's Ridge and 25 acres next to Fourteen Mile Creek," reported McCain. "These two properties could be a big boost to making the Raymond Civil War Military Park a great tourist stop. Tourism is one of the cleanest and cheapest industries for an area to have. There are over one million visitors to the Vicksburg Military Park each year. If Raymond could get a small amount of these tourists interested in visiting Raymond's Battlefield, it would have a great economic impact on our area."
Accomplishing the goal of purchasing and paying for such a vast amount of property has been an overwhelming but worthy project for Friends of Raymond. "We are a determined group of people working for a wonderful cause," concluded McCain. "Our goal has been to preserve this segment of Raymond's history and to develop a battlefield park that will be an attribute to Raymond. However, our work is far from over and in years to come, we will depend on citizens of Raymond to help us as we continue with our efforts."
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