Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Wyoming enlists Civil War camp as park

By Jaclyn Giovis
Enquirer Contributor

        WYOMING — A piece of land here that once was a camp for 1,000 Civil War volunteer soldiers has been set aside as a city park.

        The small, tree-covered strip of green space, between Bonham Road and Rolling Hills Drive, was designated Camp John McLean Memorial Park late last month. It is all that remains of the original camp, 90 percent of which is now occupied by homes and businesses.

        Green space in this highly developed area is a rarity, local officials said.

        “I think it would have been really easy to say, "Who cares about a Civil War camp?' ... to bulldoze it,” said Dr. Todd Williams, a board member of the Wyoming Historical Society. “At least now we're saving part of it.”

        The original camp existed as a training ground for the Union's 75th Ohio Volunteer Infantry between October 1861 and January 1862.

        It was named after U.S. Supreme Court Justice John McLean, who dissented in the famous Dred Scott case. The case involved a slave who sued for his freedom before the Civil War and was denied it.

        The unit formed at the urging of Wyoming founder Robert Reily and Justice McLean's son, Nathaniel, both of whom held high rank in the unit. The unit's roster contains the names of many Wyoming and Millcreek Valley residents, although there are no known relatives remaining in the area.

        Jacob Dinkelaker, 12, a Civil War history buff and Wyoming Middle School student, said the park will teach others about the area.

        “Most kids my age don't know (the camp existed), and I think most adults don't either ... my mom didn't until I told her,” he said. “Maybe the next time a kid goes to ride his bike near the park or goes sledding in the winter, they'll know that it was actually a Civil War camp, and men trained there.”

        A flag that hangs in Wyoming's city council chambers is proof of how connected the unit was to its community. Local women constructed the flag and presented it to the regiment as it left for active duty in January 1862.

        “The 75th unit was a good unit,” said Dr. Williams. “It took severe losses and ought to be remembered.”

        The city, in cooperation with the historical society, plans to dedicate a bronze plaque at the site in honor of the camp, said Terri Sieber, assistant recreation director for Wyoming.

        In addition, a Civil War camp re-enactment is being planned for the fall, marking the 140th anniversary of the camp.

        “The park will connect (the average citizen) to history.” said Bill Schuchardt, 79, a lifelong resident of Wyoming and member of the historical society.


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- Wyoming enlists Civil War camp as park