Cottrel: Davidson Center in Clark County is good place to experience history while social distancing

Recently a distant friend of mine took a pandemic compliant road trip with family. They were fascinated by an historic site that had been saved from development. It was the site of a Revolutionary War event, and although the museum was closed because of the virus, there were information signs and hiking trails outdoors on the actual site.

Social distancing was a piece of cake and there was no admission charge.

They spent the day exploring and were home by dark. I was amazed to learn that their road trip was to Clark County.

Exactly 240 years ago last week the Battle of Peckuwe took place out along State Route 4 west of Springfield.

George Rogers Clark Historic Park is only part of the entire extensive battlefield. It pretty much runs along the north side of the river from the Masonic Home to the Enon exit off Route 4.

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One of the best places to learn about the battle is the Peckuwe Village Battlesite Davidson Center, 5638 Lower Valley Pike. The museum just reopened with limited hours. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 937-882-6000 for more information. Masks and Covid-19 distancing are required. The backdoor of the interpretative center offers a great view of the Peckuwe village site.

Luckily the parking lot and the trails along the battlefield are open all days of the week, mowed and maintained. A ramp makes it handicap accessible and there is some shade during part of the day.

Walking to the patio area behind the Davidson, visitors and hikers can read the informational guide posts and learn about the battle as they walk along the sidewalks and trails that are on the actual historic site.

Local historian Bill Smith has lead many walking tours on this significant site and said it compares well to other historic locations he has visited.

“As you walk around the Davidson you can get perspective of where things were,” he said.

He explained that you can see where the fort would have been on the hill by Hertzler House and the tall stone Memorial spire that was dedicated to all who participated in the battle.

From that walkway you can imagine the Shawnee village of Peckuwe located along the far end of the prairie. You can see for yourself why Clark had the cannon set up on the opposite hill where Shawnee Park Drive is now

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There is no walkway to the river to view the crossing, but it can be seen from Lower Valley Pike and nearby bridges. Some historians think that Clark’s army forded the river near the canoe livery or near the Enon Road Bridge. The generally low water levels of August made these fords valuable. You can see that today.

Since this is the week that the battle was fought, hikers and visitors will be able to see what kinds of plants were blooming at the time. And of course there are still cornfields, although modern corn is much taller. The length of our daylight hours are the same as back then. I cannot help but imagine that the storms that caused Clark problems were much like the deluges we sometimes get in August.

After hiking the trails around the Davidson, it is logical to go see the memorial on the hill next to Hertzler House, and the reproduction of the fort that was built on a field in the park. You can hike over there across the prairie or drive, which might be wiser on a hot sunny day.

At the park visitors can walk through the recreation of a Shawnee village that is on one of the trails and near the road that winds through the woods. There are other historical markers throughout the park. The one next to the Hosterman Lake and the dam is impressive and a fantastic place for a picnic.

It is believed that the Shawnee families retreated through this area to safety at villages to the north.

There is still much to do that is well within virus fighting guidelines.

So if you are growing weary of hiking the same old bike trails without a view or running around and around the same high school track, go out and hike the Peckuwe Village and Battlefield. Exercise your brain and imagination in addition to your body.

Taking the kids along will also be like taking them on a field trip since fourth and fifth graders will learn about this event this year. On top of that every student should at least know how Clark County got its name.

The Fair at New Boston has been canceled for this year, and the field looks terribly empty, but there is still much to do on a hike at George Rogers Clark Historic Park.

Get out and experience what Clark County has to offer. Don’t wait for out of town friends to point it out to you.