By Kamen Kessler
Bath-DeWitt Connection staff reporter
War is often the first thought that comes to people’s minds when it comes to remembering history. In honoring veterans from the War of 1812, Civil War, and Toledo War the DeWitt City Cemetery is no different. When the City of DeWitt introduced its Historic Site program in 1997, there was little doubt that the city cemetery would be among the first to be recognized.
In 1997, the City of DeWitt introduced its historical site program to recognize significant residential, cultural, and commercial history in the city. When the historical site program was introduced, the City of DeWitt sent out letters to 70 property owners asking for their permission to mark the property as a historical site, according to city records.
Each of these locations throughout the city was chosen for one of the before mentioned historical reasons, with a large number of the sites dating back to the mid 1800’s.
Today, homeowners in DeWitt can also mark their house or business with a historical site marker, according to Teresa Bevier, a DeWitt Township administrative assistant.
“If a resident does the research on the building they can ask the city to add a historical marker,” Bevier said.
There is no approval process for the historical markers to be added, and there has not been a request by a resident in at least a couple of years. Currently the city works to maintain the historical markers, by either repairing, repainting, or in some cases replacing the damaged signs, according to Bevier.
Bevier said, each homeowner writes their own description of the historical house to be displayed on the standard city markers put in the yards. The city purchases the markers and a Public Works employee puts them up.
Mostly around the Downtown DeWitt area, locations are marked with the white pole holding up the blue and white sign that notes the iconic significance of the location.
The DeWitt City Cemetery located just north of downtown was actually a private burial ground for the Scott family, before being made public in 1841. The historical significance arises from it being known as one of the oldest burial grounds in Clinton County. Although not exclusively for war casualties, it is the burial site for many of the veterans who served and lived in the area.
The Anderson House keeps with the theme of honoring military personnel in DeWitt. George W. Anderson lived in this house prior to the Civil War, where he lost his life. Anderson is not only remembered by this historic site, but also is whom DeWitt’s Grand Army of the Republic Post is dedicated.
Early commerce in the city was also remembered by the City of DeWitt. For example the Woodruff House, which was built in 1910 for Clayton and Clara Woodruff, honors Clayton Woodruff and his brother Mark. They were the co-founders of the Woodruff Brothers Bank located in early DeWitt.
The Clavey House, built in about 1905 by Victor Clavey, is similar in honoring Victor, a co-owner in the Clavey and Brya Hardware store in DeWitt.
Long-time DeWitt resident Jerry Enos said, he is a fan of keeping the historical sites because it keeps their identity in DeWitt. “I know people have lived or rented in these houses, and it’s interesting to know about who was there before them.”
Historical sites aren’t reserved to just homes, as some business operate out of them today. In Downtown DeWitt, the Matson Law Office follows the tradition of the town. The site was originally the home and law office of Randolph Strckland, who was a politician and attorney in 1852.
Chambers Chiropractic and Nutritional Healing Center also uses a historic site in Downtown DeWitt, the Halterman-Newman House. Employee Deanna Lund said, “I know a lot of people identify us by the house when identifying the office, and I think this and all the other sites are amazing to have because they are beautiful.
University of Kansas Urban Planning Professor Stacey Swearingen White explained the thought process that goes into deciding historical sites. “ First the city as well as the citizens need to do inventory on what they want to commemorate. They then come up with a goal for fulfilling the vision, and this is usually in the form of a land use plan.”
“I believe it is important to keep the cultural heritage of towns everywhere, because we learn from the past and history, so it in my mind is a great form of sustainability,” White said.