Looking Back: Weisiger Park dedicated in 1942

May 03, 2005|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

When Danville celebrated the Kentucky Sesquicentennial 63 years ago, it dedicated the Weisiger Memorial Park and memorial tablet, presented a historical pageant and exhibited Kentucky antiques.

The official souvenir program and articles in past issues of The Advocate-Messenger tell of the events that took place April 19-21, 1942. The observance was sponsored by the Danville and Boyle County Historical Society, organized July 8, 1941, by the local Chamber of Commerce and J. Curtis Alcock.

More than 1,500 people attended the dedication of Weisiger Memorial Park and the memorial tablet April 20, 1942, in what is now Constitution Square State Historic Site along Main, Second and Walnut streets.

Gov. Keen Johnson and other state officials were on hand for the park dedication. School children, local officials and others took part.


Johnson said Kentuckians should exert every energy in hastening the day when the United States shall win the war against Germany and Japan. "We must be worthy sons and daughters of our valiant Kentucky pioneer ancestry," he said.

Johnson also helped Judge Lafon Allen of Louisville dedicate the plaque, which was given by Kentucky lawyers to honor Kentucky's pioneers and framers of the state's first constitution.

The plaque was unveiled by Judith Johnson, daughter of the governor, and Louise McDowell, of Lexington, a descendant of Judge Samuel McDowell.

One of the sacred spots in the state

After tracing the founding of the state, Johnson said Constitution Square was one of the sacred spots in the state that transpires an important episode in the state's early history. The 10th Constitutional Convention, April 3, 1792, in Danville, led to the drafting and adoption of a state constitution before the end of the month. By June 1, 1792, Kentucky was admitted to the Union. The state was carved out of Virginia and known as Kentucky County, Va., in 1776.

"We dedicate Constitution Square as a symbol of constitutional government and the democratic ideal," said Johnson. He also dedicated Weisiger State Park to the future inspiration of Kentuckians, and said we should "rededicate ourselves to the challenging task of solving Kentucky's problems at present."

Land for the park was donated in 1937 to the state by Emma Weisiger as a memorial to her brother, John G. Weisiger. The park was first known as the Old Public Square and then Constitutional Square before it became Weisiger Memorial Park.

Grayson Tavern is the only building in the park that was on the site when the conventions were held.

The jail, meeting house and courthouse are reproductions of the buildings that were there. The first post office west of the Alleghenies, a small log building, was moved to the park in 1951 from its original location on West Walnut Street. Grayson Tavern was on the site by 1786, according to historians.

The Danville Chamber of Commerce and the American Legion helped restore the park and buildings with state and local funds prior to the 1942 celebration.

Historical Society presents play

The Historical Society presented a play, "Kentucky Becomes a State" written by Maude Ward Lefferty with Mrs. Henry Jackson as collaborator. Theodore Hunt directed the music. Leon Drew was pageant master with Helen L. Drew as his assistant.

The historical pageant told of the creation of the earth, when Kentucky had Indians roaming the country, and building of Wilderness Trail from Virginia to the settlement at Danville. The performance led the audience through 15 episodes as the community grew, Ephraim McDowell performed surgery, education, 20th century and a salute to America.

The three-day event opened with a vesper service held at "Old First" Presbyterian Church, West Main Street, with Dr. Robert L. McLeod Jr., president of Centre College, delivering the sermon.

McLeod urged the people to remember Pearl Harbor and the Bataan March and to seek to make the world free for religious freedom.

He also urged repentance by the nation, state and people.

"We will miss the blessing of the year unless we gain gratitude from the memorial of our forefathers," he said.

Methodist, Lexington Avenue Baptist, and Episcopal churches also took part in the Sunday service. Combined choirs were directed by Mrs. Jay Harlan with Mrs. Robert Bright as organist.

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