Bloomfield’s first park

The public square in Bloomfield dates to April 1844 when the city was laid out. It is older than New York City’s Central Park by more than a decade. In 1933, former Bloomfield resident Will Black, who had worked at the Bloomfield Democrat in the 1890s, recounted, “In setting out the trees in the park, the settlers from Indiana had to have their ‘gum’ trees and brought saplings and set them out with soft maple and locust and they put an evergreen or pine in each corner.“ In 1870, the public square was almost sold off to lure the construction of a railroad through Bloomfield. Three years later, the square was selected as the site for a new county courthouse.

On the occasion of our nation’s centennial birthday on July 4, 1876, Col. Samuel A. Moore of Bloomfield had this to say during a big celebration in the public square: “Much anxiety has existed on the part of some citizens concerning the location of our public buildings. … If the decision of wisdom shall be to place it [the courthouse] in this beautiful park, to uproot this magnificent grove of evergreens and forest trees, to strip it of its foliage … and give us in its stead a pile of brick and stone and mortar … I will bow my head in silence and submission as a citizen and bid my heart be still. … I shall feel a pang of sorrow at my disappointment. Pardon me, please, for this brief personal allusion.

I wrote out and set up the type and printed the notices for the first call of our citizens to gather on this ground to plant the trees that were to beautify and adorn this park, that I hoped would live forever. That one generation succeeding another would rest and refresh themselves beneath the foliage of the trees our hands had planted.”

 The photo of the public park (above) was taken prior to Moore’s “magnificent grove” being removed in November of 1876 to make way for the construction of the courthouse. But Moore‘s words of regret did not go unnoticed. About 30 years after his centennial address, this photo of the northeast corner (below) shows dozens of trees, with their dense canopies and an iron fence surrounding that “pile of brick and stone and mortar“ we know as the beautiful Davis County Courthouse.`        

The transition from public park to courthouse park has been fairly smooth for the most part. People still find respite from the hot sun in the shade of its trees. Band concerts, political rallies, the human fly, a K.K.K. cross-burning, Christmas festivities, pep rallies, bike rides, farmers’ markets, art fairs and events promoting beef and pork are among the many gatherings that have been held in the courthouse park. But now the north courtyard is facing a future that surely would make Col. Moore weep — Moore who was wounded through both legs during the Civil War battle at Shiloh and was carried by Col. James B. Weaver from the Hornet’s Nest as it was about to be overrun.

Moore probably would hope the current plans are abandoned so future generations would be able to “refresh themselves beneath the foliage of the trees our hands had planted.” He would encourage today’s citizens to restore the grandeur of this gem of a park.

— Rudy Evans  |  revans1953@gmail.com