Conceptual Development Plan
Location: Iron County
Size: 77.19 acres
The mission of Fort Davidson State Historic Site is to preserve, maintain and interpret the earthworks and historical features of Fort Davidson and the Pilot Knob Battlefield; to interpret the events of the Battle of Pilot Knob; and to interpret the impact of the battle on events of the Civil War in Missouri, the war west of the Mississippi River, and the nation.
Site of one of the largest Civil War battles in Missouri, Fort Davidson State Historic Site preserves and interprets the ruins of Fort Davidson, an earthwork constructed by Union forces to protect the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad and the area’s mining resources. In addition, the site also preserves and interprets what remains of the cultural landscape associated with the Battle of Pilot Knob. Because much of the remaining battlefield has been altered either through mining, development or agriculture and consequently lost, preservation of the few extant structures and unaltered landscapes remaining is critical. For this reason, several acquisitions have been identified that would protect the viewshed of Fort Davidson State Historic Site as well as enhance the preservation and interpretive efforts of the site.
- Preserve and interpret the cultural landscape and resources associated with the earthen fort, Fort Davidson, and the Battle of Pilot Knob.
- Provide recreational and public use facilities that are consistent with the preservation of the resources and the mission of the site and that do not exceed the capacity of the land or the resources to sustain these activities.
- Provide adequate visitor orientation and interpretive facilities to enhance the public’s understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the resources of the site.
- Provide adequate operational, administrative and maintenance support facilities to protect, secure and maintain the resources of the site.
Several purchase units and a lease/easement agreement have been identified that will provide viewshed protection and enhanced interpretation opportunities.
Develop Hiking Trail and Overlook on Pilot Knob Mountain
Overlooking the Pilot Knob battlefield at Fort Davidson State Historic Site, Pilot Knob Mountain has significant natural, scenic and historic value. The mountain’s unique Precambrian iron deposits made Pilot Knob Mountain one of the major producers of iron ore in 19th century Missouri. It was this mining activity that eventually facilitated the construction of nearby Fort Davidson, thus precipitating the Battle of Pilot Knob in 1864. Remnants from the mountain’s Civil War connection can be seen in the names carved in the boulders atop Pilot Knob Mountain by Union soldiers. Additionally, the vista from the top of the mountain has been described as “…arguably the best in the St. Francois Mountains” and provides a panoramic view of the Fort Davidson earthworks. The value of providing access to Pilot Knob Mountain is recognized in the site’s Interpretation and draft Cultural Resource Management plans, both of which recommend acquisition and interpretation of the mountain.
Currently, public access to the top of the mountain is restricted; therefore, a hiking trail and overlook will be developed on Pilot Knob Mountain for the purpose of interpreting the mountain’s historic mine, the unique geology of the area, the mountain’s association with the battlefield, and the battle itself. Three parcels of land are identified for purchase with a fourth listed as acquisition through lease. This fourth parcel is owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as a Wildlife Refuge for the protection of an endangered Indiana bat population. Entering a lease or management agreement with the USFWS would assist in policing the area while providing the opportunity for the site to schedule managed hikes to the top for interpretation. The rugged terrain of the area precludes the development of an ADA trail to the top of Pilot Knob Mountain; alternative interpretation will be provided at the visitor center for visitors unable to access the mountain.
In addition to acquiring land for access to and interpretation of Pilot Knob Mountain, the ruins of Pilot Knob iron furnace located in the purchase unit adjacent to Hwy. V would complement the site’s efforts to interpret area iron mining history, a goal identified in the site’s Interpretation Plan. Acquisition of any of these properties will require a clean environmental assessment or the pursuit of federal grants to assist with remediation if necessary.
Shepherd Mountain Scenic Easement
Across the valley from Fort Davidson State Historic Site, Shepherd Mountain also overlooks the battlefield and has significant scenic and historic value. Currently, the City of Ironton maintains a lease-purchase agreement that designates Shepherd Mountain as a local natural area park; however, the phrase “natural area park” is not clearly defined in the agreement language nor is a list provided of acceptable or unacceptable types of development. The division would like to ensure preservation of Shepherd Mountain’s scenic vista. For this reason, the division proposes to enter a scenic easement agreement with the City of Ironton to protect the mountain from residential and commercial expansion, while providing the opportunity for potential trail and overlook development.
Future Land Trade with City of Pilot Knob
The department and the City of Pilot Knob intend to execute an equal land swap of 9.07 acres, exchanging a site-owned parcel containing an abandoned mine shaft for an historically significant parcel adjacent to the site. The city desires the mine shaft for its potential water supply and proposes to construct a small pump house on the property. The parcel the site would receive from the city is part of the core battlefield, containing a portion of the south rifle pit extending out from the fort. This land trade requires legislative approval.
Develop Interpretive Area at Shut-Ins Gap
On Hwy. 72 adjacent to Stouts Creek, the division manages two acres of land in an area called “Shut-Ins Gap.” This area is historically significant as it served as a critical location for troop movement during the Battle of Pilot Knob. Currently, the size and location of the two-acre parcel preclude the ability to interpret the historical significance of the area. A granite marker commemorating the site is available but has not been erected because of safety concerns regarding public access. For these reasons, the CDP initially proposed entering a lease agreement with the adjacent landowners to enlarge the area and develop a parking lot and trail on the north side of Stouts Creek to interpret the site. However, concerns about developing in a flood-prone area, maintaining and improving the existing low-water bridge crossing Stouts Creek, and perhaps only minimally decreasing traffic risk suggested reconsideration of this proposal. Additionally, the CDP team learned of long-range plans (10-20 years) by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to reroute Hwy. 72. MoDOT’s prospective plans include crossing Stouts Creek at Rt. D rather than its current crossing east of the division’s parcel. If and when this should happen, a potential exists to enter a partnership with MoDOT to develop an interpretive pullout overlooking Shut-Ins Gap, featuring the granite marker and other interpretive displays. MoDOT has also suggested they may offer the existing roadway and bridge to the county or remove the bridge and keep in place the roadway as an entrance/exit to the division’s parcel. Deferred action and continued consultation with MoDOT seem the best course of action for providing a safe access that offers optimal opportunity for interpreting the area.
Immanuel Lutheran Church as Potential Donation for Interpretive Facility
Immanuel Lutheran Church was built in the 1860s and is documented to have been used as a Union hospital during the battle of Pilot Knob. The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The congregation at Immanuel Lutheran consists of six full-time members who anticipate a time when the church will no longer hold worship services due to dwindling membership. When this occurs, the church has considered donating the building to the site for interpretation of the battle and area German heritage with the caveat that the church not be used for any worship services or weddings. The division may not be willing to implement any management agreement that prohibits the use of the church for ecumenical services. Acceptance of this site as a donation is contingent upon resolution of this issue, condition of the building and availability of external funding for restoration and ongoing maintenance.
Doug Eiken, Director, Division of State Parks, 04/25/05
Jane Lale, Director, Planning and Development Program, 04/15/05
Delecia Huitt, Field Operations Supervisor, Southern Missouri Historic District, 03/23/05
Walt Busch, Historic Site Administrator, Fort Davidson State Historic Site, 03/23/05
Members of the CDP team
Delecia Huitt, Field Operations Supervisor, Southern Missouri Historic District
Walt Busch, Site Administrator, Fort Davidson State Historic Site
Jim Denny, Cultural Resource Preservationist, Resource Management and Interpretation Program
Larry Grantham, Archaeologist, Resource Management and Interpretation Program
Jim Yancey, Environmental Specialist, Operations Program
Dawn Fredrickson, Planner, Planning and Development Program
Art Hebrank, Site Administrator, Missouri Mines State Historic Site
Bruce Ketchum, Site Administrator, Deutschheim State Historic Site
Don Stier, Landscape Architect, Planning and Development Program
In addition to facilitating three public meetings, the CDP team used online and paper opinion surveys to augment the citizen input process. Minutes from each of the public meetings as well as survey results from the Phase I and Phase II public surveys are provided in the following appendix.