By Barbara Burleigh
September is here and once again the city of Gordon will host the Willow Tree Festival in the Winship City Park. This beautiful park plays host to many celebrations and family gatherings throughout the year.
This year the Winship Park has also been named on the list of parks to be visited across Nebraska by travelers who are visiting designated city parks. It is always good to remember the people who had long term ideas and wishes to provide a park for young and old alike to enjoy.
Jefferson Winship was such a visionary. Mr. Winship provided back-breaking labor as he transported seedling trees for re-plant in the park in the early 1900’s. This was very difficult as probably the only seedlings to be found locally were on the Niobrara River. But being a townsman and a person that wished to provide for the public a place to picnic and relax, Mr. Winship continued to plant and with the capable help of the Gordon City workers, the park is still beautiful. Many new trees have been planted to replace the trees long gone with age and weather. The grass is well kept and with new playground equipment for the children, this is truly a lovely park to visit and relax in.
Please take time to visit the Jefferson Winship Memorial water fountain along the sidewalk of the park. The water fountain is no longer in use but the memorial with a plaque honoring the man who envisioned the park is placed on the fountain.
In 1959, a local artist, Leonard Thornquist, provided the city fathers with a plan of the monument to be erected in recognition of Mr. Winship. The monument was to have a dual purpose, not only to hold a drinking fountain, which would be constructed as to be accessible to children and adults, but to also hold a marker as a memorial to Mr. Winship.
Mr. Thornquist and his advisors, visualized petrified wood to be used in the monument. Who, how and where would this petrified wood come from?
Rusty and Billie Thorp and children, Kristie and David, who were rock hounds, were entrusted with this task. Other adventurous nature lovers who also helped were Dr. Vernon Johnson, Tom Stangel, an amateur geologist, and Jerry Burleigh. There may have been others not known.
After the necessary permission to enter the various lands was obtained and with much planning, the group was ready to embark.
The task was not easy, but this group of rock hounds found enjoyment and excitement in all of their excursions.
Traveling north to the Bad Lands and with a vehicle that could navigate the rough terrain and trails, the explorers traveled through Cuny Table, Red Shirt Table, the aerial gunnery range and other interesting areas.
What an adventure this was. The many trips made to these areas did produce the beautiful petrified wood that is incorporated into the Winship memorial fountain. The slow process was a step-by-step search with excitement and shouts of success when a piece of petrified wood was found. This wood is heavy and small logs required two men for lifting and placing into the vehicle for transport home.
Not only did these rock hounds enjoy their part of this nice memorial, but each of us can be a part of this “look back” and honor the men and women who held visions.
With the addition of the Old Time Cowboy Museum in 1969 which was donated by the Old Time Cowboys Association, the Winship Park received another wonderful attraction.
Wayland Park was donated by Wayland Case in 1960 to extend the current park to the north and east. Also provided are a tennis court and a covered picnic shelter donated by the Lion’s Club. Wayland Park is also home to the Old Scamahorn Church which was moved to the northeast corner of the Wayland Park in 1983.
In 1971, Gordon purchased land from Oliver and Faye Hamilton for a park on east Highway 20. In
1971 the Fairview Park in east Gordon was donated by land owners.
All of these parks are well cared for, enjoyable for young and old and all visitors and residents. to enjoy. Thank you to the City of Gordon, the clubs and individuals for the upkeep and care of these lovely parks and museums and picnic areas.