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OPINION | Flip Putthoff: Glimpse of Civil War can be seen at Prairie Grove park

Home front of Civil War captured in homesteads by Flip Putthoff | May 31, 2023 at 10:30 a.m.
Mattison Griffin (right), interpreter at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park, shows a dog-trot style log home in March during a tour of historic Civil War era homes at the park. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

Visitors at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park are welcome to take a peek any time through the windows of historic log homes and buildings. A guided tour opens the doors for a look inside.

Mattison Griffin, interpreter at the Civil War battlefield park, leads guests on a short walk from the visitor center for a look at life when the Battle of Prairie Grove raged on Dec. 7, 1862. She takes visitors on walking tours that include exploring indoors at the log abodes built long ago. They include a two-story home, school and church. There's a dog-trot log home that's like an old-time duplex of two dwellings side by side. The same roof covers both with a breezeway in between.

Each home is furnished with tables, chairs and items that might have been seen 100 or more years ago. If the old hand-hewed logs could talk, they might tell of mothers and fathers raising many children to help with farm and household chores. Families lived out their lives inside the homes' rough-textured wood walls.

During one of Griffin's tours earlier this spring, visitors remarked at how low the ceilings are in the dwellings. "That's because the average height of a man in the 1860s was five-foot-six," she said.

All dwellings are conveniently situated close together in an open area of the 900-acre state park, but they were moved here from various spots around Northwest Arkansas during an extensive relocation project.

Each building was taken apart piece by piece, log by log, during the 1950s, Griffin explained to her group. They were reassembled on the property at Prairie Grove, in west Washington County, before it became a state park in 1971.

Inside one home, she pointed out numbers on logs near the ceiling. That helped workers put the buildings back together, sort of like a life-size Lincoln Logs project. United Daughters of the Confederacy had the property during the 1950s and 1960s when the buildings were moved to Prairie Grove, Griffin said.

A log school house has old-time desks and a wood-burning stove as it did when all grades were taught by one teacher. Chalk blackboards and paper maps round out the decor.

After touring the homes with Griffin, a stroll along the park's one-mile self-guided walking trail is an option for more exploring. On cool mornings, mist over the open meadows becomes the smoke of battle in the imaginary theater of the mind. The battlefield is quiet now, unlike Dec. 7, 1862, when 2,700 men were killed, wounded or went missing in action.

A driving tour offers 14 stops that highlight features of the Civil War battle, landmark structures and natural landscapes inside the park and around Prairie Grove.

When the smoke cleared so long ago, the last major Civil War battle in Northwest Arkansas was over. But the memory is alive at peaceful, quiet Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park.

Call the park office at (479) 846-2990 for information about guided tours.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at [email protected]

  photo  Mattison Griffin, interpreter at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park, leads a tour of historic Civil War era homes that were moved from various Northwest Arkansas locations to what is now the state park. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

Print Headline: Walking tour offers a step back in time


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