SMETHPORT — Blue skies and warm temperatures greeted the large crowd who attended the Bucktail Park dedication Friday afternoon behind the Good Growing Gardens Barn on U.S. Route 6 west of Smethport.
A project of the McKean County Adult Probation Department — adult offenders performed the work as part of community service — the park honors all those McKean County soldiers who served in the Civil War.
In his opening remarks, McKean County President Judge John Pavlock said that many of the county residents lied about their age so they could enlist, some as young as 14, younger than the Smethport and Bradford high school students who attended the ceremony.
"Many of those young men who volunteered had carried arms for most of their lives, using them to shoot game on these hills and in these valleys," said Pavlock. "That is one reason Colonel Thomas Kane came at the start of the war — he knew these rural northwestern Pennsylvania boys could really shoot and already had rifles — rifles that were in short supply."
Kane arrived in Smethport on April 17, 1861. The next evening, some prominent leaders joined Kane at the courthouse, where they spoke. Kane's remarks weren't focused as much on the young men in attendance, but to the community, its leaders and parents. A committee was formed after Kane's speech and a resolution was adopted approving, among other things, that several leaders act as a committee "to work to find and pursue men to volunteer.” A week later, the volunteers and community members met at the courthouse, where they were given a send-off after hearing a stirring speech.
Pavlock concluded, saying, "We are here today to say we understand, recognize and appreciate the sacrifices and loss of all the McKean County soldiers who served in the Civil War, and not just the Bucktails, Hopefully, the flowers in this field will remind us that there were many, and this fountain help us recall their journey far from McKean County, stopping where they could to refresh themselves and their horses. And, hopefully, this flag, with its 13 stripes and 34 stars, will help remind us to remember those from these county who sacrificed and served to keep our country truly one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
County Commissioner Carol Duffy offered remarks, noting the value of history, before unveiling the Bucktail Park plaque. "It's important to reflect on the Bucktails' courage and sacrifices they made for us and our freedom," said Duffy.
"History also reveals the resilience connected with our community of past days. How would we recognize our heroes without history?" she asked.
Members of the Bucktail Post #138, Smethport American Legion presented the colors and raised the American and POW/MIA flags.
Reenactors of Company I, 42nd Pennsylvania Bucktails also participated.
Matt Bailey directed the Smethport Area High School Show Choir in singing the National Anthem and another patriotic selection.
Pavlock thanked all those people who were instrumental in planning and preparing the dedication ceremony. Pastor Max Simms of Gifford offered a prayer.