If you’ve ever enjoyed Stephens Lake Park, you’ve enjoyed the fruit of the labor of slaves.
According to this history of Grindstone Nature Area, the area that is now Stephens Lake Park was cleared by slave labor in 1823.
The history of Grindstone Nature Area includes that nature was also owned by the Gordon family as well until 1959, according to this online document on the Grindstone Nature Area.
The document states that David Gordon came to the Columbia area and “by shrewd management and hard work laid the fortune for considerable fortune.” Some might say his amassing of land and fortune involved more than shrewd management.
The document notes that “slave labor was used to burn brick, fell trees, saw lumber and complete the mansion” that was once on the property of what is now Stephens Lake Park. on the Notable Properties list, it is still historic in its own right. This link is to a document that outlines the history of David Gordon, Marshall Gordon and this tract of land owned by the Gordon family from pioneer days until 1959.
This history states when David Gordon moved to Columbia he brought with him “many slaves.” Those slaves, it continues, “In 1823, slave labor was used to burn brick, fell trees, saw lumber …” for a mansion that once stood near Stephens’ Lake. The mansion burned in 1998.
If you’d like to read about the mansion built by slave labor, here’s a link to the National Register of Historic Places which describes it.
This un-dated blog post on Boone History quotes a 1935 newspaper article about Jim Williams, one of the slaves who lived and worked on the Gordon property. The blog post states Williams was born on the Gordon land in 1959 and was 6 when he was freed. The article quoted describes Williams’ life on the Gordon estate. Williams lived in a cabin that was once land which is now Stephens Lake Park.
Why bring up the slave-labor past of Stephens Lake? I want to appreciate all the people who labored to make Columbia the place where I love to live, even the people who often don’t make it onto the pages of our history books.
So, if you’ve ever enjoyed Stephens Lake Park, take time to appreciate the people who made it the beautiful place it is today.