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New Historical Marker at Phelps Grove Park to Commemorate Local Heroine

Mary Whitney Phelps
This is a photograph of a young Mary Whitney Phelps. (Photo credit: Sally McAlear)

During the four-year sesquicentennial of the Civil War, many local organizations are taking the time to recognize the effect of that conflict today and honoring those impacted by it 150 years ago. KSMU’s Sense of Place reporter, Emma Wilson, brings us an update on a new historical marker that will commemorate a local heroine of the American Civil War.

Phelps Grove Park and the area surrounding it was once part of a large plantation owned by John Phelps, a politician, soldier—and later—a popular Missouri Governor.

His wife, Mary Whitney Phelps, developed their 1,000 acre tract of land, built a house, and raised a family. She was a staunch Unionist herself, bringing supplies and tending to troops fighting at battles like Wilson’s Creek and Pea Ridge. She’s often remembered for caring for the body of Nathanial Lyon, the first Union general to be killed in a Civil War Battle.

During and after the Civil War, she established and managed at least three different homes for orphans…more casualties of a war that so notoriously tore families apart, leaving children homeless and hungry.

A local chapter of the Daughters of Union Veterans, which is named after Mary Whitney Phelps, will dedicate a marker to her in the southeast area of Phelps Grove Park next Sunday, April 29th at 2:00pm. Between 1:00 and 2:30, there will be displays of Civil War-era crafts, live music, a color guard provided by the Phelps Camp No. 66, and a talk about the Phelps’ legacy. Descendants of the Phelps family will assist in the unveiling.

For KSMU’s Sense of Place, I’m Emma Wilson.

Note: To hear a more extensive story about Phelps that we did several months ago, visit: www.ksmu.org/article/new-marker-will-honor-springfield-civil-war-heroine