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Rural park was home to bridge on national registry

Staff writer

The little community of Antelope, northeast of Marion, once had a beautiful park nestled under shade trees along Clear Creek. Located one-half mile west of US-56/77 on 257th St., the now-abandoned spot was a gathering place for Fourth of July celebrations, picnics, and other events for many years.

Henry Wight, a large cattle rancher, created the park and named it in 1921 in honor of his wife, Amelia.

The late Marjorie Nienstedt of Antelope said people swam and fished at the park. It included a bathhouse and bandstand, and there were swings for the children.

Arch O’Bryant, a Wichita Eagle reporter originally from this area, called Amelia Park “one of the prettiest picnic places in Kansas.” He recalled swimming with other boys in the cold creek water.

Double-headers were played on a well-kept and often used nearby ball field.

Over time, the park fell into disuse. However, in 1971, 50 years after the naming of the park, members of the Antelope community decided to clean it up and hold a luau, or hog roast, there.

Two hogs, each dressing out at more than 300 pounds, were roasted over an open pit of coals for the occasion. The hogs were provided by the Dody and Garrard families.

According to a report in a Sept. 1971 issue of the Marion County Record, at least 300 people attended the event.

The Record reported several events held at the park in 1979. Shawmar Oil entertained at least 200 people at a hog roast, the Ronald Baxters provided a watermelon feed for family and friends, and Carl and Juanita Stovall held a luau attended by at least 150 people.

Judy Houdyshell of Antelope, a great-great-granddaughter of Henry Wight, remembers times spent in the park.

“We’d play bluegrass music and eat till late in the night by the fire,” she said.

The park continued to be used into the 1990s as a hangout for young people.

Houdyshell and her husband, Roy, now own 60 acres of the original Henry Wight Island Field Ranch on which the park is located. They live in the original ranch house along US-56/77 just north of 250th Rd. The ranch is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The park adjoins Amelia Park Bridge, a concrete-arch bridge that also is listed on the national registry.

Houdyshell said an old-timer once told her that a marriage proposal was made on the bridge, and the woman accepted.

Like a lone sentinel, a tall stone post topped with a large square concrete block guards the entrance to the park. It contains an inscription indicating it was erected in 1917 as a flood marker.

Last modified Sept. 16, 2015

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