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Sally Milligan Park History

Sally Milligan Birch never visited Beverly, or the Park that bears her name; but her spirit walks there. Sally Milligan Park was a gift to the citizens of Beverly from Hugh Taylor Birch who gave the original thirty-one acres to the city in 1933. He intended the park to be a memorial to his mother, Sally Milligan Birch who was born in rural West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in the Berkshires and spent most of her life in the wilderness areas of New York State and the Midwest. Mr. Birch wanted the park to be a place where residents of Beverly, especially women and children, could go and enjoy and learn from nature. A resident of Ohio, Mr. Birch summered for many years at the home of his son-in-law Frederic T. Bartlett on Boyles Street. During that time he began buying up woodland lots along Cross Lane. In August of 1933, he wrote to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen offering his property as a city park. He conveyed his instructions for the care of the park as follows:

"I am presenting a Deed of land for a park as a memorial to my beloved mother Sally Milligan Birch to be used and occupied as a park for the benefit and enjoyment especially of the women and children of Beverly without presenting to you any directions as to the use of same by the city and its inhabitants but wishing you to know that I have full faith and confidence that you will see to it constantly that the women and children frequenting the park will receive special care and protection from motor driving and other machinery which are liable to cause accidents or injuries. And that the beautiful trees, shrubs and flowers now growing upon and adjoining the lands of the park may be retained for the education and enjoyment of the growing children and others who visit the park and constantly renewed in the long time to come in a way to imitate nature as near as possible."

Mayor Paul S. Eaton signed an order accepting the deed on November 22nd, 1933.

So important was it that his mother's story be attached to this property that Mr. Birch included it as part of his deed to the City:

"...WHEREAS I make this gift to said city of Beverly in memory of my said mother, it seems fitting and proper to here to set forth briefly a record of her life, so that all who read these presents may know something of the history of her for whom said park is named. Said Sally Milligan Birch was born in West Stockbridge in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, on August 31, 1813, the daughter of William Milligan and Hannah Milligan, his wife. My father, Erastus Mitchell Birch was born in Dutchess County, New York on January 17, 1801. The said Sally Milligan and Erastus Mitchell Birch were married in West Stockbridge about the year 1830 and soon thereafter move to a point near the present town of Gowanda in Cataraugus County, New York, where they lived on a farm which my father carved out of heavily timbered land. Four or five years later the western fever took possession of their minds and they gathered together all their goods and belongings and journeyed to northern Illinois, to a point on the Des Plains River in Lake County, where they lived for a number of years, in what was then practically a wilderness; but in spite of all the suffering, hardship and illness, they prospered, and my father gathered strength in cattle and grain and kept his courage and determination and my mother raised her children and clothed them and taught them so well that in after years, when the family moved to Yellow Springs, Ohio, they were able to enter classes with other children of their own age. About the year 1850 my father was engaged in a large drainage business in northern Indiana on the north bank of the Kankakee River and this necessitated a removal to La Porte County, Indiana. To my mother this move was still to the wilderness, her nearest neighbor being five miles away. Here they remained and here Horace Mann found them and invited them to come to Yellow Springs, where he had founded and had running in fine order in 1856 Antioch College. My father accepted the invitation and went in person to Yellow Springs in the autumn of 1856. Everything was so beautiful and in such contrast with the lives we were then living at that time, that my father bought one of the most beautiful houses in the village and early in the spring of 1857 Erastus Mitchell Birch and Sally Milligan Birch were living in a civilized house in a beautiful college town in Ohio, and Erastus Mitchell Birch, one of the richest man in the village, had, at the request of Horace Mann, been appointed one of the trustees of Antioch College. Here my mother lived for six years, a happy life with all comforts of a beautiful home in the midst of education, refinement and happiness. My dear mother died from ill health brought out of the wilderness struggle early in 1863, faithful, lovely and happy to the end."

In the years following Mr. Birch's gift, the park has been enjoyed by many. The park has been used by the Boy Scouts and as a ball field. The city has constructed a lacrosse and soccer field on the eastern parcel of the park.

In July of 2000, the City bought an additional sixteen acres of woodland from Ernest Santin on the northwest boundary of the park to protect the park land, and Mr. Birch's original gift, from development.

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