Bethel new manager at The Battle of Pilot Knob State HS

Artifacts acquired - Bryan Bethel (left), the new Natural Resource Manager at the Battle of Pilot Knob State Historic Site, and Brick Autry, an interpreter at the site, hold a recently acquired collection of artifacts found at the site before it was protected from collectors. The collection of belt buckles, breast plates, sword belt buckles, bullets and buttons was in a private collection and was put up for sale. Former site manager Walt Busch heard about it and the purchase was made possible by donations from The Friends of Fort Davidson and the St. Louis Civil War Roundtable. The collection will be on display at the site museum.

Bryan Bethel remembers coming to The Battle of Pilot Knob State Historic Site reenactments when he was a kid, so when he took over the reins of the site from retiring manager Walt Busch, it was a comfortable change.

He has been in the site’s Natural Resource Manager since August 20, a job that also includes the management responsibility for Elephant Rocks State Park and Dillard Mill State Historic Site.

From 2008 to 2011 he was the manager at Sam A. Baker State Park and then went to manage Truman Lake State Park.

“I have family in the Potosi area, so it was nice to get back on this side of the state,” he said.

Bethel originally hails from the St. Clair/Lonedell area. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education from University of Missouri - St. Louis, and a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education and Curriculum Development from William Woods University in Fulton.

Before he worked for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR), he was an Associate Professor of History at Lindenwood University.

“At that time, the university owned and operated the  Daniel Boone Home in St. Charles,” he said. “I managed the home for the university and taught classes in history and history skills.”

The position here, he explained, allows the chance to get back into the historical part he likes.

In that regard, he said he intends to expand the “educational outreach” of the site.

“In the spring, we are going to start expanding our educational opportunities,” Bethel said. “I’ve already starting making a few contacts with local school teachers, but my plan is to start getting in touch with local superintendents and school principals to get in front of the teachers during their work days to tell them about the site, but also to offer them programming.

“Since we have the Battle of Pilot Knob site and Elephant Rocks, we can do the history or natural history.  I’m well versed in the natural and (Site Interpreter) Brick (Autry) is well-versed in the local history, so we could actually go to a school and do a program on the Civil War.

“The Department of Natural Resources has a grant program to pay for school bus transportation to a Historic Site or DNR State Park.  We will get that information to them, as well.”

Bethel lives at the Elephant Rocks SP park residence. His wife, Kelly, is a teacher and had already taken a position in Warsaw when he was offered the job.  She will join him here in May. Kelly and Bryan have a son, Jacob, in college at St. Clair.

The new manager also plans to rotate themed displays in the museum to highlight artifacts brought out of storage.

“January and February will be “After the Battle,” he said.  “From Oct. 1864 to 1865 when the war ended, the fort was still occupied by union soldiers, but there were no local battles, so they were blacksmithing, rebuilding wagons, caning carriages – different things like that.  They were still part of the war effort, but there wasn’t any local shooting.  A unique blacksmithing thing going on was they were shoeing oxen.

“In March and April we will rotate in a new theme.”