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When beavers battled with cattle

Bluffton College's first baseball field

in 1914 was also a cow pasture

Many viewers are familiar with the large open area on the Bluffton University campus below the library. It’s where disc golf games take place today.

Some viewers may not be aware that the field was originally the official Bluffton Beavers’ baseball diamond.

We’ve discovered a story from the March 30, 1950, Bluffton News, written by Harriett Burkhart. Today she is Harriet Moyer, resident of Maple Crest.

Her story reveals the interesting history of the field, which today is part of forgotten Bluffton.

The story from March 30, 1950

Bluffton News

Dynamite and a battle over barbed wire fence were instrumental in the making of Bluffton College’s baseball diamond.

Wild thorn trees, and bushy undergrowth covered the tract of land where the diamond is located today.

The land was purchased in 1910 by the college, lay dormant for four years, and then in 1914 clearing of the tract began.

Dense trees and bushes were dynamited by instructors, and students. Classes were dismissed while students with the help of a team of horses and farm implements leveled the field.

A towering 20 to 25 foot pile of roots and brush was collected and burned.

Girls served refreshments to the laborers and a holiday spirit invaded the campus.

College cow

Leading the students in cleaning the field were instructors H.W. Berky, G.A. Lehman and Hugh J. Ridge. Grass was sowed. The grass grew luxuriant, in fact, that the superintendent of grounds and buildings decided that it would make a wonderful pasture for the college cow.

Bluffton’s team rapidly developed an original type of baseball when a barbed wire fence was put up to keep the cow from wandering.

Players were forced to climb over or go under the wire when fielding and indignation arose over ripped pants.

“I believe fence posts would pull pretty easy, hinted Prof. Herbert Berky to the group of students one rainy evening. A muffled disturbance arose about 11 that night and Prof. Berky, then Dean of Men, didn’t bother to investigate.

Vanishing fence

Wire and fence posts had completely vanished next morning. College authorities pulled out long faces and proceeded to “investigate.” The culprits were never found but, discovered in the woods surrounding the diamond was a roll of posts and wire eight feet high.

Not daring to put the fence up again, the superintendent of grounds and building was forced to leave the fence in the woods to rust and rot. Remains are there today.

Bluffton’s baseball diamond has been used for ball games exclusively ever since the battle over the barbed wire fence.

Freshmen level the field each year and get in condition for the season’s games. Work is being done this year and baseball season is about to start.

1 Comment

Oct 23, 2022

The old Baseball field has been a goo friend of mine for years. It was the first place I ever Metal detected and I still have my First Target I ever found at that site. It is a Thrashing Machine metal Comb. My wife’s Aunts graduated from Bluffton College in 1917 and I asked them about nickels I had found in three different locations on that baseball field. All the nickels were Buffalo nickels, V-Nickels, even a Half Dime. They said the College held Latin plays in those areas and it cost a nickel for entry. I have walked by that roll of fence many times in the woods and in my early days of walking in that woods, I…

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