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Builder joins in effort to save Slaughter Pen
Dan Spear hosts open house to raise money to preserve land where Civil War battle raged.

Date published: 8/6/2006


A local builder opened his historic home to preservationists yesterday in hopes of raising money to save a key tract of land connected to the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Dan Spear, who owns Spear Builders of Virginia, recently finished reconstructing an 1812 North Carolina plantation house on his 82-acre homestead in Spotsylvania County.

By 6 p.m., a little more than a dozen people--most of whom are active in historic preservation groups--toured the home and made out checks to the Civil War Preservation Trust.

As a builder, "you gotta do a good deed to take the target off your back," Spear said with a smile.

The money will go toward the purchase of the 205-acre Pierson farm on Tidewater Trail south of Shannon Airport. In December 1862, the fighting was so fierce there it became known as the Slaughter Pen.

After the land went on the market, the Washington-based nonprofit trust bought it last month for $12 million--the highest price it has ever paid for a chunk of Civil War land.

"I'm so proud that we have professionals in this community who recognize our heritage," said Nancy McNammara, a volunteer for the trust.

A number of folks from a local activist group called the Committee of 500 also showed up and praised Spear for his work.

"Any time that someone really goes out of there way, opens their home for a cause like that it's a great thing," said Fred Messing, a member of the committee.

John Cummings, a local historian who organized the get-together, said he recommended to Spear that they raise money for Slaughter Pen.

"Dan wanted to open up the house for whatever good cause there was, and it was my suggestion that at this time we assist with the Slaughter Pen acquisition," he said. "That's the biggest-ticket item and getting most of the attention right now."

In a letter sent to trust members May 30, the group's president encouraged them to donate money to pay off the land's cost .

The $12 million price tag "is a huge amount of money, but the good news is we believe we have about 60 percent of that money already lined up through various commitments, meaning every $1 you give to help will be multiplied to $2.50 from those sources," trust President James Lighthizer wrote.

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