Couple say they purchased the property and donated it as a way to give back to the community
MARSHFIELD, MO. – Among the hustle and bustle of city traffic is a hidden gem. At 716 W. Hubble Drive in Marshfield, Mo., a small piece of preserved history sits right in the middle of town, the Hidden Waters Nature Park.
Roads, residential and business properties surround the boundaries of the 10-acre plot.
Although in the middle of town, the name says it all; it’s a park hidden away in the landscape of Missouri native trees and plants. Wildlife, composed of birds, bees, squirrels and more, frequent the park as much as the humans. Not only is it a natural landscape, but there are historical treasures throughout the shaded walking trails as well.
Friends of Hidden Waters, which encompasses a board of directors, maintains the park gardens, lawns, trails and cabin. But the park never would have existed without Dan Beckner and his wife Zoe Beckner, who purchased the original 3 acres. The couple saved the historical land from housing development and later donated it for the purpose of the park. The Beckners wanted to preserve the areas natural beauty and history.
“We never had children… purchasing and donating the land was a way to give back,” Dan said when visiting the park.
Dan gets a little lump in his throat, he admitted, every time he talks about the property’s original owner, William Terrel Burford. Dan said people frequently ask him how he knows so much about the man, and if he learned about him in history books. He loves telling them William Terrel Burford was actually his great-great-grandfather, a fact that was unknown to Dan and Zoe when they originally purchased the property.
“Did you see the cross in the bluff?” Dan asked. Alongside a bluff of the park, greenery has been cleared away and a cross appears to have been etched in stone. Dan and his wife Zoe debate on how the cross got there. Dan said Zoe believes it was engraved by Native American Indians, but Dan believes it could have been done by no other than God.
By Dan and Zoe’s generosity, Hidden Waters Nature Park has been able to grow both in size (to 10 acres) and history. One of the main attractions of the park is the Callaway Cabin, originally built in 1853. It was moved and reconstructed to the Hidden Waters Nature park in 2009. The Callaway Cabin was one of only a few structures that survived a tornado in 1880 that demolished much of Marshfield. The cabin was saved and reconstructed from its deteriorating state, both from age and the effects of the Civil War.
The revitalized Callaway Cabin and its porch have been repurposed for various reasons in recent years.
During the summer, the Callaway Cabin’s porch is used as a stage for “Music in the Park,” an event hosted in the summer months where bands play bluegrass, country and gospel music. COVID-19 canceled music plans in 2020, but Music in the Park resumed on June 13, 2021.
Another historical attraction is the verified segment of the Trail of Tears inside Hidden Waters Nature Park. The Cherokee Nation, removed from their lands after the Indian Removal Act in 1830, journeyed through the land during the forced relocation. It was confirmed through reliable journals that several groups were able to use water resources from the park’s numerous springs. In total there are 14 natural springs on the property. Local legend claims the springs were created by the 1880 tornado, but it’s more likely the tornado cleared away forest and brush making the springs visible again.
Throughout the year, many weddings and birthday parties are hosted at the park, free of charge. Nonformal picnics, walks, and bike rides are enjoyed as well. The well-maintained gardens, bridges and ponds provide a beautiful backdrop for family, graduation, and engagement photos. The winding gravel trail leads through the woods, over bridges, near flowery gardens and to the cross-etched bluff providing a great spot to exercise. The unique setting has been created both by nature and a lot of work from volunteers, including Dan Beckner who spent a lot of his life maintaining and landscaping the park.
Dan said he tries to visit the park once a week but admits age has deterred him from visiting as often as he would like. He still attends board meetings and tends to the park’s landscaping when he can. For the most part, Dan said when he’s at the park, “I’m not working; this is my recreation.”