History

A Former State Senator and his wife donated 17  acres to the City of Hart for a park to be established to honor their son, Lieutenant John Gurney and his service to our Country. John Gurney Park was donated to the village of Hart in 1912 by Theron and Helen Gurney to honor their son, Lieutenant John Gurney, who had died at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish American War. In 1914 the Progressive Park Association erected the entrance arch as a memorial. In 2009 the Michigan Historical Marker Fund and the Michigan Beachtown Association paid for a historical marker. It was the second of five Michigan Historical Markers erected as part of the West Michigan Roadmap project.

Just across Hart Lake near along the bridge is the Veteran’s Park. Visitors can take a short walk along the Hart Montague Trail, stop off for ice cream and then it is just another short walk over the bridge to explore more history.

Auto Tourism Park Honored in 2009
Michigan Historical Commissioner Tom Truscott dedicated a Michigan Historical Marker honoring both auto tourist camps – popular with early-20th-century travelers – and Hart’s John Gurney Park at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17. Part of an ongoing effort to promote tourism in communities along the old West Michigan Pike (US-31), the marker was located near the entrance arch of the park, at 300 N Griswold St. in Hart.

“John Gurney Park was one of several auto tourist camps developed along the West Michigan Pike during the 1920s, meeting the need for accommodations among a growing crowd of automobile travelers,” said Michigan Historical Center Director Sandra Clark. “It’s one of the many fascinating stories of Michigan’s West coast heritage that the West Michigan Roadmap project is bringing to life.” Read more on the Michigan Historical Markers website, click here.

 Who is John Gurney?

John Gurney was born in Hart in 1871 and after attending West Point Academy served our country during the Spanish American War. Here are some highlights from his life.

  • Graduated from Hart Schools in 1888.
  • Olivet College
  • John Gurney Entered West Point 1891
  • Gradated 3rd in his class in 1895 – He was class president 3 years
  • Choice of service – Army Corps of Engineers
  • Chose active duty and assigned to
    24th Infantry-Buffalo Soldiers known as Company D.
  • He was deployed to Cuba in 1898
    during the Spanish American War
  • July 1, 1898 Company D under fire 11 AM – Led by Captain
    Ducat & Lt Gurney et al
  • Led troops across small stream and up hill toward Fort San Juan
  • Lt Gurney was shot in chest and died minutes later. Ducat was wounded.
    Read the details in the Army After Action Report click here.
  • Co. Ducat takes the Hill around 12 noon with assistance from Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders
  • Telegram came from Captain Ducat July 12, 1898 advising of John Gurney’s death.
  • 17 acres was donated to the City of Hart by Theron and Helen Gurney in 1912.
  • The Deed recorded Christmas Eve 1912
  • The Deed stipulated Woodlawn be improved and a sign placed to commemorate John Gurney.
  • Sign was to be installed in 1914 by George Dennison at a cost of $525.25
  • The park was gifted with the stipulation that it is always to be named John Gurney Park.