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 The Pioneer Times   October - December 2005

October 2005

An 1812 World Class Event


By Jim Cummings

Crowds gathered early in the stands to wait for the battles.

Marion IN - For those of you that could not or did not attend this year’s Mississinewa 1812 you truly did miss out on a really great world class re-enacting spectacle.

But for those of you that missed it we have some great photo coverage for you. There is nothing better to photograph and cover than an event with the sounds of fife and drum, with military units and young and old alike taking to the field. In addition to the colorful 1812 uniforms add in the settlers and militia in their walnut dyed clothing and brain tanned leggings. These folks portray the men and women that first tamed the wilds of Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee. 

Also on hand were the American Indians. And they were a sight to behold. This year saw some great looking Indian groups. Their looks and actions on and off the field were unprecedented. After the battle the spectators flocked to the Indian village to see and talk to these interpreters of America’s past and to learn how they could become part of this historical event. The native contingent appeared very well informed and friendly to the crowds.

The settlers explained how to use iron skillets and how food was kept. Questions were asked and answered about dress, from the garments themselves to the documentation to how they were washed and then on to how the settlers themselves bathed. Did they have soap, deodorant and perfume. Where did you buy shoes when they wore out and there were no shoe stores? All good questions. And a good re-enactor will answer the same questions again and again. For that is what they like to do. Give a glimpse of the past to someone not well versed in it and take them back to the times of their ancestors.

For this is what re-enactors do. They present the lives of our grandparents and great -grand parents and great-great grand parents. If they can turn one person or one child on to history then their day is complete. Most living history events including Mississinewa have a school day on Friday. Literally thousand of school children attend these events and are able to touch, see and smell living history.

Mississinewa 1812 was a learning event for all ages. The military units travel from Canada and around the United States did a superb job on the battlefield. The battles were well choreographed and went off flawlessly. The audience was transported back to 1812. The roar and vibrations of the cannons, the smell of the black powder and the smoke hovering over the field added to the feel of the event. Toss in the screams and war cries of the natives and it sent chills running up the spines of the spectators.

I talked to a couple from Lafayette, Indiana and their comment was that they did not know that a historical re-enactment could be so much fun.I heard others say that this year was the best one yet. By my estimation there were over three hundred re-enactors on the field. This did not count those that remained in camp or the sutlers that stayed with their wares.

The river pirate battle was also a big draw from the crowd and get’s a big “well done” from me.

Again, Mississinewa 1812 was an excellent event. If you didn’t get to attend put it on your calendar for next year. Enjoy the photo pages. Just like the re-enactors we strive to bring you the best photos possible and to show the time period to it’s best advantage. Our job is made easier by well dressed, well presented living historians and our hat’s off to you at Mississinewa. And a special great big Huzzah to all the re-enactors that participated.

School Days at a Living History Event
By Jim Cummings

When you see the kids disembarking from the school busses screaming and yelling the first thought is that we are being invaded. And the first thought is - how will we be able to teach these kids anything. It’s a day free from school for them and they are excited. I’ve seen panic set in. No, not the kids but the sutlers, settlers, Indians and even the military units.

The military units are waiting for the order to fix bayonets, draw swords and take defensive action. But just when they thought the end was near with all these little people coming closer and closer, while sweat is breaking out on the re-enactors foreheads and their hands are tightening on their weapons a voice like a six pound cannon booms out. STOP RIGHT THERE. DON”T DARE TAKE ANOTHER STEP FORWARD.

And like a miracle - the teachers - the leaders of the little people have saved the day and taken control. Re-enactors start to breathe a little easier and the crisis is averted for now.

OK maybe I overdramatized a little bit. But not much. All good events have school days and it is an excellent chance to go beyond what is taught in today’s school curriculum. I have seen even the rowdiest kids settle down and begin to take an interest when a re-enactor speaks. I have seen very, very shy children open up and ask questions when they see food cooking on an open fire or a deer skin stretched and drying.

What a child may read and take little notice of in a text book becomes fascinating information when coming from the lips of a painted, native re-eanctor.

And the most exciting thing I’ve seen happen is when a child re-enactor speaks to children at a school day event. The school kids realize that re-enacting is for everyone. The child re-enactor gains status among the other children and their own self esteem rises. And information passed on from a knowledgeble child takes on even more meaning for the visiting student. It is a win-win situation.

So next time “the little people” come swarming off the busses hold your hat - they will benefit from your knowledge as a living historian.


Historic Locust Grove Hosts
Re-Enactment and Market Fair

By Jim Cummings

Louisville, KY - Locust Grove is the name of the beautiful estate built in 1790 by William and Lucy Croghan. Lucy was the former Lucy Clark younger sister to General George Rogers Clark and older sister to William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame.

Locust Grove was taken back in time on October 29th and 30th to an era of it’s greatest luster and prominence. With the help of the staff of Locust Grove and about 300 18th century re-enactors the Federalist house and grounds came to life.

Re-Enactors from the Illinois Regiment (and it’s various units) hosted the event. They were joined by other members of the NWTA (North West Territorial Alliance) consisting of British, American, Canadian, French and German units. (For A complete list of the military units present click here.)

There were re-enactors from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Missouri, Wisconsin and Kentucky. Sutlers selling wares at the Market Fair came from as far away as Arizona. The local Louisvillians that visited over the weekend were sure to get their moneys worth. Folks that I talked to enjoyed being transported back to the eighteenth century even if it was for just a brief day’s visit. Those that didn’t attend (especially local teachers) really missed out.

In addition to the scheduled events there were 18th century games to try your hand at. And always with re-enactors - bits of unscripted fun. A big crowd pleaser was the re-marriage of Silas Moore (alias The Ratcatcher) and the beautiful Hester Purefinder. (See more about the marriage below)

George Rogers Clark and Locust Grove

By Jim and Kathy Cummings

Locust Grove is often mistakenly referred to as the home of George Rogers Clark. Although Clark did spend the last 9 years of his life here, the home belonged to his sister and brother in law Lucy and William Croghan. George Rogers Clark was moved to Locust Grove after the amputation of his leg made living at his cabin at Clark’s Point (Clarksville, Indiana) impractical. He lived at Locust Grove from 1809 until his death in 1818.

Rumors abound that Clark was “in his cups” when he fell too near the fireplace at his cabin. His leg was so badly burned that it had to be amputated. But after his Chautaugua performance of Clark at Locust Grove on Saturday, Mel Hankla put forth another theory.

Hankla gave a stirring performance on Saturday in the auditorium at Locust Grove. After his performance he talks about the life of Clark. Hankla is of the belief that Clark had a stroke before falling and being burned. He sites two reasons.

Mel Hankla as George Rogers Clark

 The first, being that even having passed out from too much liquor a man would come to his senses if his leg were on fire. If on the other hand he was unconscious from a stroke - he may not be aware. Secondly, when Clark’s leg was amputated in the days before anesthesia, he did not scream or cry out. Hankla aptly describes the processes of an early surgeon. He then goes on to say that the reason Clark appeared so stoic during the surgery is that he had already (due to the stroke) lost most of the feeling in that leg.

George Rogers Clark spent much of his later life in melancholy and depression. The winning of the western territories for the newly formed United States cost Clark dearly. He had signed personal notes to finance the campaign. The Commonwealth of Virginia never reimbursed Clark for the millions he was in debt and George Rogers Clark did die a broken and impoverished man. Although he would have probably prefered his own small cabin the years he spent at Locust Grove in the care of his sister were the only option for the aging and ailing Clark.

George Rogers Clark was originally buried at Locust Grove in the small family plot on the other side of the garden. Later he body was reinterred at Cave Hill Cemetary in Louisville, Kentucky and a monument placed there.

The Saga of Hester and Silas at Locust Grove

By Jim Cummings

Louisville, KY - Although the two were married earlier in the fall in Ohio, (click here to see the wedding photos) the strain of being married was too great for ole’ Silas. He admitted to not remembering being married as he had been led to the alter straight from several days in the local tavern. (Either that or Silas did not want to give up his life of leisure and independence.)

Although Silas was a self made business man (a ratcatcher) he stayed with Hester only through the honeymoon (at a local bathhouse) before he slipped away and ran off to Kentucky.

When Hester got word that her errant husband had resurfaced at Locust Grove at the Falls of the Ohio, she and her sidekick, Dicey Riley (a women of ill repute) filed warrants and headed for Kentucky. The magistrate in Kentucky had a constable arrest Silas and hold him until the lovely Hester could arrive on the scene.

Hester gave him the choice between jail and reaffirming their marriage vows. Silas thought long and hard about jail but was told that the Jefferson County jail was not a nice place to be. Besides he would actually have to work there.

So Silas took the only other option, a preacher was rounded up, and with the magistrate and constable looking on the vows were spoke. Dicey Riley and an unnamed guest were witnesses.

After the wedding and a reception at the local tavern Silas requested that the handcuffs be removed. And although he had pledged his undying attention to Hester he slipped off “to freshen up” and was not seen again. The teary eyed Hester soon recovered and was seen sipping grog with Dicey at the local tavern. But from comments overheard, I sure wouldn’t want to be Silas should he ever run into Hester again.


Reed’s Junior Rangers

By Jim Cummings

One of the greatest things at Locust Grove is the way the younger re-enactors get into the 18th century mode.

For the second year 14 year old Reed Schrader of Shelbyville, Kentucky became the Pied Piper for the younger set. Reed is a member of The Painted Stone Settlers and is also on the Butler’s Rangers cannon crew as a powder monkey.

All Reed has to do is walk through the camp and soon - like a magnet - he starts drawing the younger re-enactors to him. They are armed with various types of wooden guns and wooden long knives.

It doesn’t take Reed long to get his military troops in order. There’s a call for muster and a few barked commands from Reed and the troops fall willingly in line.

After a march around the grounds and some weapons practice the troops are ready for inspection by a British commander. After that it is off to do some more marching and a bit of maneuvers.

Click Here to see the photo section on Reed Schrader’s Junior Militia.

When other duties call Reed leaves the younger troops and takes his place on the field - for that is his real passion - being part of the grown up world of re-enacting. He has been “playing with the big boys” for several years now. He has taken part in re-enactments and battles in a several state area.

Reed is an experienced rifle man and can be seen handling both a Kentucky Long Rifle and a British Brown Bess musket. He can shoot with the best of them and can reload and shoot up to four shots a minute in the heat of battle. When a part of the Butler’s Ranger Reed takes the role of powder monkey - he is responsible for bringing the powder charge forward and handing it off to the gunner.

One of Reed’s strongest assets is his ability to teach. At one time he was a rather shy young man but not any more. His popularity among the younger kids gives him a unique position to teach what he knows. At event school days he’s at the head of the class. No, not in the front row but teaching the way. Because of his experience in re-enactinng Reed holds the attention of other children.

When I have a chance to stop and listen I am astounded at what this young man has learned over the past few years. Reed participates in events with his mother and step father - Pam and Dickie Phillips. They epitomize what re-enacting as a family is all about. They are well read and precise in their dress and they have recently begun adding yet another facet to their re-enacting. For the Phillips’ and Reed can be seen often on horse back at various re-enactments. I find the photos of them on horseback leading a troupe of re-enactors into Kentucky symbolic in another way too - for they often lead the way for others who want to become top notch re-eanctors.

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