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 The Pioneer Times   January - March 2007

The Story of Anne McGinty
from the Fireside Chat at Fort Boonesborough

By Jim Cummings

February 17, 2007 Fort Boonesborough

It was a cold and snowy night, the wind was howling through the leafless trees and the wind was almost blowing the snow sideways at times. It gave an erie feeling to the fort.

I stood there looking out the cabin door watching the people arrive for the evening’s portrayal by Melanie Kuntz of Anne McGinty. McGinty was one of the first six white women to settle in Kentucky and the thought struck me that McGinty must have seen many such nights at both Fort Boonesborough and Harrodstown.

Anne McGinty 2

The walk from the parking lot to the blockhouse usually seems a short one - but tonight it was a cold and chilly one. But as always the theatregoers entering the blockhouse were greeted by members of the Fort Boonesborough Foundation, the group sponsoring the fireside chats. My first stop was to the coffee pot for a hot cup of coffee provided by Starbucks of Winchester. Rich Copeland a foundation member also had hot chocolate ready for the visitors.

After a quick warm up visitors headed down the ramp to the main theatre area of the blockhouse. Most stopped for a look at the diorama - a period display showing two eastern woodland Indians with settlers in a woodsy setting. It is the first part of the new museum to be completed.The figures were fashioned from life and the face of one of the figures was actually molded from the face of long time re-enactor and Chataqua performer Danny Hinton. Hinton portrays Dr. Thomas Walker one of the Kentucky’s earliest explorers who is said to have built the first cabin in Kentucky.

The visitors soon got to their seats and hot bowls of “frontier fare” stew. The stew was prepared by Anne Farmer of the fort staff and foundation member Karen Scales. In addition to the general public, re-enactors in period dress included Debbie Jenkins, Dennis “Doc” Muzzy and Frank and Carol Jarboe known as “Parson John and his wife.” Dinner conversation centered around the Fireside Chats and the performers that had been there in the preceding weeks.

From the conversations it was apparent that “The Chats” are a big hit and that most attendees had been present for most if not all 

About the Museum

Throughout the 2007 Fireside Chats the staff at Fort Bonesborough has talked of the current blockhouse becoming the on site museum. Jerry Raisor, curator at Fort Boonesborough said the museum will add to the historical richness and significcange of the park. Fort Boonesboroough is important not only to the history of Kentucky but to the opening of the Westward movement to the Mississippi and beyond.

When asked about the future of “The Fireside Chats” which are held in the blockhouse - soon to be museum.- Raisor pointed out one of the new exhibit cabinets - which are on wheels and have been specially designed to move out of the way for events in the blockhouse. As Living History Coordinator, Bill Farmer said “we use every inch of the fort and each cabin to it’s full potential.”

the weekend speakers. I heard talk of Steve Caudill as “Daniel Boone, and Matt Bryant as “William Whitley” as I circled through the diners.

Perennial favorite Mel Hankla debuted Isaac Shelby here last week and is scheduled as General George Rogers Clark on the final February weekend. (See story below and also visit Hankla’s new American Historic Services website at

But soon the conversation switched from the weather outside and the previous week’s performers to the event that was about to begin - The Story of Anne McGinty, performed by Melanie Kuntz. Although Kuntz has been a re-enactor for only three years, she has become a familiar face around Fort Boonesborough. As a spinner and weaver she can often be seen during Living History Weekends in the weaving cabin - lending a hand. (After the performance several people inquired about the introduction to Kuntz’s performance - which includes bio information so we have included it below.)

I guess you could say that Bill and Anne Farmer helped spawn the idea of a first person Anne McGinty character. It was during a meeting about the upcoming “Women on the Frontier Weekend”- June 9 & 10 that the discussion turned to just how little documentation there is on the early women settlers. Our early history was written by men. Men kept most journals, men owned the property, the voting rights and the right to own land. Thus all the land claim documents can be traced to men. Women did not always know how to read and write - so their own accounts are less prevalent. Another part of McGinty’s story that makes her unusual is that she did own property, land and was licensed to operate the first Ordinary in Harrodstown.

About the Performance

When Kuntz took center stage in the blockhouse Saturday night it confirmed what I already knew. It was one of the best researched and well written stories that I have heard. There are no full length books written about Anne McGinty. Everything in the story was researched from original documents. Kuntz spent countless hours in the Harrodsburg library and poured over court documents, Draper manuscripts and obscure writings. I’ve seen her research and when all of it is stacked up it is over a foot high!

She also checked family records from all over the country and connected with two women at the DAR in Texas from the Anne Poage Chapter - Marilyn Finer Collins and Ann Bevil. Kuntz is a DAR member herself and found their information invaluable.

The scene is set in McGinty’s Ordinary (or tavern) at Harrodstown.

But research is only half of a performance like this. Then comes the job of bringing Anne McGinty to life - to give her form, substance - to make her human. Kuntz tells of the journey to Kentucky with second husband William Poague and their children. (She had previously buried a husband and daughter in Virginia.) The two things that McGinty is most known for are the spinning wheel that she brought from Virginia and the loom that her husband made for her here. They first lived at Boonesborough (they had been neighbors of the Boones on the Holston) and later moved to Harrodstown were she is buried.

I found myself caught up in the story as apparently did others in the room. I could feel her pain as she held the hand of her dying husband. As his life slipped away she felt anger at his having left her alone to raise their children. McGinty married again, and again buried a husband. Melanie Kuntz made it all real. With a slightly southern Virginia drawl she became Anne McGinty. Kuntz also examined what a frontier woman’s feelings might have been against the Indians that caused so much torment in her life versus the Christian manner in which she had been raised. This performance gave true voice to what it must have been like for the earliest women on the Frontier. It was also a gift to those of us that study history. For it is relatively easy to pick up a book on Daniel Boone or James Harrod and read it. But if you want to learn about one of the early women - you will have to hunt for the information - unless you were lucky enough to attend Kuntz’s performance Saturday night of Anne McGinty. 

Link to the performance introduction that contains more about Anne McGinty and also bio information on Melanie Kuntz.

Link to the Newsreel of the Ann McGinty Performance by Melanie Kuntz

Join us for Women on the Frontier
June 9th & 10th at Fort Boonesborough


Mel Hankla Debuts
Isaac Shelby at Fort

By Jim Cummings

On Saturday, February 10th, 2007 Mel Hankla of Jamestown, Kentucky, gave a stirring first person performance as Isaac Shelby - Kentucky’s first and fifth governor.

Hankla is well known for his portrayals of 18th century historical figures, George Rogers Clark and legendary frontiersman Simon Kenton. He is a Kentucky native and a lover of both history and antiques and spends weeks and months perfecting his portrayals.

Hankla’s performances of Clark and Kenton are done under the banner of The Kentucky Humanities Council’s Chatauqua. His latest character of Issac Shelby is performed through his own company - American Historic Services. Also through American Historic Services, Hankla will be adding another performance to his arsenal when he adds one of the nation’s founding fathers - Benjamin Franklin 


Click Here for a short clip of the performance.

I asked Mel - why Ben Franklin and his answer was simple. “I look like him.” When he goes into schools, kids and adults alike mistake him for Ben Franklin. So Franklin seems to be the natural progression for this man of many faces.

As for his performance as Isaac Shelby - it was both educational and moving. He shared much information about Shelby’s life and accomplishments, and the hardships he endured and the major battles he was engaged in.

“The more I read and researched, Shelby, the more interesting he became,” said Hankla during the question and answer period after his performance. Shelby did not really want to be governor, but felt it was his duty - both the first time and again when he was elected as the fifth governor.

Hankla encouraged all present to read more about Shelby. About both his well documented life at the Battle of King’s

Mountain in Tennessee during the revolution and also in The War of 1812 at The Battle of the Thames in Canada when so many Kentucky lives were lost.

Isaac Shelby will be a work in progress, said Hankla. Shelby will grow and evolve as my knowledge and confidence grow. It is often questions from the audience that help with the evolution of a character. Something that someone will ask that I don’t know will take me go back to research again and some new facts will emerge.

Billl Farmer, Living History Coordinator at Fort Boonesborough, said “it’s refreshing to see another Kentucky Hero come to the forefront. And he added, “to have his story told by such a masterful storyteller, in such a grand style.”

As for me, I liked everything I saw and can only say to those of you, that missed it, that you missed a first class performance.

For more information about Mel Hankla go to Also check out the recent story by Helen McKinney about the American Historic Services web site,

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