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 The Pioneer Times   April - June 2007

Visiting Manskers Station

By Kathy Cummings

With spring comes the annual Colonial Fair at Manskers Station. I had a chance to meet Ashley Staley, the new Historic Sites Coordinator, at Manskers and had her update us on some recent happenings at the fort in Goodlettsville, TN.

Ashley talks about the Colonial Fair 2007:

When I began at Mansker's last year in March, the only thing that had been done for Colonial Fair was the mailing of the registration forms. We had only a month and a half to get this event together, which looking

back I'm amazed we were able to do it! One thing I noticed throughout the event was the lack of activities for participants and visitors. So this year we are having an area where there will be storytelling, 18th century dancing, and games. Also in that area Steve Riddle, who portrays a shepherd, will be here with several of his sheep to discuss the importance of the animal during that time.

We're also expanding the opening ceremonies to include a large parade around the fair area, which we hope many of the participants will join.

Also this year, guns can be carried again during the event. To me its not logical to portray a longhunter or a rifleman but not be able to carry a gun! There will be restrictions, such as anyone caught firing their gun without pre-approval from staff will be asked to leave.

This year we will have Father, Son and Friends among our musical entertainment.

I can't give away all our surprises for the fair, but we do have a few more tricks up our sleeves!

What's New at Manskers:

Currently we are reorganizing our museum exhibits in the Welcome Center to give a stronger emphasis on the actual history of the site. We have several exciting artifacts on display including original 18th century knives, forks, coins (my favorite is a coin from 1798!), and other items. I am hoping to have a special exhibits area and have already been approached by two individuals who are willing to loan me some great pieces including several Tennessee documents and some Civil War items. Our special exhibits area will not be confined to our traditional 1780 time period.

We are replacing the fort walls which we hope to have completed by mid-Summer.

The Bowen House is getting a new roof after Colonial Fair!

 This year we are partnering with our local Master Gardener program to expand our gardens. Last year we found that visitors enjoyed the gardening almost as much as the actual site! Last year we grew mainly tobacco, corn, and squash (aside from our herb garden) and this year we hope to expand. We're definitely expanding our flax patch and also this year we were able to get permission to plant a small area of cotton.

In July of 2006 we launched a new volunteer program which is going great! This year we've welcomed almost 30 new volunteers!

Plans for the Future:

Like every historic site, we hope to increase our visitor attendance. Last year we welcomed around 3,000 school children to the site, so I hope to continue that and also expand on our adult group and walk-in visitors.

I hope to plan more encampments, workshops, and lecturers. This year we had moccasin making workshops, a cooking workshop, and what we called "Sewing Saturdays." All were a success. I would love to offer a dulcimer making workshop this year. We also want to utilize what we have onsite for workshops, such as our blacksmith forge and woodworking shop.

We also are making plans for a summer camp for children in the summer of 2008.

We are aiming to create an online newsletter that could be received through email.

Structure wise we hope to build a few half-faced shelters at the fort....but this will not happen until we finish the walls!

A Little Background From Ashley Staley

I am currently working on my Master's at Middle Tennessee State University. Upon completion I will have a MA in Public History with an emphasis in Historic Preservation. Before coming to Mansker's I worked at Traveller's Rest Plantation in Nashville followed by the Tennessee State Museum. I also worked with a federal program called Teaching American History, and had internships at both the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center in Clarksville, TN and The Hermitage: Home of President Andrew Jackson in Hermitage, TN. I have been at Mansker's Station a little over a year and I am enjoying every minute of it!

So if you go to Manskers Colonial Fair be sure to ask around for Ashley Staley and tell her you read about her on The Pioneer Times!

For another look at Manskers Station - Click Here to read and article about Manskers Station shortly after it opened. The article was written by Mel Hankla in 1988 as the Fort was nearing completion.


Newsreel from The Conference for Historic Site Managers Held at Fort Boonesborough Click Here

The Conference for Historic Site managers at Fort Boonesborough was a huge success. Special Guest Speaker Roy Underhill, best known from PBS’s The Woodwright’s Shop is shown speaking on Public Contact Skills for Employees Old and New. Historic site managers from 5 states attended along with a panel of long time re-enactors and sutlers who gave their perspective on attending events.

Roy Underhill

Recommendations for Conducting
A Successful Living History Event

Story by Kathy Cummings

Jack Droesch not only put his thoughts on paper for the first Site Managers Conference he talked to other re-enactor and sutlers too. What resulted was a 17 page booklet of information and resources written from the view of reenactors and merchants.

The overall theme of the booklet is about setting standards and sticking to them. Vendors don’t mind event planners keeping a tight rein on the goods for sale as long as the rules are enforced for everyone. 

Nothing is worse, agree the merchants Jack talked with than, having one merchant think that he is “exempt from the rules” and be carrying non period goods and having no one on the event staff correct him. This type of policy will see an event falter over time. Doresch also talks about the little things that make a vendor come back year after year to a quality event. The obvious are a “please and thank you” attitude from the event staff and more major things like available water and port-a-pots. The re-enactors always seem to receive these things but oftentimes event planners will overlook the fact that the sutlers are re-enactors too. And that these vendor/re-enactors are often on site longer than the participating re-enactors and that they too are living and cooking on site and doing so after a long day of working in their stores and dealing with the general public.

Jude and Jack at the Early Ky Market Fair

Droesch not only gives examples of the many things they have encountered at events - for every topic discussed he gives recommendations of how to improve upon the given situation. 

Jack and Jude Droesch are proprietors of Heritage Products ( They are based in St. Louis and travel throughout the country. In addition to their own handmade goods Heritage Products now represents a dozen or more families of crafters and other small business enterprises all working to produce historically-correct products of the finest quality and workmanship.

This booklet is a well thought out piece that the Droesch’s prepared for the conference and would be valuable to other event planners. 

Copies of this booklet can be obtained through Heritage Products for $10.00 (includes shipping) or email to obtain a copy.


George Rogers Clark Visits Fort Boonesborough

By Kathy Cummings

One of the first Living History Interpreters I ever saw perform was Mel Hankla. That was almost 7 years ago at a live performance of the Remarkable Clarks at Historic Locust Grove, in Louisville, Kentucky.

Now, being so involved in Living History I have seen numerous performances by a variety of living historians over the years. And I find each one thrilling. To see a person step out of themselves and into a figure from the past always amazes me. But none more so than Mel Hankla as George Rogers Clark. Maybe it’s because George Rogers Clark was one of the first stories that I read and researched. Maybe it is because I’ve gotten to know Hankla and worked with him on a few projects. But what I really think, is that it is just because he is so good at it.

And last week at Fort Boonesborough was no exception. Hankla played to a full house. The weather co-operated a bit more than the weekend before when the fort was covered with a blanket of snow. Although it was rainy all of the tables were nearly full when “the taste of the frontier” dinner began. Ham, potatoes and green beans cooked over the hearth fire was the menu of the evening. I had only a few moments to talk to a few re-enactors I knew before it was time to set up camera gear. But even so I talked to a few more folks in passing. One woman had brought her German born husband as a way to expose him to more American History. Another woman had come from West Virginia. We joked that it was along way to come – but she had family in the area and throughout Kentucky. So they watch for events at Fort Boonesborough because it is centrally located for several branches of the family – and then the meet at the fort.

But as pleasant as the meal and the visiting were, everyone had really come for the performance. And they were not disappointed. George Rogers Clark strode into the room in his most military fashion immediately captivating the audience. Hankla has been performing as George Rogers Clark for almost four years now and is as comfortable with Clark as he is performing Simon Kenton who he as been interpreting for about 12 years. Both of these performances are part of the Kentucky Humanities Council – Chautauqua Series. Hankla has also added two other performances as Isaac Shelby and Benjamin Franklin which can be booked through his own company American Historic Services.

In addition to performing a character “in first person” one of the most interesting aspects of these performances is the question and answer period. Hankla finds this especially helpful with George Rogers Clark. He explains that realistically since Clark had a leg amputated in later life that his performance sticks to the time in Clark’s life prior to that incident. And many of the aspects of Clark’s life have been misunderstood or misrepresented and the question and answer period give both Hankla and the audience a chance to examine some of the less understood areas of the General’s life.

But don’t take my word for it – watch the Newsreel for excerpts of the performance and then be sure to catch General George Rogers Clark the next time he has a public performance in your area.

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