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 The Pioneer Times   April - June 2008

Ralph Marcum: Renaissance Man

By Charles Hayes

I met Ralph Marcum when I was ten years old. He had the most interesting basement I had ever seen. He had a fast draw target rigged up that timed his draw and measured his accuracy. He had some beautiful Kentucky rifles that I assumed were originals but I later surmised that he had made them. As I grew up, Ralph’s cannon was an annual feature on the Sand Gap School float. When he fired it during the parade, I could hear its echo of the hills surrounding McKee. In the early 70’s, I began contacting Ralph concerning weapons, accoutre- ments, loads and clothing. He was always willing to help and give me benefit of his experience.

 I learned that Ralph is truly a renaissance individual. He taught at Sand Gap School, played the fiddle

at Renfro Valley’s Barn Dance, wrote articles for national publications and was constantly making something. 

I was surprised when I met people who knew Ralph when I was stationed in North Carolina, North Dakota, Texas, Michigan, England and Germany. 

The problem with knowing Ralph Marcum is: which Ralph do you know? He has so many interests, is involved in so many things and knowledgeable in so many areas; that he is difficult to define. Re-enactors in the Kentucky region are fortunate that Ralph Marcum has returned to the 18th Century to re-enact with us.

Which Ralph Marcum do you know?

Ralph Marcum, the Surveyor of History who Returns to the 18th Century to survey Living History. Ralph is a long time reenactor and historic interperter. He reenacts the part of frontier surveyor. He has also done gun building and blacksmithing.

 The teacher for 27 years

The fiddle player for 26 years

The gun maker “Two-Shoots” who specialized in swivel breech Kentucky flintlocks

The Archer who became as expert with a bow as he was with a flintlock

The civil war re-enactor who participated as union or confederate as the occasion demanded

The civil war artillery captain --- again either side

The photographer who specializes in “old timey” photographs

The editor who maintained a column in Muzzleloader Magazine for several years.

The builder and architect who

    - Built log cabins for the experience

    - Constructed a western town near McKee Kentucky that includes the Buffalo Bull Hotel & Opera House, Forks of Wildcat Trade Co., Oregon Trail Outfitters, and Judge Roy Bean's The Jersey Lilly

    - Hooten Old Town has a blacksmith shop, saloon, gallows, jail, church, funeral parlor, buggies, stagecoach, 1856 printing press, photography shop, original gristmill, water mill

    - Kentucky Heritage Trails described Hooten Old Town, “The town includes the Buffalo Bull Hotel, the Bloated Goat Saloon, The Joe Baldwin-Ballard Rifle Co., the Lame Pony Dry Goods, an exact replica a Judge Roy Bean's famous saloon and Courthouse, "The Jersey Lilly" and most recently a small country church with stain glass windows is on site.”

Ralph is an example of “If you build it, they will come.”

He constructed a long distance range for buffalo shoots, matches where Sharpes and Creedmore rifles are used …. And shooters flocked to it.

He constructed a wild west shoot and the Kentucky Single Action Shooter Society recently held a state shoot there.

You may have seen Ralph in Moccasins or Cavalry Boots, In a polecat skin hat or under a Stetson, 
You may have seen him firing a “chunk gun” – an exact replica of one once owned by the Pall Mall, Tennessee, Medal of Honor Winner, Sgt. Alvin C. York, or you may have seen him firing a civil war cannon at Wildcat Mountain or a near replica of Squire Boone’s wooden cannon at Boonesborough ( I write near replica because the wooden barrel conceals a steel barrel.)

You may have seen Ralph on stage at Renfro Valley with a fiddle tucked under his chin

Or you may have seen him hunting bear in Minnesota, Moose in Canada, or Panthers in Montana

Ralph always enjoys life, he once said, “I’ll have a good time if nobody else comes but me.”

Ralph has a passion for living, a passion for knowledge and a passion for creating weapons, clothing and accoutrements appropriate for the period he is reenacting.

If you have only seen Ralph Marcum in the 20th or 21st century, then you haven’t really seen him. Ralph’s heart and soul have always been in the 18th Century.

Ralph Marcum with the author - Charles Hayes at Fort Boonesborough for Woodsman’s Weekend 2007.

Ralph Marcum

Reprinted with permission from Muzzleloader Magazine
Special thanks to Bill Scurlock. publisher


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