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Pioneer Times


February 2010

Maggie Delaney Wows them Again at the Fireside Chats


By Kathy Cummings

On February 13, 2010 Maggie Delaney appeared at her second Fireside Chat at Fort Boonesborough State Park. The Fireside Chats are a series of presentations (with dinner) presented in the blockhouse at the fort. Each Saturday night in February features a different speaker and also a different menu of “Frontier Fare.” The chats are sponsored by The Fort Boonesborough Foundation.

It seemed hard for me to believe that Carol Jarboe first presented her portrayal of Maggie just one year ago at the 2009 Chats. Although Jarboe has been portraying Maggie, the indentured servant at events for several years, last year was her first full length presentation. At that time Jarboe amazed her friends and all of the public in attendance with her tear wrenching portrayal of an eighteenth century indentured servant. Throughout the year she continued her portrayal appearing at libraries, re-enactments, family reunions, Women on the Frontier and more.

Said Mat Bryant who portrays frontiersman William Whitley, “Carol moved up the bar for all of us that do first person portrayals.”  And justly so. I have seen the portrayal several times now - each one a bit different, a bit deeper and a bit more emotional. Said Jarboe before the performance, “Maggie has continued to grow and change. The storyteller in me feels the need to add and change every time my research unearths some little known fact about indentured servitude.”

Jarboe begins her performance with no introduction. She prefers to enter as Maggie Delaney and thus stay in the minds of her audience that way. Said Jarboe ”If I am introduced first as Carol Jarboe - portraying Maggie Delaney the audience has to make the transition from my 21st century identity to my 18th century persona. I prefer them to meet Maggie first. After it is over they can be introduced to Carol Jarboe”. So Maggie makes her entrance when Parson John, her master, calls her into the room. “Parson John” is portrayed by Carol’s husband Frank Jarboe.

I held my breath as she made her entrance wondering what the reaction would be to Maggie. Last year she was a complete unknown. This year she appeared as a character that had received a lot of press, had a DVD of her performance for sale and had many return visitors in the audience. I needn’t have worried. In only moments the audience fell under Maggie Delaney’s spell. Her tale is of the hard life of a woman and her family forced to leave Ireland in abject poverty and sign their lives away for 7 years for passage to America. Few historic accounts tell the actual facts of that life. Romantic novels often referred to the servants leading a wonderful life, spending their few years of servitude and moving on to a charmed life. Reality was never quite that. Jarboe tells her tale of different masters, beatings, families separated, exhausting dawn to dusk work in such a way as to let her audience know the true realities of life as an indentured servant. With humor and hope she weaves an unforgettable tale.

And for the second year in a row - Maggie Delaney touched our hearts. Jarboe received a standing ovation for her performance and returned to answer questions from the audience. 

Click here to see a video clip of the performance

Click here to learn more about the full length DVD


It was clear from the questions from the audience that few people know the entire truth about indentured servitude


Each of the fireside chats is preceded by “A Taste of Frontier Fare.”


Fort Manager Bill Farmer made announcements about the upcoming season at Fort Boonesborough which opens April 1.


Parson John calls on his servant Maggie to tell his visitors “her story”


Although Maggie protests that it is “much too sad a story” she begins


The collar she wears - she tells her audience immediately identifies her as a runaway


Wrapped up in the story of her own life - Maggie relives her sorrows


For the second year in a row - Foundation member Donna Jones donated Valentine’s flowers she had arranged for the silent auction. All proceeds of the evening benefit The Fort Boonesborough Foundation.


Foundation member John Morgan sang “The Liberty Tree” an 18th century song written by Thomas Paine in 1775. One of the other foundation fundraisers is selling items made from the second “Divine Elm” at Fort Boonesborough which had to be taken down in 2009.

The remaining two 2010 Fireside Chat performances will be William Whitley portrayed by Mat Bryant on February 20 and Isaac Shelby portrayed by Mel Hankla on February 27th. Visit the Fort Boonesborough Living History Website for more information.


It’s A Dog’s
More Snow

Recent snow storms have made records - with snow in 49 of the 50 states. And while snow continues to fall today - only kids and dogs seem to be enjoying it!

Matt Bryant Brings Colonel William Whitley to Life


By Kathy Cummings

Colonel William Whitley was a name well known to early Kentuckians. As one of the earliest families in Kentucky his name became well known as a soldier and an Indian fighter. But many people today are not familiar with his name. If they do know of him, it may relate to Kentucky’s horse industry, for Whitley built the first race track in the area next to his brick home which was completed in 1794. The William Whitley House still stands today and is a state historic site.

But more people should know about the man behind the house. And Matt Bryant is doing a superb job of telling Whitley’s life story. At the third of the 2010 Fireside Chats at Fort Boonesborough, Bryant brought William Whitley center stage. He talks of Whitley’s exploits as an Indian fighter and how he came to feel an obligation to keep those who had settled in Kentucky (including his wife and children) safe from harm.

Bryant stops short in his narrative of talking about Whitley’s second rise to fame for he portrays Whitley as a man in his mid thirties. The War of 1812 broke out when William Whitley was in his 60’s and he joined with the Kentucky forces, fought and led troops and died in that war. But that doesn’t mean that Bryant is not knowledgeable of that period in Whitley’s life for he talked extensively about it in the question and answer session after his performance.

If you haven’t had a chance to attend any of this year’s February fireside chats they will conclude with Isaac Shelby portrayed by Mel Hankla on February 27th. Visit the Fort Boonesborough Living History Website for more information.

And watch for other performances by Matt Bryant portraying William Whitley. It is a great portrayal and an educational experience for learning about the life of Colonel William Whitley.


Link to Pioneer Times
Of William Whitley

Isaac Shelby: Soldier, Farmer and Statesman

By Kathy Cummings

Few men in early Kentucky served their state as well as Isaac Shelby. A soldier, a statesman, a governor (twice) and a farmer. And according to perennial favorite historic interpreter, Mel Hankla, being a farmer was what Shelby desired most. Although Hankla portrays two other historic figures, Simon Kenton and George Rogers Clark for The Kentucky Humanities Council Chautauqua, he admits that bringing Shelby to life had a lot to do with Shelby being a personal hero.

And at the performance of Shelby at the final 2010 Fort Boonesborough fireside chat Hankla’s portrayal resounded with that personal feeling for Isaac Shelby. “I have really honed this performance of Shelby” said Hankla. “For as the bicentennial of The War of 1812 approaches, people who have little knowledge of Isaac Shelby will be hearing more about the statesman who heard the call of his state and came back to public life both as governor and to lead Kentucky’s troops into battle in that war.” And bringing Shelby to the forefront educates all of us

Hankla will perform again as Isaac Shelby in Shelbyville, Kentucky on April 1st. The performance is hosted by The Painted Stone Settlers and will include a color guard by The Isaac Shelby Sons of the American Revolution. For more information about this upcoming performance visit

Isaac Shelby

For more information about Mel Hankla and his educational portrayals visit

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