An engaging time of living history
TURBOTVILLE – If it weren’t for the early American skills, life as we know it today, would not be nearly as proficient. The preservation of this knowledge to do things the good ol’ fashion’ way is clearly demonstrated during the annual Heritage Days provided by the Warrior Run-Fort Freeland Heritage Society.
The Society itself was created in 1978 to preserve the heritage of the nearby Warrior Run area. For 31 years they have created Heritage Days, an event always held the first weekend in October to present a living history of everyday American life from 1770 to 1870. This interactive festival portrays just about every craft and trade from rope and candle making to open hearth cooking to fitting logs together for log homes. Volunteers are dressed in period attire and for two days demonstrate the skills they learned through an apprenticeship program started by the Heritage Society. Many of these apprentices are students and members of the Fort Freeland Heritage Society. They learned the craft under the direction of a Journeyman or a Master for a period of three to five years. The Journeymen started out as apprentices when they were students and continue to pass on the trade from one generation to the next according to member and apprenticeship coordinator, Wayne Appleman. “The Scotch-Irish and Germans had a tremendous influence on life here,” replied Appleman. “They were the early settlers.” About 400,000 came here in 1740 according to board member, Robert Franks. The heritage program keeps the skills alive prior to 1880. “This is a world class program,” Appleman said who also leads the Fort-Freeland Flickers, a sheep-to-shawl team.
Several re-enactments were demonstrated. One of significance was the Battle of Fort Freeland. The Fort Freeland Company of Independent Riflemen made the history of the battle come alive when a deadly ambush took place there on July 28, 1779. Another re-enactment, one of the Civil War, took place at the historic Warrior Run Church and Cemetery where an encampment was set up to depict the actual scene that took place. A monument is placed on the land dedicated to the men who fought there.
A tour through the restored Hower-Slote House built in 1829 by James Slote, a prosperous miller, revealed spinners, weavers, and looms. For just a cost of $280 the house withstood many decades because of its thick walls (three layers of bricks), original floors and woodwork, and a limestone foundation. The farm had an operating grist mill, saw mill, lime kiln and quarry. Corn was one of the main crops and it was very plentiful. It was a true corn culture – corn mush, corn fritters, corn bread, corn flakes and probably more. Tour guide Patrick Menges, a volunteer and history teacher from Williamsport High School spoke of the property’s prominent role in history. “Living history is the best way to experience what happened,” he said as he proudly remarked about the youth apprenticeship program and the Warrior Run School District. “They keep it going,” he added.
Throughout the event, demonstrations and free tasting samples were given out to guests. A popular dish of the time was “Hog Maw” according to artist and member, David Seybold who was demonstrating the open hearth cooking using old iron implements from his home in Lewisburg. “They used all parts of the pig. This dish is stuffed pig’s stomach,” he said while using hand me down recipes from the Pennsylvania Germans.
A hay ride took visitors across the road to the historic Warrior Run Church and is registered by the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia. A church service with a Civil War sermon was held Sunday morning. A candlelight service will be held there on December 8. 75 Revolutionary soldiers are buried on the site.
Much credit goes to the team of 300 volunteers who plan this event from one month to the next, year to year. Pointing to a young boy carrying two buckets of water down to the open hearth, chairperson Betsy Watts said, “Their role is to teach our heritage. It is two-fold – preserving history and passing it on. Today is the hands-on teaching day.” She also said her husband was a direct descendant of one of the men who was killed in the Fort Freeland Battle.
Skills to foster through the apprenticeship program and those represented during Fort-Freeland Heritage Days:
Toys and Games