Fort Henry Days: Annual Encampment, Re-Enactment Feature New Participants

In addition to a daily battle, encampment and demonstrations, Fort Henry Days will have a focus on musical entertainment in the 18th-century style this year.

The 14th annual grand encampment and battle re-enactment takes place at Site One and Camp Russel in Oglebay Park from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 3-4. As always, the festivities are free and open to the public.

“Every year, we try to keep the focus changed a little bit,” said Ohio County Magistrate Joseph Roxby, a member of Fort Henry Days Living History Inc., the group that organizes the event. “Last year, we were very heavy on Indian lore and culture. This year, we’re very heavy on music.”

The MacDonald Pipe Band of Pittsburgh is making its first appearance at Fort Henry Days. The Marshall University Fife and Drum Unit from Huntington is returning to the event this year, as well as the ever-popular Gallowglass band and the Marsh Wheeling String Band.

Demonstrations by artisans and craftsmen remain popular with festival-goers. New participants this year include a rifle maker and a potter, Roxby said. A blacksmith is returning, and a demonstration of Native American culture is planned.

An 18th-century church service will be offered Sunday, Sept. 4. Don Thompson will hold an authentic gathering under the trees near the patriots’ camp.

Returning as featured speakers are Doug Wood, who will discuss Ostenaco, a Cherokee chief, and Dan Cutler, who will talk about Cornstalk, a Shawnee chief. Roxby said Cornstalk was assassinated in October 1777, “about a month after the events we are portraying.”

Roxby called Cornstalk “the most brave, the most noble” Indian chief. “He led the Indians at the Battle of Point Pleasant. He tomahawked one of his own men who turned and ran,” Roxby related. “He was a great Shawnee chief. He was one of the more noble characters on either side.”

The theme for the 2011 observance is “The Year of the Bloody Sevens,” recalling significant events on the western frontier in 1777. “The actual battle will be a reflection of a series of raids they would have seen on the frontier in that year,” Roxby explained.

Two high points of the fighting between settlers and Native Americans in 1777 were the first siege of Fort Henry and Foreman’s Massacre, which happened about three weeks later, he said.

A crew from Shooters Video Productions of Bridgeport will be filming parts of the battle re-enactment. “There will be some purposely-done shooting to be cut into our video,” Roxby said. “They (Shooters personnel) freshen that video every year.”

Currently, the Fort Henry Days video is being shown on Comcast channel 14 (the West Liberty University channel) and can be viewed at Comcast on Demand under the category, “get local,” subtitled “community investment,” and accessible by clicking on the Fort Henry Days tab, he said.

“Fort Henry Days is also kind of a neat event because it’s interdisciplinary,” Roxby commented. “You get motion pictures, traditional arts and music – all that’s blended together in a historical presentation.”

In addition, two new versions of the previously-issued book, “The Heroic Age: More Tales of Wheeling’s Frontier Era,” written by William Hintzen and Roxby, will be unveiled at Fort Henry Days. One version, for general readers, has five new chapters and several additional illustrations by Wheeling artist Anne Hazlett Foreman (who also illustrated the original volume), Roxby said. Also, an expanded version, designed for serious scholars, has been published with “another hundred pages of primary source and in-depth material,” he said.

The revised edition for general readers examines the legends of Lewis Wetzel, Betty Zane and Sam McColloch and contains new chapters on the Gibson-Linn Expedition, Crawford’s Defeat, the Year of the Bloody Sevens, Sam Mason and Patrick Gass.

Wilderness Music

The Marshall University Fife and Drum Unit will be at Fort Henry Days on Saturday, Sept. 3, leading re-enactors onto the battlefield and playing at the campsite near the Site One pavilion. The group of about 20 students is under the direction of Dr. Wendell Dobbs, professor of music.

The MacDonald Pipe Band of Pittsburgh will lead the participants to the field on Sunday, Sept. 4, and perform at the campground. It is a Scottish pipe band in the tradition of the Highland regiments of the British Army. Betsy Bethel-McFarland is the pipe major of the band.

Gallowglass, which has been entertaining Fort Henry Days crowds for many years, will perform both days. The group’s repertoire includes period-appropriate marches, jigs, reels and sea shanties.

Formed in 2000 by musicians Michael Petersen and Patrick Coughlan, the group performs both instrumental and vocal music from the Celtic heritage and uses traditional acoustic instruments. In addition to the founders, other performers are Diane Coughlan, Francine Zajac, Tom Bothe, Pat Plunckett and Matt Turner.

The Marsh Wheeling String Band, led by Carter Kenamond, will perform Saturday, Sept. 3. The group uses banjo, fiddle, guitar and mandolin.

Don and Angela Feenerty’s group, the Heritage Dance Association, will return for performances near the campgrounds at Site One. Dressed in 18th-century-style clothing, the 15 adults and 20 children will follow the lead of caller Bob Tomlinson as they perform dance routines to the accompaniment of Gallowglass. This year, the group will focus on dance patterns likely to have been used on the frontier.


Ongoing demonstrations by re-enactors and artisans will be found at many of the campsites. Elizabeth Huxford will provide insight into Indian life on the frontier.

Seamstresses from Brenda Applegate’s School of Needlework will demonstrate many of the spinning and sewing skills that women mastered in the 1700s. Jill Moncilovich will show weaving on a table-top loom in the pavilion.

John Boleigh, a blacksmith, will use an anvil to make iron items. Cooking demonstrations will be presented at the campsite opposite Black’s Cabin behind the pavilion Saturday, Sept. 3.

Black’s Cabin, outfitted as a trading post and tavern, will be open for daily tours. The two-room log cabin is located beside the road to the battlefield at Camp Russel.


Sutlers (merchants) will feature a wide variety of goods during Fort Henry Days. Ralph E. Babcock will sell high-end, hand-made wood toys and boxes. A new participant, potter Michael Flaherty, will demonstrate and sell period-correct items such as pint mugs and cooking pots. Another new sutler is Robert VanLier, a musket maker and owner of Albemarle Arms.

Sarah McKee will demonstrate the making of straw hats Saturday, Sept. 3, and will sell hats, honey and soap products. Tom Muschlitz, owner of Mountain Forge, will offer reproductions of colonial decorative pieces and clothing as well as rock candy, wooden swords and pop guns for children. Dennis Hevener, owner of Mill Creek Trading & Canvas Co., also will participate.

The annual auction, featuring replicas of colonial items and donations from area businesses, will be held near the pavilion. All proceeds will go to Fort Henry Days Living History Inc.

Representatives of area groups, including Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of the American Revolution, Children of the American Revolution, Wheeling Celtic Society and Wheeling Area Historical Society, will have booths in the pavilion area at Site One. Artwork, books and T-shirts also will sold in that area.