Dancers to Help Recreate 200 Years of History in Mount Pleasant

The date was 1814 – the year in which inventors Samuel Colt and Adolf Sax were born.

America was at war with Britain. Napoleon I dominated Europe. Native Americans clashed with the likes of Gen. Andrew Jackson.

By 1814, members of the Religious Society of Friends and other settlers had established a community at Mount Pleasant, Ohio. Devoted to simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship, the Friends, or Quakers, established a school and built a Meeting House to accommodate 2,000.

On Saturday, the Ohio Valley’s Heritage Dance Association will help village residents and visitors celebrate two centuries of life in the Upper Ohio Valley, including the 200th anniversary of the Ohio Yearly Meeting House. Ladies wearing gowns that are true to the designs of the community’s early years – up to and including the Civil War – and their partners will perform period dances, provide historical ambiance and assist with tours of homes and buildings throughout the community.

Beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday, the HDA will perform outdoors at Evangelical Friends Church, located at 478 Union St. The church is adjacent to the original Quaker Meeting House, which will be open for tours.

With hoop skirts swirling, dancers representing the 1860s will join others dressed in fashions of the Regency period from 1795-1825. Together they will demonstrate waltzes, quadrilles and other dances of the early 1800s.

“The Heritage Dance Association is becoming increasingly popular throughout the region,” Don Feenerty of Martins Ferry said, who founded the group with his wife, Angela. “People love the ladies’ handmade gowns, our energetic performances and the bits of knowledge that we are able to share about bygone eras.”

In addition to the dancing, the celebration begins at 11 a.m. Saturday with a special program marking the 200th anniversary of the Meeting House. Historic buildings and homes in the community, including some that played a role with the Underground Railroad, will open to the public at noon for tours. The festivities also include food, vendors, music displays and much more taking place through 5 p.m.

Tickets are available Saturday at the Meeting House and at Burriss Store on Union Street. Events continue Sunday from 1-5 p.m. with tickets available at Burriss Store. Attendees should allow two hours to complete the tours. Proceeds benefit the Historical Society of Mount Pleasant, Ohio. Children age 5 and under will be admitted for free.

It is worth noting that while people across the nation turned to dancing as a way to socialize and escape from the pressures of daily life in the 1800s, that may not have been the case for most residents of Mount Pleasant. Quakers, who made up a large portion of the population, considered dancing frivolous and did not approve if it.

In fact, a newspaper article printed April 14, 1933, in the Steubenville Herald Star announced that a 60-year ban on dancing at school in the community had been lifted.

“So far as known this will be the first time in the history of the Mount Pleasant school system that dancing has been allowed at a social function in the school,” the article states.

Today, however, residents of the village welcome the dance demonstrations, with a few even turning out to watch a recent rehearsal.

For more information about the community and its festivities, look for the Historical Society of Mount Pleasant on Facebook. You can also learn more about the Heritage Dance Association or contact its organizers on Facebook.