History To Be Seen Through Natives’ Eyes
WHEELING – Something revolutionary is happening at Oglebay Park this Labor Day weekend.
Frontiersmen of the Ohio Valley were constantly on guard in 1782 – six years after Americans declared their independence from England. As the Revolutionary War drew to a close, hostilities lingered in the remote settlements of what was then western Virginia.
Raids on white settlements by Mingo Indians and their allies in the Ohio Country became common during the American Revolution. Alan Fitzpatrick, historical adviser for this year’s Ft. Henry Days, said drunken Virginians massacred the family of Mingo Chief Logan not far from Fort Henry.
Logan vowed vengeance against all whites and led a native rampage.
Fort Henry Living History Executive Director Don Feenerty noted the Indians’ aggression raised tensions among white settlers to the point that the Virginians also struck back at the natives where they lived.
Rather than portray the famous defense of their stockade, re-enactors at Oglebay’s Site 1 during the 15th annual Fort Henry Days will turn the tables this year striking an Indian village after years of frustrating warfare. This breaks from the tradition of reliving the well-known attack on Fort Henry by 40 British and about 240 Indians, including events such as Betty Zane’s daring dash outside the walls to retrieve gunpowder.
Beyond the drama, entertainment and education will abound from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sept. 1. At 1:30 p.m. Saturday, for example, the Heritage Dance Association will perform period-correct dances and encourage audience participation.
“Fort Henry Days welcomes all who wish to learn,” Feenerty said. “This is a great way to begin a new family tradition.”
The nonprofit, volunteer dance group specializes in ethnic and historically correct dance traditions.
Feenerty pointed out that during the Revolution, dancing was one of the only social activities available.
Music during the event features performances by the band Gallowglass and a special appearance by bagpiper Betsy Bethel-McFarland and the Macdonald Pipe Band at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“Local historians, authors and artisans will take over the Levenson Shelter,” Feenerty noted. “This will include the Sons of the American Revolution, artists Anne Hazelet, Cecy Rose and Alan Fitzpatrick and local author Joe Roxby We have secured several national-quality demonstrators,” he added.
Michael Twitty of Washington, D.C., is a nationally recognized culinary historian.
“He specializes in colonial and slave foods and cooking technique,” Feenerty said, noting Twitty is coming courtesy of WesBanco, Wheeling.
Jessica Fisher brings years of hands-on experience as a licensed doctor of pharmacy. She shares an array of 18th century medical and pharmaceutical tools and medicines, from hand-rolled pills to stills to distill oil essences from plants, leaches and other bleeding tools common in the 1700s.
Fisher’s daughter, Malissa Fox, will set up a complete 18th century dental office.
“We all have heard that George Washington wore false teeth made of wood, but did you know that many people wore teeth extracted from dead human and animal corpses? To make matters worse, these teeth were often set in lead, causing madness and other maladies,” Feenerty pointed out.
Native re-enactor Dan Cutler plans to provide a first-person presentation of Chief Cornstalk and of Logan. Doug Wood also will present “Cornstalk and his 1763 Campaign.”
Working 18th century blacksmith John Boleigh of Steubenville returns after heating the coals and hammering the steel at Fort Henry Days “for as long as anyone can remember,”
according to Feenerty.
Applegate’s School of Needlework and Jill Moncilovich is set to demonstrate fabric and lace making.
FHLH board member Jessica Keller will discuss methods of making 18th-century clothing. She recently completed a course in clothing design and manufacturing in Colonial Williamsburg, Va.
“We will have a Fort Henry-style flea market. This year we hope to set up ‘Trade Blanket Row,’ an area where participants can display and sell or trade 18th-century items and gear,” Feenerty noted.
A new addition to the annual event, the Fort Henry Wall, is a display that lists the names of more than 600 men, women and children who were in Wheeling at the time of the American Revolution.
People on that list compiled by FHLH board member and author Gary Timmons – fended off the attack on the fort. Some consider their successful defense during the three-day siege to be the final battle of the American Revolution.
Feenerty’s wife, Angela, designed a fort wall and placed all of the names on 4-foot tall panels. Wheeling-based McClellan Signs’ Sandy Caldwell printed and mounted the display.