Heritage Days in Warrior Run area wows spectators

TURBOTVILLE – Steve Shaw looked every bit the part.

The Kreamer resident portrayed a man in the days of the French and Indian War, leading up to the dawn of democracy in America and the Revolutionary War.

“I made the red vest covering my shirt,” he said Saturday standing beside other period performers at the annual Heritage Days at the Hower-Slote House and Farm.

He acknowledged he bought the pants, that rose up to just below his knee.

A scalding pitcher of coffee simmered atop flames and coals turning it charcoal black.

Shaw picked up a hand-held cooking stove, carefully grasping it by the handle, because the coals still were glowing.

“I’ve got to put them out,” he said, adding how he’s enjoyed early American history since boyhood, first becoming interested watching Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett on television.

Shaw was not alone in eagerness to please visitors.

On the vast field of grass, surrounded by rows of corn, scores of re-enactors brought history to life and continue their performances today.

The performers, many of them residents of the area who belong to a society, including men, women and children, educated and entranced a steady stream of onlookers.

While it was a happy-go-lucky mood, it belied what actually happened on the morning of July 28, 1779.

Freeland’s Fort, as it was called, became site of a fierce battle, one of many in the War of Independence between colonialists and the British and their Iroquois partners.

The battle commenced with an attack at about 6:30 a.m. by a force of nearly 300 British troops, known as Butler’s Rangers, and ferocious warriors. After a siege that lasted about three hours, the available ammunition was expended and the defenders of the fort surrendered to prevent annihilation.

Despite a relief party of militia being sent, including men of the 12th Pennsylvania Regiment of the Continental lines and Kemplin’s Rangers, it was too late to be of help and they were defeated.

Such violence could only be imagined amidst the kids and their moms and days sipping cider made of freshly pressed apples and temptations such as funnel cakes.

Shaw said he got a kick out of watching the old and young alike observe him and the others in their costumes and it is what draws families to the family-friendly tourist attraction for years.

For a 12-year-old student who attends the Warrior Run Area School District, and art students painstakingly adding brushstrokes of gray and white to create an image of an Iroquois warrior that will be part of a long mural outside a school building, a project supported by the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, Heritage Days remains a day where modern-day efforts bring back yesterday’s reality.

Many of the re-enactors are serious students of history, such as Chuck Hogan, of Sunbury, who not only enjoys camping out in the tents overnight, but in explaining what he’s learned.

“The English were diverting troops,” he said. “Coming from Fort Niagara, the British and their Indian allies attacked the homesteads of central Pennsylvania, a clever military maneuver to draw more troops from populated areas of southeastern Pennsylvania. It was hoped that General George Washington would send troops as relief further weakening the soldiers in those areas. After the attack here, other battles ensued, including at Fort Augusta near Sunbury.

The smoke rose all over the homestead. Women weaving, sewing and slicing cabbage; men swinging axes, and solitary carving and whittling away at wood. A man and his grandsons forming yellow clay in molds, to later be burned to the familiar red brick color.

Below the historic house, cauldron of boiling water softened hog parts, to be turned into scrapple. One pot alone of cracklins’ sizzled and enticed those anxious to try the original form of pork rinds.

Founded in 1978, Warrior Run-Fort Freeland Heritage Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the history and heritage of the Warrior Run area. Its members accomplish this through annual events and ongoing activities. They restore and manage the historic Hower-Slote House and farm and continue to accrue collectibles that are shown each year.