On Sept. 26, 1780, 1,000 men from the local Appalachian region marched out from what would eventually became Elkin Municipal Park, taking up arms in the fight for American independence.
Last week, the great-great-great-great-great-grandson of one of those men was busy keeping that history alive.
As a member of the Wilkes-Surry Chapter Overmountain Victory Trail Association, Joe Hicks and others presented living history to local fourth-graders. They met with the students during the week, just a few days after their Revolutionary War encampment was open to the community at large.
“I didn’t know before they had the dedication [of the muster field] on the hill that my fifth great-grandfather was with these guys with Joseph Winston when they came through here,” said Hicks. “Every time I mention him it gives me chills thinking about it, knowing that he came right through here.”
“That was the actual area that they actually mustered in,” said Teresa Howell, as she and Hicks discussed the history of the land on which they stood as students from eight schools visited 16 stations where they were able to witness living history from the Revolutionary War.
“One of our teachers, Miss Blevins, said we were going to go back in time so it got me excited,” said June Meyerhoffer of Elkin Elementary, who particularly liked learning how those early Americans earned their freedom from the British crown. “I think it was really nice for them. I was excited to go back in time to learn history and I’m glad they did it at the park. I think it was really interesting.”
Spread throughout the area behind the recreation center, members of the trail association dressed in period clothing presented a variety of lessons, including demonstrations of activities that the colonists would have participated in.
“We’ve got some good and very talented demonstrators for the tenth year,” said Mary Bohlen, president of the Wilkes-Surry Chapter of the trail association. “We have several things that are new this year.
“We have Jim Daniels [of the 6th NC Regiment] who is down here doing the Surry militia which is real important because that’s what we’re here for,” said Bohlen.
Presenting frontier survival games and skills was Carson Sailor, executive director for Southern Appalachian Historical Association. Sailor’s experience with “Horn in the West” and the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum in Boone were evident as he described the various tools used by the Mountain Men and others of the Revolutionary period.
Also new this year was Taylor Osborne, who demonstrated the way the Revolutionists made bullets, actually pouring and shaping the liquid lead.
“Children are interested in seeing that kind of thing, and I’m amazed at how in tuned they are with some of the new activities that we have,” said Bohlen.
Some of the new activities have a story of their own.
Exhibiting drums of the Revolutionary War was Chris Ray, who demonstrated rhythms used to help direct those who gathered at the site exactly 237 years earlier.
“I knew Chris when he was 14-years old and he was playing drums with the unit that he was in,” said Bohlen. “Now he’s grown up and has two daughters and he’s back participating with us after many, many years of he and I not being together. Now what I need to find is a fifer.”
“I hadn’t thought it would be anything like this,” said chaperon Diane Spicer, who was thrilled to learn about, “how they had to make everything back then.”
“It’s interesting,” said Tosha Spicer, aunt of Macy Mathis, who also helped to tend the class from Ronda-Clingman Elementary.
“We’ve got good school groups here this year,” said Bohlen, noting Boonville Elementary and Glade Creek School from Alleghany County were among those who were new attendees. “It’s the first time they’ve been here and we’re real proud of that.
“We send a packet of information to all of the school teachers with information about the event, lesson plans, and activities that can be used in the classroom,” said Bohlen. “It’s geared towards the curriculum.”
“We’re getting ready to study early colonization in America,” said Traphill Elementary teacher Deanna Berrier, stating that the students would soon be learning about the battles of the Revolutionary War.
“We try to focus on the ones around here that their great-great-grandparents were part of, so this is better than just using our textbooks,” Berrier said.
Even casual visitors to the park were impressed by the activities and how interested the students were.
“It’s a great activity for the kids,” said Jonesville resident and frequent park visitor Roland Monette. “It creates a different setting and can focus their attention in ways that sitting in a classroom can’t.
“Being able to actually see things from that era instead of just sitting in a classroom that might have pictures [can help students remember better],” said Monette. “You actually get to see the real objects and the way they actually dressed. The kind of makes it come alive. I think it’s great.”
In addition to the children’s living history program at Elkin Municipal Park on Tuesday, the Wilkes-Surry Chapter Overmountain Victory Trail Association also presented a candlelight tour for the community Saturday evening.
Making use of the grounds of the future Heritage Center near the national historical trail, reenactors provided period pick-me-ups and players as citizens remembered the local men who influenced the nation.
“The event was in commemoration of the upcoming anniversary of the Battle of Kings Mountain fought on Oct. 7, 1780. Many men from this area mustered here in preparation to travel to Kings Mountain,” said Bohlen.
“We decided to do an event for the public because we had not done one before during the annual March that I know of,” she said. “We do the school tours every year but that doesn’t give the public a chance to participate or to learn about what we’re doing.”
To find out more about the Overmountain Victory Trails Association, its programs and events such as the upcoming anniversary celebrations at Kings Mountain National Military Park on Oct. 7, go to www.ovta.org.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.