Henricus Publick Days Takes Trip Back in Time
By Caitlin Davis
Sep 17, 2012, 12:51
photo by Caitin Davis Maya Long, 7, and her sister Ayslin, 4, help a reenactor portraying a Powhaten woman make bread at Publick Days, Saturday.
Powhaten men and women, settlers from England and soldiers from the colonials of the Revolutionary War to the Doughboys of WWI mingled on the bluffs overlooking the James River during Publick Days at Henricus Historical Park.
Held to commemorate the establishment of the second English settlement in the new world, visitors could walk through history.
Henricus was settled in 1611 by Sir Thomas Dale, who arrives with soldiers, farmers and tradesman. The settlement he established up stream and inland from Jamestown was the Citie of Henricus, where colonists established the first hospital and chartered the first college in North America.
The first stop on the historical walk was a Powhatan village of 1611. The reenactors taught onlookers about the lifestyle Virginia Indians would have had in the 17th Century. The glimpse into the lives of the Powhaten included demonstrations of the making of pottery, cooking, agriculture and discussions of Indian religion.
Natasha Long and Chad Long, from Richmond, looked on as their daughters Maya, 7, and Ayslin, 4, learned how to make Virginia Indian body paint.
“It’s our third year in a row,” Natasha said. “The kids always love it.”
Natasha said she and her husband Chad majored in history as undergraduates and love exposing their children to historical events. Even though she has taken her daughters to Jamestown and Plymouth, Massachusetts, Henricus is still the family favorite.
“It is really the best historical experience,” Natasha said. “It is very interactive and very hands on. Our kids look forward to it every year. It is really educational.”
Natasha said the best part of the “Publick Days” is the mixture of hands on experience it gives her daughters and the lessons about history that cannot be taught in a classroom.
“It’s fun because it gives them perspective about life and the world and how we became the nation we are today,” Natasha said.
Natasha said Henricus brings the public into the history.
“I love the social history aspect of it,” Natasha said. “How they dressed, how they would’ve prepared food...it is a snapshot; a living, breathing snapshot in history.”
photo by Caitlin Davis
Around the corner, English settlers were busy about their work as tobacco planters and servants, demonstrating the domestic duties of settlers. Some cooked and prepared food while others labored as blacksmiths, coppersmiths and carpenters.
Terry Marr, historical reenactor, acted as a trade specialist during Publick Days. Marr was helping to build a hubble to store firewood. Marr said events like Publick Days are a chance for Henricus to showcase what it has to offer.
“It is a chance to see what’s going on at Henricus,” Marr said.
As Marr sawed wood for the hubble, he explained what he was building and talked about the importance of living history.
“If we don’t know where we came from, how do we know where we’re going?” Marr asked. “If we don’t know, we will keep making mistakes over and over again.”
Above the bluff, soldiers from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and WWI swapped war stories and talked with visitors.
During the Civil War, soldiers from the C Coast Battery would have fired on the opposing military’s ships with light artillery.
photo by Caitlin Davis
A Confederate flag waved on the bluff as Cecil Morris, who usually reenacts at Petersburg National Battlefield, led the men in a firing of the Napoleon Cannon with its 12 to 15 inch chamber.
Morris grabbed his binoculars and ran to the edge of the bluff, shouting that the enemy was approaching. The soldiers assembled to fire the cannon. Onlookers cheered and enjoyed the show.
Morris gave insight into the lives of the soldiers who lived at the camps during the Civil War. He said that many of the soldiers practiced religion, noting that many camps experienced religious revivals.
Some soldiers found different ways of passing their time.
“They used to race lice on plates,” Morris said. “They would heat up the plates and have them race. They picked the lice off themselves.”
Dorothy Parsons and her daughter, Judy Smith, both of Chesterfield, had their cameras in hand during the cannon fire.
“We come out just about every year for a photoshoot,” Parsons said. “They’re wonderful. I get so much information from everybody.”