Re-enactors converge on Fort Loudon

September 15, 1999

Fort LoudonBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photos: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

FORT LOUDON, Pa. - Beside the palisade walls of Fort Loudon Wednesday, hearty souls gathered around fires next to their tents and teepees to ward off the chill of an intermittent rain.

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Their numbers had declined in the past day or so over concerns about Hurricane Floyd, but Larry Rowe of Hagerstown said there were still a couple of hundred people at the Great North American Rendezvous. Dressed in buckskin leggings and moccasins, Rowe is the "booshway," or leader, of this year's rendezvous of weekend frontiersmen and women.

"It's a bastardization of the French word 'bourgeois,'" Rowe said of his title. In the real world his title is senior network engineer and he designs computer networks. Among the others from two dozen or so states and Canada, there were doctors, nurses, librarians, plumbers and electricians, an airline pilot and an ordained minister, he said.


Civil War re-enactors are a common site in this region, but the Great North American Rendezvous celebrates an earlier era in colonial and American history, the time between 1680 and 1840 when trappers, hunters, rangers and pioneers roamed the frontier of the continent. Fort Loudon, established in 1758, would have been on the fringe of that frontier.

This is the fourth annual rendezvous, Rowe said. Next September the rendezvous will once again be held in Fort Loudon.

The encampment lasts until Saturday, and during their days here the participants engaged in tests of skill with flintlock muskets and rifles, knives, tomahawks and bows. On Wednesday a number of men donned kilts for Scottish Highland games, which consist largely of tossing large objects such as stones and poles called cabers.

Daryl Straw of Dillsburg, Pa., got off a good toss of a log with an iron handle, but the handle came loose when Rowe tried, sending the log one way and him another. A broadly built man with flowing white beard and hair put his weight behind a throw and was six or more feet past Straw's, which was marked with his tam.

Straw is also a captain in the Rangers of the Ohio Co., a group of about 70 re-enactors who travel the East for shoots, rendezvous, pow-wows and demonstrations for school groups. Rowe, who is also a ranger, said that group will be back at Fort Loudon in November.

The campers this past week have lived in relative comfort. There are tents with cots, wood stoves, chests and cabinets. "When the women don't come along, it's a blanket under a tree," Rowe said.

Donna Fetterman of Newville, Pa., is the segundo, or second in command. At home she said a fly in the kitchen would bother her, but after a few days in camp "you just wipe the spiders away and don't think about it."

Cotton and Bea Volrath of Brimley, Mich., earn their retirement income at encampments as traders. His tent walls are lined with rabbit pelts, flintlocks and leather pouches, and tables are covered with beads, knives and buttons "made from bone, horn, coconut shell - everything but plastic."

"We'd be moldering in a hospital if we didn't have something to do," Cotton said.

A National Rifle Association-affiliated club, the rendezvous also raises money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation benefiting children with terminal and life-threatening diseases. Rowe said the not-for-profit group raised more than $1,500 this week for the charity.

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