Fancy that

Hager's haven hosts handiwork, harmony and history

Hager's haven hosts handiwork, harmony and history

August 01, 2002|by KATE COLEMAN

A recent visitor from Lagos, Nigeria, was impressed by Jonathan Hager House, the home of the German immigrant who has been called the Father of Washington County.

The fieldstone house, on 11 acres at the northwest edge of Hagerstown's City Park, is 200-plus years of history staring you in the face, the visitor commented in Hagerstown Visitor's Bureau survey form.

"Wow!!!" he wrote.

This weekend there will be an opportunity to experience some of that history at the 30th Annual Jonathan Hager Frontier Craft Days. There will be music, the handiwork of some 50 craftspeople and plenty of food at the city-supported haven that is Hager House.


For the first time in the festival's 30 years, Friends of Fort Frederick will bring some living history to the event. The independent, nonprofit group supports the Big Pool state park that was Fort Frederick, built in 1756 by the colony of Maryland to defend its western frontier during the French and Indian War.

In addition to being of the same time, there's a direct connection to Jonathan Hager, who was a captain of scouts serving out of Fort Frederick from 1757-59.

Although Friends of Fort Frederick is not a group of re-enactors, the organization has friends who re-enact, and some of them will be at Hager House this weekend.

The Maryland Forces, based at the fort, will demonstrate a recruitment. The Gatekeepers will portray local citizens who became refugees, fleeing to the safety of the fort. And on Sunday, Friends President Chas Rittenhouse most likely will slip into the persona of Little Heiskell, a role he's been playing for 20 years.

Little Heiskell, known as the symbol of Hagerstown, was a 3-foot tall weathervane in the shape of a Hessian soldier thought to be commissioned by Hager and designed by a German tinsmith named Heiskell.

Little Heiskell was shot in the "heart" by a Confederate soldier during the Civil War, according to the Hager House brochure. The figure was atop City Hall until 1935 and is now part of the collection at the Hager Museum, on the site near Hager House.

The museum's collection also includes 18th- and 19th-century coins, bone forks and combs, pottery, buttons and ironwork. The museum will be open this weekend; admission is always free.

Hager House, built on the 200 acres the young German immigrant called "Hager's Fancy," provides a glimpse of life in days gone by.

The 3 1/2-story home was acquired by the Washington County Historical Society in 1944, restored and presented to the City of Hagerstown in 1954. The current annual budget is $94,000.

Hager House was opened to the public in September 1962, Hagerstown's bicentennial.

Jonathan Hager built his house over a spring, and visitors can see the cool water in the cellar. Although none of the furniture in the house was Hager's, the collection includes period pieces - blanket chests, a spinning wheel, tools and utensils of the time.

Outside, a vegetable garden is tended by Hager House staff, and the Elizabeth Kershner Hager Herbal Gardens, named for Jonathan Hager's wife, are cared for by members of the Antietam Garden Club.

"It is our attempt to make it look like it did back then," says John Nelson, Hager House curator.

30th Annual Jonathan Hager Frontier Craft Days

Saturday, Aug. 3, Sunday, Aug. 4, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Craft vendors all day; music from noon until 4 p.m.

Jonathan Hager House

110 Key St.


Event is free

Tours of Hager House cost $4, adults; $3, senior citizens; $2, children 6 to 12.

Parking will be available in City Park lots.

For information, 301-739-8393.

Hager House also is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays, 2 to 5 p.m. The home is closed January through March and during the last week of November through the first Tuesday of December, in preparation for Christmas.

Tours at special times and group rates are available by request.

Craft Days music schedule

The accent is on mountain music at Jonathan Hager Frontier Craft Days this weekend.

Mary Daily has performed at four or five previous Frontier Craft Days and says she's enjoyed every year.

"It's a cool spot," she says, it is shady, "a perfect place for people to sit."

This weekend, as part of the group Larkfire, Daily will perform primarily traditional songs and instrumental pieces - in keeping with the Hager House's 18th-century setting. She also will play as part of Whippoorwill, along with Penny Hall.

Noon and 2 p.m. - Larkfire draws on Celtic and Appalachian traditions.

1 and 3 p.m. - Tom Lori performs music from the Medieval and Renaissance eras though the Colonial and Early American periods.

Noon and 2 p.m. - Wherlegig has a repertoire that includes Irish jigs, Scottish reels, traditional harp tunes, Celtic ballads and English hornpipes.

1 and 3 p.m. - Whippoorwill will play music of the Appalachian tradition.

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