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At Fort Loudon, it's back to the frontier

September 09, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

FORT LOUDON, Pa. - With a little imagination, big open meadows surrounding a stockade fort looked on Saturday like things might have looked 250 years when Fort Loudon was an outpost on the American frontier.

Men in frontier garb - some in homespun and breechcloths, others in animal skins - milled around tents armed with knives, tomahawks and long guns.

This weekend, the fort - a reproduction on the site of the original fort that was built by the British in 1756 as a supply depot - is the scene of the village of Fort Loudon's 2002 Frontier Days festival.

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Anna Rotz, president of the Fort Loudon Historical Society and a festival organizer, said the event is being held in conjunction with the Great North American Rendezvous.

Rendezvous re-enactors give living history demonstrations for the historic period between 1750 and 1840.

Keith Lyons of Hagerstown, president of the Great North American Rendezvous, said about 170 members came from neighboring states and as far away as Montana to participate in the weekend celebration.

The re-enactors make their own outfits, stay in character as much as possible and buy from sutlers whose merchandise must pass strict period muster. Plastic is definitely out.

Harold Weaver, 52, of Upper Strasburg, Pa., was strutting around in a Scottish kilt. His character is an ancestor - a highlander - who fought for Scottish independence from Britain in 1745. When the British won, they sent him to the American colonies to become an indentured servant for seven years, Weaver said.

Attendance at the festival and rendezvous appeared to be sparse through the early afternoon Saturday, although Rotz said she was encouraged by the numbers who were paying their way in earlier in the day.

Allan Powell, a Hagerstown historian and author of books on frontier times, said he has set up a table to sell his books at Frontier Days festivals for the last 15 years. He was disappointed by the low turnout Saturday.

"This is the last year I'm coming here. I haven't sold one book yet today," Powell said.

Plenty to see, do

There was plenty to see and do for those who attended.

Calvin Bricker, a Franklin County amateur historian, related the story of Jim Smith and his "Black Boys," local heroes even today. Smith's exploits were made into a 1939 Hollywood movie called "Allegheny Uprising," starring John Wayne. The film is being showed on video throughout the weekend in the Patton House, a 1790 home built hear the fort.

Smith and his men became a footnote in American history for organizing the first armed rebellion against the British in America a decade before the start of the Revolution when they seized Fort Loudon to keep trade goods and weapons from the American Indians who had ravaged the valley during the French and Indian Wars.

Other speakers included Powell; Joe DiMaggio, who recounted the exploits of frontiersman Simon Girty; and Kevin "Many Faces" Young.

On Saturday and again today at 5 p.m., "Frontier Rebellion," a play by local playwright Marcus Steinour, opened in the fort compound. The play made its debut Saturday. Tickets cost $5 per person, $8 for a family.

A silent auction continues today.

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