History comes alive at territorial festival
Arthur Redinger sat at a bench planing a log using hand tools. Scattered on the ground around him was some of his wares.
‘I missed last year,’ said Redinger, who hails from Liberty, which is located in Union County near the Indiana-Ohio state line.
Redinger, who’s booth is named Ye Ol’ Pioneer Woodwright, had been a merchant at the former Fourth of July events held in Corydon, Old Capital Days and Old Settlers Day. Last year, a new event, the ‘Indiana Territory Festival: The Making of a State,’ was born and made a reappearance Saturday and Sunday.
With woodworking as a hobby, Redinger turned to the reenactment circuit after retiring in 1994. He carves a lot of items, including canes and children’s toys, but at festivals he focuses on making benches.
Among those fascinated with the old-time games Redinger makes were brothers Daniel, 10, and Andrew Smith, 8, from South Carolina and their cousin, Savannah Ferree, 11, of Corydon. The boys’ mother, April Smith, used to live in Harrison County and was here visiting over the holiday weekend.
The festival, which took place on the Corydon town square Saturday and Sunday, was designed to showcase Indiana history from 1808 to 1825. During its debut last year, most the events took place along the south bank of Little Indian Creek just east of the Grand Trails RV Park.
Organizer Nathan Logsdon was able to get permission to have the entire festival on state property this year.
‘I was very pleased,’ Logsdon said about the outcome of this year’s event. ‘I think we had a very good show.’
Included as part of the show, and the one that probably drew the largest crowd, was the reenactment of the signing of the first Indiana State Constitution.
Tom Chapman of Charlestown, who portrayed Jonathon Jennings, received last-minute instructions from Logsdon outside the First State Capitol. When Logsdon reminded Chapman and the other reenactors to act like the heat was bothering them, Chapman said, ‘I don’t think we’ll have to do much acting.’
Daytime temperatures hovered in the low 90s for the festival, and the humidity was high.
After an audience gathered in the Federal-style, two-story building, Jo Ann Mathews gave a brief account of what took place on June 29, 1816, during the convention in Corydon before turning the program over to the reenactors. After a few minutes, one of the delegates suggested they move outdoors.
They didn’t gather under the shade of a huge elm tree, like the signers in 1816 did, but the breeze, as well as the shade of another tree, helped them feel cooler.
Even the shade of trees didn’t help reenactor Mick Cain of Sellersburg much. Cain, who had a camp set up behind the First State Office Building, was doing blacksmith work and kept the coals red hot. Tony McDaniel, 11, of Bardstown, Ky., found Cain’s work fascinating.
Besides watching demonstrations both days, visitors could hear first-person accounts of life in the early 1800s from people like William Henry Harrison, who owned the land where Corydon is now located and who went on to become the ninth president of the United States; Dr. Benjamin Adams, a circuit riding Methodist minister who moved to Corydon from Louisville in 1814 to offer medicinal treatments; John Shields, a friend and comrade of Squire and Daniel Boone, who served as the blacksmith and scout on the expedition of Lewis and Clark; and Elizabeth Pennington, who was captured by Cherokee Indians when she was three and reunited with her family 10 years later.
On Saturday evening, period dancing took place in front of the Hurley D. Conrad Memorial Bandstand. The historical ball was an added attraction to the Indiana Territory Festival.
The Bucket Brigade, along with the assistance of three other musicians, provided the music. Musicians were Jay Hood of Shelbyville, Ky., Glenn Crecelius of Milltown, Gary Davenworth of White Cloud, John Douglass of Corydon and Jeannine Robertson of New Salisbury.
Logsdon said it was ‘an impromptu group’ that played at the ball. The original musicians told Logsdon a few weeks ago that they ‘probably weren’t going to be able to make it due to a scheduling conflict.’
‘I lined up another group that canceled at noon on Saturday,’ said Logsdon. As canceling the ball seemed a likely outcome, Logsdon spotted some musicians playing their instruments during the day and asked if they would be interested in providing some music for the evening. The reenactors and others who gathered on the square for the entertainment appeared to enjoy the music and danced several traditional dances, including a waltz.
Logsdon said some people who visited the festival were expecting events associated with Old Capital Days and Old Settlers Day. He kept reminding them that The Making of a State is different.
‘I hope to see this thing grow,’ Logsdon said Monday morning. ‘I would hope other people would like to get involved, those who have an interest and a passion’ for period reenactment.
‘I’ve already had some people make reservations for next year, including ones that weren’t even here this year,’ he said. ‘I expect the number of merchants to be doubled, and we’re going to do the parade.’
Logsdon had hoped to have a parade this year but had scrapped the idea a few weeks earlier due to lack of volunteers.
In addition to planning next year’s festival, Logsdon said he’s also thinking ahead to 2008, the year Corydon was founded, and 2016, the 200th anniversary of Indiana’s statehood.
‘I was very pleased with the hard work of everyone involved in this year’s festival,’ Logsdon said.
Anyone interested in helping with future Indiana Territory Festivals can contact Logsdon at 1-812-606-1264.