Fort Morris State Historic Site on Monday held its annual Labor Day celebration, which included Revolutionary War musket and cannon firings, food and informative talks.
Demonstrators and volunteers dressed in period clothing brought visitors to the Sunbury site back to the 18th century by re-enacting some of the daily rituals, tasks and chores men and women completed during the late 1700s.
Site manager Arthur Edgar welcomed guests to the grounds and explained the day’s festivities and offerings.
“Today, we are doing hourly cannon demonstrations, solider talks, weaving demonstrations and, of course, our museum is open and is showing an 11-minute film about Fort Morris and the town of Sunbury,” he said.
This year’s event featured three different stations set up for attendees to check out. Arthur Edgar’s wife, Debbi Edgar, staffed the first station, where she cooked an Indian cornmeal-based dish with just a few tools over a coal fire. When the meal was ready, Edgar ladled the soupy concoction onto metal plates for the crowd to sample.
The cannon- and musket-firing demonstrations served as the second and most popular station. Artillery crew volunteers showed the attendees the various methods employed for loading, shooting and cleaning Revolutionary War weapons. Everyone was warned to properly cover their ears because of the loud explosions, which, according to locals, could be heard from miles away.
“I live about 3 miles from here,” volunteer Abigeil Davis said, “and I’ve always heard the cannons during demonstrations. It was one of the reasons why I decided to come give the site a visit.”
After scoping out Fort Morris, Davis expressed interested in participating in the historic site’s periodic events, so she decided to volunteer as a way to earn the community-service hours her school requires.
“This summer, I might be moving, but I will try to find other historical sites that I can volunteer at. I really would hate to give up educating others in our nation’s history,” she said.
Davis manned the last station, where she and three other women demonstrated a variety of ways to spin wool.
“Colonial people would use tools like this drop spindle to make yarn with wool. Even though I’m sitting down, standing up can be easier since the length of the wool is very long,” she said, adding that children in the 1700s made yarn for fun and turned it into a game by dropping spools over the ledges of two-story homes to see who could spin it back up the fastest.
Tanner Schmitt, 6, demonstrated the leisure activity described by Davis and touched on the different tools and duties children his age typically would be tasked with.
“Today, my job is flag boy. I hold the British flag so everyone knows what country we come from. I have a pistol to protect it, too,” he said.
Schmitt also explained the components of his costume and accompanying gear, including a tricorn hat, canteen to hold water, a haversack bag that contained games popular with children more than 200 years ago.
As the day wore on, visitors came and went, but one man stayed for the whole event.
Joseph Guse was visiting the fort for the first time, but feels strongly about its integral role in the nation’s past.
“History repeats itself,” he said. “I think we should pay attention to our history and study it. Our forefathers and the Revolutionary War is the reason our country is free.”
Guse and his fiancé often travel to historical places.
“We use to live in Texas, where we visited the Alamo and a few weeks ago, we went to the Midway Museum. That’s how we found out about the event today,” he said.
“It is people like Mr. Guse who help our site thrive on,” Arthur Edgar said, “and without continuous visitors, we wouldn’t be able to hold events like this every year.”