September 2012 marks the 230th anniversary of Betty Zane's now famous run for the gunpowder - an act made legend in history books and novels. Full scale accounts memorialize her actions and those of 40 men and boys old enough to handle a rifle and some 60 women and children who defended Fort Henry for nearly three days against an organized and seasoned assault force of 260 Native American warriors and 40 elite Canadian British soldiers during what has come to be called the last battle of the American Revolution: The Battle of Fort Henry.
Held every Labor Day weekend in recent years at Oglebay Park's Site One, the popular re-enactment and grand encampment experience brings a wealth of opportunities to learn unique lessons about day to day lives of people who, for one reason or another, decided the unforgiving American frontier was where they wanted to live, to make a home, to earn a living and to raise a family.
It was a place to live a lifestyle of hard work and hard fought freedoms, whether an individual was Native American or European.
T-L Photos/KIM LOCCISANO
“Betty Zane: Legend of Fort Henry” is a docu-drama movie project being worked on by brothers Joe and Pat Monahan owners of the award winning Shooters Productions, headquartered in Martins Ferry. The brothers shot a good deal of the key footage for their marketing piece during last year's Fort Henry Days, and involved a number of volunteers in the process. A marketing version of the project can be found on YouTube. This year, Fort Henry Days will take place at Oglebay Park Site One on Sept. 1 and 2.
It would also prove to be a place to die for many.
Fort Henry Days 2012 is just about to arrive, bringing area residents and guests the annual opportunity to appreciate anew accomplishments and sacrifices made by the men and women who came from all backgrounds and birthrights to call the vast and untamed Ohio River Valley home in the days before, during and after America's Revolutionary War.
The highly anticipated weekend-long event has developed into a family and friends' reunion of sorts, as the format itself is built on individual and group opportunities to interact with others who share a passion for a taking an often very personal look back into the history of the nation and often, of our individual family roots.
The encampment is open to the public on Saturday, Sept. 1 from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and on Sunday, Sept. 2 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
On both Saturday and Sunday, the battle re-enactment begins at 3 p.m.
This year's program will include Yorkville resident and Linsly School senior Giovanna Loccisano stepping in to the character of Betty Zane for the re-enactment of the famed "run for the gunpowder."
The public is invited to enjoy the full slate of activities and educational opportunities spread out over the course of the encampment and re-enactment experience, all available to the public at no charge.
A walk among the always popular re-enactor's encampments is an essential part of the entire experience for anyone wanting to get a better understanding of life during the frontier era at a time when the regions we have come to know as West Virginia and Ohio were literally the western edge of our country's legal boundaries - at least according to British rulers of the day.
In general, they were not boundaries recognized well enough to contain the Europeans on its Eastern side.
As the number of Europeans who began to claim portions of the frontier as their own, such as did the Zanes and others who called Fort Henry home, continued to rise, so did the level of frustration experienced by the Native Americans who had lived in those regions for many generations.
The constant disregard for the King's rule of law by the colonists eventually pushed the Indians too far and too often. They began to see no other means of stemming the generally unwelcomed tide than through doing battle.
In recent years, area residents of all ages who have taken up the activity of Revolutionary War Era re-enacting through Fort Henry Days, as well as those who just enjoy learning more about the topic, have helped continue participation levels at Fort Henry Days activities.
Yorkville resident Bo Jacobs began participating at Fort Henry Days on the invitation of a blacksmith in Steubenville. From that friendship, he has had opportunities come his way in increasing numbers in recognition of his re-enacting skills as a colonial, as a Native American.
Jacobs' bloodlines take him back five generations ago to two different sections of the country's Native Americans, including the Blackfoot.
Not only is he recognized as an accomplished re-enactor, but the level of his acquired native skills has enabled him to make for himself virtually everything that goes into any of his re-enactor's wardrobe, whether he is donning the attire of the simpler Eastern warrior or the complex dance attire of the Western Woodland tribes.
It is something he takes a great deal of pride in doing and doing well.
He regularly shares the experience of Fort Henry with his son, LaKota Jacobs.
Through his continued commitment to the local re-enactment and educational components of Fort Henry Days, he is increasingly asked to interact with groups of children, with high school and now even with college students.
Earlier this year, he was formally invited to teach a community education class on native American history.
To help drive home the point that each tribe was unique, he donned attire and showed up for class in the native attire of the Eastern Woodlands tribes, and another day, came dressed in the native attire typical of that work by the Western tribes.
Taking this type of living history lesson into a classroom, regardless the formal or informal nature of the setting, Jacobs is always happy to share his family and cultural history in an educational setting.
Jacobs is one of the local re-enactors figuring prominently in the successful documentary style movie project that is led by the nationally known "Shooters Productions," owned and operated by brothers Joe and Pat Monahan of Martins Ferry.
The movie focuses a great deal on Betty Zane's run for the gunpowder on the second day of the three-day-long siege.
The majority of the work shot on the movie to date centered on activities underway at the 2011 installment of Fort Henry Days. A trailer can be seen on YouTube. It is titled, "Betty Zane: Legend of Fort Henry."
The script for the docu-drama was written by local historian Joe Roxby, one of the narrators for the annual Fort Henry Days battle re-enactments.
Adults whose young children visit Fort Henry Days for the first time often find that though the fearsome face of an Indian warrior is worn by the Yorkville resident, the willingness of a grateful, proud, but humble, parent shines through his re-enacting personas and goes a long way toward making such experiences the treasures of a lifetime for a family.
At the 2012 Fort Henry Days, there will again be speakers taking on the character of a noted Native American whose life and deeds held great impact on the lives of settlers and others who called the Ohio country frontier home.
Two presentations are possible through the History Alive! program of the West Virginia Humanities Council: 18th century Shawnee leader Cornstalk will be portrayed by Dan Cutler and Ostenaco, a Cherokee leader, will be portrayed by Doug Wood.
Cornstalk led close to 1,000 warriors against an equal number of Colonial troops during Dunmore's War in 1774 at the Battle of Point Pleasant. He rose to become leader of all Shawnee tribes and the northern confederacy of tribes that included Shawnee, Mingo, Wyandotte, Delaware and Cayuga. After the battle, he pursued a policy of peace with the whites. On a trip to Point Pleasant in 1777 to warn settlers that the British were attempting to incite his tribesmen to attack them, he was taken hostage and then murdered in Fort Randolph along with his son and two companions.
Ostenaco was an important Cherokee ally of Virginia military leaders during the French and Indian War. He was instrumental in recruiting and leading the Indian alliance that provided support and protection for British colonial settlements against attack by northern tribes allied with the French. His sphere of influence reached over a wide area and his relationships with Virginia leaders contributed to the expansion of English-speaking peoples into present day West Virginia.
In addition to the battle re-enactment, both days will also feature ongoing demonstrations by Brenda Applegate School of Needlework, Elizabeth Huxford (Native American Culture) and John Boleigh (blacksmith), with an hour break at noon.