Huntersville Traditions Day Transports Visitors To Another Era
Huntersville, WV – For most of the year, Huntersville is a small quiet hamlet in Pocahontas County. But on the first weekend of October, this town that was once the county seat transports visitors back to another era with old time music, apple butter making, tours of historic buildings, blacksmithing and Civil War re-enactors during the annual Huntersville Traditions Day. One of those reprising her Civil War role Saturday was Cyla Allison.
“I’m portraying one of the many women who passed as men and fought in the Civil War,” says Allison. “Women would enlist for many of the same reasons that men would enlist; they were patriotic, they wanted a little sense of adventure. And it was also true during this era that a man would get twice the pay of a woman for doing the same job so they would sign up.”
“Now how would a woman pass a physical; well at that time a physical was not very thorough. Usually they would just have a bunch of people line up, the doctor would say everyone take a breath in, everyone take a breath out, and that was the part of the physical. And then the I.Q. test part of the physical was raise your right hand’, everybody would raise their right hand, and there was the I.Q. test; and they say well welcome to the Cavalry.”
As horse drawn wagons passed by, most visitors used two feet to traverse between the many exhibits set up all around the historic town. Tours of the 19th century Presbyterian and United Methodist Churches as well the old school house, were conducted all day, to the background of music from various local groups.
Rob Taggart, dressed in period clothing, wandered throughout the festival, playing tunes on his traditional fife.
“This is a B-flat military fife,” says Taggart. “The fife was invented back during the Renaissance period in Switzerland. It was a short, narrow bore flute and played well in the higher octaves, and so it became popular with the military because it was nice and loud and shrill and it could be heard over long distances.”
“The military adopted it and used it as a signal instrument during what was over here the French and Indian War. It was used during the Civil War, but it was being phased out in favor of brass.”
Cyla Allison wasn’t the only Civil War re-enactor I had the pleasure of speaking too. In my wanderings, I ran into Al Stone, from Hinton, WV.
(Heather) “General Lee I presume,”. “At your service Ma’am,” says Stone, portraying Civil War General Robert E. Lee, a role he’s been doing for 16 years.
“What do you like about portraying this character?”
“Opportunities to travel and meet a lot of different folks; and once your recognized as Robert E. Lee, there’s certain latitudes that are given you, it’s just a great experience. Not to mention the fact that by portraying General Lee, I’m probably portraying one of the most revered men in American history.”
“Is that a pretty tall order to live up to?”
“It certainly is,” says Stone. “I think it’s made a little easier because of my upbringing, my parents had Christian values. I don’t use tobacco and I don’t use alcohol, and Lee didn’t do either of those.”
Nearby I found Paul Brown, hard at work in a makeshift blacksmith shop. Despite the chilly wind blowing between the slats of the building, he seemed to be having a good time.
“It’s a lot of fun, you come out here, you know, and you can be as mad as a hornet and beating on metal and nobody knows whether you’re mad or happy,” he says. “You can be like an old hornet and ready to sting somebody and just look at them and grin and beat the fire out of that metal.”
And that’s just what he did, stopping only to put the metal back in the fire and hand crank the blower to keep the temperature up.
“Now you think about what you’re going to do ahead of time because if you don’t, when you get ready to do what you’re going to do, your metal’s cold,” he says. “See how quick that cooled off; and there’s two factors here today..well, there’s three. The anvil’s cold, the wind’s blowing, and I’m slow.”
Despite those factors, Brown continued to hone the metal to the desired shape. He was just one of several artisans demonstrating a way of life long past, but thanks to Huntersville Traditions Day, kept alive and fresh.
Please click on the above link to hear some of the sounds of Huntersville Traditions Day.