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History Alive! & Living History

2017 WV Humanities Council History Alive! and other First-person Interpretations
Check this webpage often since we will be adding performances throughout the year.
           Outacite (Man-Killer) Ostenaco's alliance with the British against the French carried the 50+ year old military leader over 3,600 miles between 1756 and 1758 through the Appalachian Region of Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.  His and his fellow Cherokee's offensive efforts against the enemies of the British colonies turned the tide of war and led to the successful Forbes' Campaign, that essentially ended the War in the southern theatre.

           There is no earlier record of an English-speaking person traveling through the mountainous region of northern Georgia and Alabama, eastern Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio, western South Carolina and Virginia, and southwestern West Virginia.  During 1673 and 1674, Gabe traveled with a war/trading party of Yuchis that eventually led him to become the first European of record to visit the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia.  The story of his adventures on behalf of the fur trade enterprise of his master, Abraham Wood, include dangerous military expeditions, narrow escapes from enemies, eye-opening natural wonders of the region, promising trade deals, and strange cultural rituals of adoption and alliance.


-January 14, 5:30pm, Gabriel Arthur at Twin Falls' Tracking and Woodslore Workshop (you must be registered for the workshop).

-March 30, 6PM Ostenaco during the annual symposium of the Assoc. of Mid-Atlantic Aquatic Biologists at Cacapon State Park WV.  Watch the agenda page as it is built  http://www.amaab.org/agenda.html

-May 6, 11am, Gabriel Arthur at Forks of Coal State Natural Area near Charleston, WV.  Watch the facebook page as the events calendar is built:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Forks-of-Coal-State-Natural-Area/1063982260334676

-May 27, 1pm, Ostenaco at Lost River Artisans Cooperative and Museum.  Watch the websites:  http://www.lostrivercrafts.com/  and  https://www.facebook.com/LostRiverCrafts/events/?ref=page_internal

-July 5, 9:45am, Gabriel Arthur during History Wednesday at St. Marks Episcopal Church in St. Albans.  Check the events webpage as it is built:  http://www.stmarks-stalbans.com/pages/HistoryWednesdays.html

-Jul. 25, 7PM – Ostenaco at Boy Scout Camp Mahonegon near Ellamore, WV during the Wilderness Rangers Camp.  Must be a registered boy scout camper to attend.

Living history characters from the Civil War Era:  Amos Hamilton Young and Joshua Clayton Walters.  The following Living History characters are not part of the WV Humanities Council History Alive! Program.  The cost for having a visit from one of these characters is $200 + travel expenses.  Contact chingwe1755@gmail.com or call 304-550-1006.

           The American Civil War was a nation-defining event in American History that came at a terrible cost in American lives on and off the battlegrounds.  Historians, writers, and movie-makers have presented the famous combatants, spies, and politicians over and over again, with each character being demonized, glorified, or humanized in turn by various authors.  In recent decades, some few interpreters of history have given us glimpses into the lives of the not-so-famous people who either did not take up arms for either cause, or who took up arms in a clandestine manner, fighting “Injun style” guerilla warfare.  These two types of little-interpreted war survivors responded to armies marching through their corn fields, foraging their livestock, and commandeering their homes in entirely different ways.  How did these people survive the Terror that was the American Civil War?


            Amos Hamilton Young was a typical Central Appalachian farmer when the 19th century’s time of troubles began.  He resided on a 700 acre farm that had been cleared of trees just a few decades prior to the War.  Living a life inspired by the ideals of an agrarian society governed by citizen-participatory republican principles, Young belonged to the majority class of hill-country landowners in eastern KY, southern OH, and western VA—the middling sort of independent farmers living on the very ground that provided their extended families with food and income.  Young was the male head of his household, with aging parents, a wife of less than three years, and a toddler.  Later, his wife would give birth to another child just two months after the western counties of Virginia were admitted by political device into the Union as the State of West Virginia.  Like many of his fellow mountain farmers, Young was justifiably anxious about the storm raging around his family and his community.

            The Young family raised livestock, including fowl and four-legged beasts.  They planted and tended a variety of small orchards, as well as row crops such as sorghum, hay, corn, and tobacco on the property, that lay within one mile of the Midland Trail, the main overland E-W transportation artery in the southern half of western Virginia and eastern Kentucky in that era.  The farm was very near the Midland Trail’s crossroads with the Kanawha Road, a corridor that connected the region economically with southern Ohio and points downstream along Ohio River to the Mississippi.  The bulk of farm operations during Amos’s adulthood were carried out with manual tools and equipment, along with the aid of mules and oxen.  Hog and cattle drives to market (sometimes westward from KY & OH to Richmond, and sometimes eastward from VA to Cincinnati) were commonplace, for gasoline powered vehicles had not been invented.  Flatboats and steamboats plied the larger rivers, connecting the three states in economic exchange.  Salt was “King” of industrial enterprises in the region, but agriculture was by far the most important economic pursuit.

            Amos Young, the Living History character, provides details of important military events, while conveying those details in the context of familiarity with the landscape and the impacts of those events upon local families and the local economy.  “What is a farm family to do?  Should we alter crop production to raise more cattle for sale to the armies?  Should we remain as invisible as possible to avoid being visited by potential thieving army foragers?  Do we choose sides or remain quiet about our loyalty to one cause or the other?”  The majority of Appalachian farming families wrestled with such questions frequently throughout the war.  Each new army movement, each change in military occupation, and each report of local “home guard/bushwhacker” action renewed the wrestling bout, and often required the families to modify their normal routines.  Several facets of the Civil War can be explored through characterizations of the more famous people who impacted regional history, but the stories of the common folk are best told by characters such as Amos Hamilton Young.  He represents the families who gave up crops and livestock to feed foraging armies, who anxiously departed with sons mustering off to war, who reined in daughters as they eyed the ranks of soldiers in their snappy uniforms marching along the Midland Trail, and who fervently prayed for an end to the troubles no matter which side would win. 


            Appalachian farmers in all classes, wealthy, middling, and poor responded to the Civil War in a variety of ways.  The Living History character Joshua Clayton Walters was one of those who chose to defend his family, farm, and home through a secretive guerilla war.  Risking summary execution if caught, he and his “brother warriors” adopted the style of warfare that was derided by both Confederate and Union military leaders as the “Indian Manner” or “Injun Style.”  These derisive titles had particular pertinence to Walters, whose aged Cherokee mother reminded him of how his ancestors readily risked their lives for family and home during the numerous wars of the previous century.  Walters knew that his ancestors’ “Injun Style” of fighting had won many engagements that preserved the Cherokee homeland from invasions by the Creeks, the Miamis, the Shawnees, the Senecas, the French, the British, and the Americans, before finally succumbing to the machinations of the politics involved in the struggle between State’s Rights and Federal Power.

            Joshua’s "trilemma" was to (1) do nothing and suffer the armies’ thievery of farm produce, risking his family’s very survival during a particularly hard winter, (2) join either side and be ordered away from home, leaving his wife, child, and elderly mother to fend for themselves, or (3) remain at home, but join a “home guard” in order to confound military maneuvers of invading armies.  The latter seemed the lesser of three evils, and the “Indian Manner” of fighting evoked pride of ancestry that was hard to come by for a half-breed in 19th century America.

            Joshua Clayton Walters reveals the secrets of guerilla war that was often effective, though usually on a very small scale.  That, of course, was its design; to prevent the destruction of personal property and the injury to family on a small scale.  Of course, some guerilla fighters had larger goals in mind, i.e., to help win the war for one side or the other, but most had the immediate, local, personal concerns of family and property in mind when they girded themselves with the accoutrements of secretive warfare.  Donning the muted colors of hunting clothes, draping a tumpline-tied blanket over his shoulders, cradling an old flintlock “squirrel poke stock”, shouldering a shooting pouch filled with parched corn, and tucking a “butchering” knife in his mid-body girdle, Walters was the image of a mountain hunter bent on getting meat for his humble hearth’s stewpot and procuring deerskins with which to make his hunting moccasins.  But on any given day, he might also be engaged in carrying a secret message between military units, setting an ambush for advanced guards, or creating false signs for misinterpretation by army scouts.  This Living History character brings alive the awful realities of the Civil War and the “home guard’s” response to keep the family members safe and the farm intact.







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