Family fun at Old Barkhamsted Day

Blacksmith Bob Valentine was one of the participants at the Barkhamsted Historical Society’s annual Old Barkhamsted Day on Saturday, May 14, at Squires’ Tavern. Photo by Erica Taylor

BARKHAMSTED — The Barkhamsted Historical Society hosted its fourth annual Old Barkhamsted Day at Squires’ Tavern on 100 East River Road on Saturday, May 14.

There were vendors, live demonstrations and activities, including a sheep-shearing demo, a blacksmith, tours of Squires’ Tavern and members of the Lebanon Old Towne Militia showcasing authentic artillery, including a Revolutionary War- era cannon.

“Each year we try to add a little something different,” president of Barkhamsted Historical Society Noreen Watson said. “This year the potters are new. The militia also adds a lot to it.”

Children mingled with goats and chickens, played on stilts and watched  sheep shearing demonstrations.

“My husband used to do sheep shearing as a teenager,” Watson said. “When he was a kid, he lived in South Windsor, and he would go from farm to farm, shearing sheep for people to make money.”

The Friends of American Legion of People’s State Forest had a booth at the event, with member Mark Hansen representing the group.

“We’re a nonprofit that can raise money for projects to do in the parks, and my personal interest is in trying to get kids back out into the woods,” Hansen said. “We’ve been doing a lot of family programming, and we were doing a lot of things at the People’s State Forest Nature Museum, and that will be opening up again after Memorial Day weekend. Last year, we were trying to do Friday night programs or Friday night hikes. A lot of people want to go hiking, but they don’t want to go by themselves.”

Among basket weavers and loom spinners at the event, the Lebanon Town Militia, in full attire, occupied an encampment featuring authentic artillery, with hand-made knives, smoothbore muskets, bayonets, and cannon.

“The Lebanon Town Militia were an actual militia group from 1775,” member Al Cawthra said. “The original unit was activated right after Lexington-Concord, and we marched right up to Reed’s Hill, and we were held in reserve. We became part of the Third Connecticut regiment.”

Member Ron Gresk demonstrated how militiamen could start a fire while on the battlefield and how to load a musket.

“They were expected to load the muskets three to four times a minute,” Gresk said.  “You would have lines of men and lines behind them, the first line would fire and usually they would go around to the back and the line behind them would move ahead. The British were coming, doing the same thing from the other direction, pretty soon they got close enough where they wouldn’t have to fire anymore. That’s when they would use the bayonet. The British were extremely well trained on the use of these, it was very intimidating because, even when you had people shooting at you, with a musket you really couldn’t see the ball coming at you. You have a line of guys with this coming at you. That’s what made a lot of Colonials break rank.” 

For more information on the Barkhamsted Historical Society visit www.barkhamstedhistory.org.