Frontier Days event

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 30, 2005

re-enacts life around 1810



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The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ &8212; Tobias Gibson looks pretty good for a man who covers hundreds of miles on horseback as a routine part of his work, riding from church to church throughout central and south Mississippi to preach the Gospel.

Perhaps that&8217;s because Gibson &8212; who, as a Methodist pastor and circuit rider from the early 1800s, has long since gone to his rest &8212; is only being played by Decatur re-enactor Frank Kirtley for the weekend.

Surrounding him were a dozen or more people who, in their spare time, travel throughout the state, region and even nation to reenact what life was like on the American frontier during and before the 1840s.

Nearby, a woman stirred a pot of stew and sliced cornbread steaming in a cast-iron skillet. A few yards away, a youngster demonstrated the toys children of that period used to pass the time.

Welcome to Frontier Days, an annual event held for at least 10 years at the Mount Locust site on the Natchez Trace Parkway in north Adams County.

With the West not yet won, Mississippi was considered to be on the western frontier of the United States in the early 19th century, said Mike Hazlip, a park guide for the parkway. &8220;My hope is that people can get a feel for the hardships, the joys and the camaraderie of that time, the simple life they led and the dangers they faced,&8221; Hazlip said.

The year 1810 &8212; in which Saturday&8217;s re-enactment was set &8212; was the peak year of travel on the Trace, with up to 10,000 people a year traveling the trail. Boatsmen traveled down the Mississippi River, then back home along the Trace, Hazlip said.

And others, such as Gibson, also may have traveled that route. Kirtley said that even though Gibson was a man of the cloth, he wasn&8217;t immune to the same dangers other frontier travelers faced, such as bandits. As a result, Gibson kept a firearm handy just in case. &8220;The rule was, be careful,&8221; Kirtley said. &8220;We&8217;re here to save souls, not take lives.&8221;

Kirtley, a re-enactor for 30 years, isn&8217;t the only one to have fallen under the pastime&8217;s spell. Lane and Liz Williams of Pearl have been re-enacting for more than 20 years. &8220;You grow up thinking about cowboys and Indians, about frontiersmen, and then you get to live it,&8221; Lane Williams said.

His wife, sewing near the campfire, wore a sly smile. &8220;In those days, the men set up camp and cooked,&8221; she said. &8220;He&8217;s going to do the dishes now. And I get to relax and watch the men work.&8221;