Residents get a living history lesson at Pioneer Day

Published 12:04 am Sunday, April 29, 2012

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Anna Wright, 13, tries to steady herself on stilts as her grandfather Estus Porter, left, and her mother Julie Wright, watch nearby Saturday afternoon at the Historic Jefferson College during Pioneer Day.

NATCHEZ — Saturday Jordan Dauvere learned a skill every 10-year-old boy — or 40-year-old survivalist — needs to know. He learned the proper way to throw a tomahawk.

The trick, Dauvere said, is to keep your arm straight, throw from the elbow and just release the tomahawk.

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Gregory Keating of Convington, La. stirs a pot of jambalaya as it cooks over an open fire Saturday afternoon during Pioneer Day at Historic Jefferson College.

Dauvere took his tomahawk-throwing lesson from one of the living history reenactors on the grounds of Jefferson College, who were demonstrating what life in a pioneer encampment in the 1700s and 1800s would have been like.

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While Dauvere’s initial tomahawk-throwing efforts took five tries before he hit his target, he improved quickly.

“We have a tree in our backyard that I will probably use as a target,” he said.

While some reenactors may have focused their energies on hurling axes, that wasn’t the only thing going on at the encampment. Demonstrations included but were not limited to cooking, spinning, music, dancing, gunsmithing and stilt walking.

Gregory Keating spent much of his morning stirring a large pot of jambalaya over an open fire. The pot he used, he said, was his great-grandmothers. She used it to boil laundry.

Living history reenactments are about making sure all of history is remembered, Keating said.

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Emily Hootsell, 12, right, shows Logan, 11, left, and Jasa Fair, 10, center, how to engrave on a piece of brass in the Tennessee Valley Muzzleloader tent. Saturday at the Historic Jefferson College during Pioneer Day.

“My whole life, I have liked history, and they would talk about it in school, but they would never hit on the key facts of how (people) lived, how they ate,” he said.

The reenactors have the goal of passing on the knowledge of what pioneer life was like and what its essential skills were to the next generation, reenactor Finley Hootsell said.

“(People have) a different skill set today, but it is not completely different,” he said. “If we continue to further this knowledge to future generations, then we won’t lose these skills — and this knowledge is important, because it was the people who had these skills, the self-reliant individuals, who survived.”

Shawn Cupit is a 25-year veteran of the living history encampment, and as he churned butter Saturday he said he couldn’t be happier to be there.

“It’s an escape from technology, from television and cell phones,” Cupit said. “Drop me off in the wilderness and I will be fine — please don’t come looking for me.

“I have always liked history, and what is better than doing it?”

A living history encampment that will last longer than a week will be hosted in Adams County later this year, Keating said.