plan unique event
to promote river history
to feature re-enactments
MILTON, Ky. Paul Venard walks around the
historic land he calls Preston on the River in Trimble County, pointing
out a rock that was once part of a former slave quarters. He walks up
to a land bench that once served as shoreline around the Ice Age more
than 10,000 years ago. Finally, he scans the areas of his land that
during Oct. 13-15 will be the site of historical re-enactments known
as the River Spirits Rendezvous.
Venard poses with a tree stump that will be used for lectures
at the upcoming čRiver Spirits Rendezvous.
He and his wife, Pam, have been planning the inaugural
event for years in attempt to use their property to promote the arts
and history in a most unique way.
"We are trying to create a living history museum and an educational
and recreational entity for Trimble County," Venard says, looking
out over his 180-acre land with more than a mile of river frontage.
The Venards call the portion of the historic Preston Plantation that
they own, Preston on the River.
The plantation in 1902 was divided into 24 farms. Its original acreage
ran about 2,300. The name, Preston, came from the ownership of John
D. Preston and Mary Wickliffe Preston.
According to a historical monograph compiled by Louisville-based historian
Diane Perrine Coon, Mary Howard Wickliffe in 1852 married her cousin,
John Preston. She purchased Norfolk Farms, what the plantation was then
called, for $1 from her father, John Howard.
Mary was an acquaintance of the notorious slave abolitionist, Delia
Webster, who operated an underground railroad from her Trimble County
farm a few miles away.
Such history deserves more exposure, the Venards decided. So with the
help of program director Donna Williams, the Venards are planning a
variety of period activities for the Rendezvous weekend. Participants
will be able to witness a complete recreation of life as it was lived
between the years 1600 to 1840.
The Coalition of Historical Trekkers and the National Muzzle Loading
Rifle Association (NMLRA) of Friendship, Ind., will perform these re-enactments.
Activities will include popular competitions of the period, such as
blackpowder shooting, tomahawk throwing, candle shooting and archery.
"No one will be able to compete unless they are in period clothing
and accoutrements," says Williams. This includes having all the
weapons and tools of the period from 1600 to the 1840s.
Venard has even carved a ledge into a five-foot high tree stump to serve
as a podium so lectures can be re-enacted. At 1 p.m. on Oct. 14, Bob
Pilkington will deliver a particular lecture on George Rogers Clark.
There will also be musical entertainment provided by the Rogues' Consort.
This musical ensemble consists of hammer dulcimer, violin, citterns,
cello, flagolets, tabor pipes and pocket fiddle. Those instruments may
not sound familiar today, so musicians Maynard and Sara Johnson and
Italian-trained violin maker Michael Thompson will demonstrate how these
instruments were built in the 18th century.
In addition, other aspects of period life will be present over the weekend.
"People will be cooking over wood fires and doing various traditional
things, such as making brooms and working with leather," says Venard.
"We want to keep the illusion of historical purity."
The authenticity of the land to the period is indeed apparent. Though
electricity exists on the site, electrical wiring is well hidden in
the ground and woods. Other structures on the site add to this historical
Venard identifies a 120-foot tall elm tree that has been named to the
Historical Register of Living History. "It has seen everything;
if it only could talk," says Venard, referring to the elm, which
stands where slaves of Norfolk Farms would congregate.
About 20 feet from this tree sits an old tobacco barn, where there is
an old "jolt" wagon & one that would jolt the riders due
to lack of springs. The Venards have even stylized trash cans by placing
them inside of traditional looking whiskey barrels.
Venard points to another structure that he believes might have once
been a sugar shack. Though no historical evidence has been found to
prove this hypothesis, the maple trees nearby suggest the possibility.
A series of depressions in nearby rock formations suggest that at one
time Indian squaws might have used these large rocks upon which to grind
corn. "These depressions are reminiscent of what has been found
elsewhere," says Venard.
On Oct. 13, the plantation will serve as a school day where students
can come experience the re-enactments. Williams points out that public,
parochial and home school can still sign up to come by calling or e-mailing
Preston on the River. Public invitation will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday
and 10 a.m. Sunday. General admission to the event is free and
tax-deductible donations will be accepted. Parking will be $5.
"Parking will be away from encampments so that people can walk
on the site as if they were going back in time," says Williams.
She adds that food services will be provided by Country Bo's, a not-for-profit
organization dedicated to feeding needy people in Henry, Oldham, Shelby
and Trimble counties. Proceeds from the food sales will benefit those
that Country Bo's regularly feeds.
"We've been working toward this for years," says Venard.
During this mid-October weekend, all the hard work and planning will
come to life, as history is re-created.
Back to October 2000