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Reliving history

Heritage Saturdays at Masterson House
is popular way to share local history

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

CARROLLTON, Ky. (October 2003) – “Spinning” can have many different definitions. For instance, storytellers can spin a tall tale and artists often spin a potter’s wheel. But for Rita Westrick, the word itself denotes a lost art heritage.
Westrick became interested in spinning through her daughter’s involvement with 4-H. She has continued to spin wool into yarn over the years in an effort to teach others about this forgotten skill.

Rita Westrick

Photo provided

Rita Westrick at the Masterson House.

Westrick is part of Heritage Saturdays, a new event held on the grounds of the Masterson House on select Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. It was created to provide local residents in Carrollton and tourists alike the opportunity to have fun with history through interaction with costumed living history re-enactors.
Visitors are offered a glimpse of what everyday life for our forefathers was like, when nearly every necessity was made by hand.
Living history displays depict heritage skills practiced during the 18th and 19th centuries. Skills demonstrated include spinning, basket making, quilting, cane and rush chair weaving, butter churning, soap making, dulcimer music and Amish woven rugs.
Members of the Pioneer Power Club, which preserves antique tractors, display their vintage iron horses. River Valley Winery sets up in the cellar of the home with their local wines, and James Stewart, Family and Friends offers their unique blend of bluegrass and gospel music as a backdrop to the other ongoing activities. Children are invited to join in games played during these time periods.
Robin Caldwell, executive director of the Carrollton-Carroll County Tourism and Convention Commission, said she designed this event “to create an interesting weekend package for prospective tourists.”
Scheduled for the evenings of the same days are a Music in the Park performance at the Butler Turpin Historic Home inside Gen. Butler State Resort Park. “This makes for a well-rounded weekend of events to complement the other local attractions,” said Caldwell.
Westrick, like all of the other interpreters, volunteers her time and talent to show onlookers “how hard people worked back then. Things are so easy on us now.” To actually see someone spinning or assembling a basket from scratch “puts things into perspective,” she said.
Her curiosity with spinning began when she attended a Kentucky-hosted 4-H workshop with her daughter, who was interested in raising a lamb for 4-H. Westrick said she knew this would be a “forever project” and decided to learn how to spin wool.
Westrick has two sheep, a Romney and a Dorset, whose wool she uses for her demonstrations. She said the Romney is a wool-bred sheep and the Dorset was bought as a companion for it. As to the sheep’s yarn value, “You can get 10 sweaters from one shearing,” she said.
Westrick has employed several different methods for dying her yarn. She has dyed it naturally with walnuts and flowering plants such as goldenrod, for muted shades of yarn. She has used standard yarn dye colors, and even Kool-aid for a school demonstration, which produced brilliant colors.
She said that a camaraderie has developed between her and the other interpreters as they gather to demonstrate these heritage skills. They all possess the same desire to teach others about the past.
“Since the Sept. 11 tragedy, many people have had the desire to learn more and to teach their children about their heritage. They want to watch, feel and hear it-not just read about it. Cultural-heritage tourism is at a wonderful high,” said Caldwell.
Heritage Saturday’s are a free event sponsored by the Port William Historical Society, which seeks to share the Masterson Home’s history with others. As a fundraising effort, the society offers baked goods and grilled hot dogs and hamburgers for sale.
Wayne Young, president of the historical society, hopes this event will raise money for the general upkeep of the Masterson House. He said the club has received grants from the tourism department, but additional money is needed for roofing repairs and resulting damage from water seeping into the home.
Caldwell, who is secretary of the club, said members eventually hope to build a split rail, crisscross fence along the perimeter of the property. Another future goal is the erection of two driveway posts made from native fieldstone. Due to the purchase price of materials, the club may have to hold off on these plans because of structural repairs needed to the home.
Young said this event is one that brings with it a cultural awareness to the area. He is hoping it will draw a younger crowd that will become interested in the club, since many members are now older.
Richard Masterson and his wife, Sarah Shore, built the Masterson House in the early 1790s along the Ohio River. In addition to being an active member of the community, Masterson was county clerk, a surveyor and a dedicated Methodist who brought this religion to the area and held services in his home until 1795.

For more information, call the tourism office at 1-800-325-4290 or visit the website: www.carrolltontourism.com.

 

 

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