A Step Back in Time
Colonial Faire to coincide with
Arts on the Green
Re-enactment event to showcase 18th century trades
LA GRANGE, Ky. (June 2015) – Until he witnessed the re-enactment of the Siege of Fort Boonesborough more than a decade ago, veteran living history interpreter Russell Morris did not even know major battle re-enactments from colonial times existed. He was immediately intrigued and drawn into the fascinating world of the 18th century.
He happened to be off work one day and told his daughter they should “go do something.” That “something” ended up being a trip from their home in Cincinnati to Richmond, Ky., to Fort Boonesborough State Park, where a re-enactment was taking place depicting the 1778 siege that occurred during the Revolutionary War.
Photo by Helen McKinney
Russell Morris portrays a Native American at
re-enactment events throughout the region
“I didn’t even know they did stuff like that,” said Morris, who has both Scottish and Shawnee ancestors. Since that time, Morris has been drawn into the world of living history and has portrayed many war chiefs and various characters including Joseph Brant, a Mohawk military and political leader, for Locust Grove in Louisville.
• For more information, contact the Oldham County History Center at (502) 222-0826 or email; Helen@oldhamcountyhistoricalsociety.org.
Morris will be the featured entertainment for the fifth annual Colonial Trade Faire, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 6-7. This event, held on the grounds of the Oldham County History Center campus at 106 N. Second Ave., La Grange, Ky., is held in conjunction with the juried Arts on the Green Fine Arts and Crafts Festival. Morris will perform at 2 p.m. Saturday at the History Center.
Morris has always portrayed Native American peoples in his presentations. “I like to show other people how our people used to live,” he said. “A lot of people really don’t know. I want to keep it going, (along with) their philosophies.”
The Native American culture is well-known for its rich oral tradition. Tribal stories entertained, preserved culture and passed down traditions and customs to younger generations. It was also a way to keep tribal languages alive.
To learn the art of storytelling Morris mentored under well-known storyteller Fred Shaw, also known as Neeake (He-Talks-As-He-Flies or the Canada Goose). Shaw was raised on a farm in Muskingum County, Ohio, where one of his Shawnee ancestors changed his name and purchased a land grant deed. His family still has the original parchment land grant and the bill of sale containing his ancestors’ “X” and witnesses’ signatures.
Shaw began telling stories in 1971, and he has since presented storytelling, historical re-enactments and multicultural programs for public and private schools, museums, universities, churches, state and natural parks and other venues nationally and internationally. He was one of ten American Indian storytellers who shared stories at the first-ever national American Indian storytelling festival at Corn Island in Louisville.
From such talent, Morris has learned to craft and tell the perfect story. At one point, Morris was torn as to which direction to go in: storytelling or singing. Shaw told him he was good at both, so do both. “He gave me a lot of insight” into Shawnee storytelling, said Morris.
The Colonial Trade Faire will feature living history re-enactors demonstrating 18th century crafts and selling a variety of items from the time period. Period artisans will display hand-crafted goods such as clothing, leather goods, hand-dyed yarns, loom woven items, toys, copperware, jewelry, lanterns and beeswax candles.
Also included in the Colonial Trade Faire offerings will be several Kentucky authors who devote their time to writing about Kentucky’s rich history. Writers scheduled to appear at this time include Lynwood Montell, Thomas Freese, Marshall Myer and John Sparks. The Little Kentucky River Winery of Bedford, Ky., be on hand both days selling their wines.
The Marquis de Lafayette and his wife, presented by Living Statures, will make a special appearance from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. The Marquis was friends with the Taylor family of Oldham County and visited there early in the county’s history.
Throughout the weekend, the Painted Stone Settlers of Shelbyville will be giving cannon demonstrations with an authentic 18th century cannon. Demonstrations are scheduled for 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday.
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