Fun at Fort Defiance

Oct. 30, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Saturday I took a trip to Fort Defiance in Lenoir.

Although called a fort, it is actually a house; more specifically one built in 1792 as the home of General William Lenoir, for which the town is named.

Showcasing more than 300 pieces of original furnishings and artifacts from the time period Fort Defiance serves as a key place to visit when traveling through Western North Carolina.

I was, for the day, in the company of my family who were on hand to take part in an annual event titled 'Living History Days' held at the home.

This event offers visitors the opportunity "to take a step back in time" to learn about life on the 18th century frontier as well as enjoy many demonstrations from the skilled interpreters and craftsmen present.

The grounds surrounding the home were filled with an assortment of volunteers, each dressed in period clothing, and more than happy to share their wealth of knowledge and history.

Dad was set up to speak with patrons about the construction and operation of the flintlock rifle as well as other forms of weaponry and tools of the time.

My brother, seated upon his custom work bench, demonstrated techniques used in the fabrication of elaborate period style powder horns.

Generally fashioned from cow, ox or buffalo horn; powder horns were used as a secure container to hold one's gunpowder and often display on their surface detailed engravings applied using a process called scrimshaw.

Finally Kerry, my sister-in-law, was hard at work displaying her craft of traditional basket weaving. An artistic craft that dates back to indigenous peoples as well as native and aboriginal tribes, Kerry utilizes researched techniques and natural materials to construct her baskets in a variety of designs and sizes.

Throughout the day I enjoyed meeting many talented artisans and storytellers. From a traditional potter, to ladies operating an 18th century style kitchen and even a look at how one would set up camp using only the forest around them... the inspiring fun never stopped.

There were, however, two main highlights for the day, first of which was meeting a gentleman by the name of Gerry Barker.

Barker brought along to the event a 10-year-old ox named Charlie who enjoyed being petted just as much as munching on all the green grass he could find. Charlie was on hand to give visitors an up-close look at what frontier settlers used for plowing, transporting wagons and threshing grain.

From time to time Barker would even hook Charlie up to a neck harness and allow any who wanted, to lead him around the grounds using a series of verbal commands and thin whip.

Another perk of my encounter with Barker was discovering that he himself was an accomplished artist and author who has written several books focusing on tracking techniques used by frontiersmen as well as one titled "900 Angry Men" that focuses on the Battle of Kings Mountain.

The second highlight of the day came in the form of an entertaining trunk act from The Clockwork Clown & Company. A very friendly and funny 18th century entertainer delighted the crowd with an assortment of juggling, contortion, fire eating and stunts. With her painted face and silent "mime-like" exaggerations, this colorful clown showcased great skill and silliness for the crowd.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent at Fort Defiance. The event was an educational day well spent and one that I am looking forward again in the future.

If you are interested in finding out more about this amazing historical location as well as upcoming events, head on over to www.fortdefiancenc.org for the latest.