Taming the Wilderness

Visitors can witness craftsmen and artisans in action at Sunday’s ‘Taming the Wilderness’ program at Ellwood. They will learn about building trades, homemaking skills and general everyday expertise needed to settle and survive in the harsh landscape during the late 1700s through the early 1800s.

There are a few sayings that originated in the Colonial tavern which remain in today’s modern lexicon.

“Mind your Ps and Qs,” for example, had to do with drinking, said Bob Lookabill, the president of Friends of the Wilderness Battlefield.

“In the tavern, they’d have a chalkboard and they’d have your name on it,” Lookabill said. “One side would have a P, and one side would have a Q. If you had a pint or a quart, they’d put a chalk mark. If it got to where you owed a certain amount of money, they’d say, ‘Mind your Ps and Qs.’”



People who attend “Taming the Wilderness: An 18th Century Living History Event at Ellwood” on Sunday will be able to learn about tavern life and more.

The activities, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., will include a blacksmith presentation and a demonstration on how wood was hewn to make a log cabin.

Craig Jacobs will work through the day to show what it took to get logs ready to build a cabin, Lookabill said.

“He brings an entire brand-new log with him and then over the course of the day, he and a couple of employees will work on that log with broad axes and make it into a square timber that you would find in a log cabin,” Lookabill said.

Blacksmith Remy Range will get everyone involved in his craft, Lookabill said.

“The blacksmith is just fascinating to me,” Lookabill said. “He’ll bring the kids in and let them pound on the metal and actually form it into whatever he’s making at the time. He’s quite an entertaining fellow as well.”

Other artisans and craftspeople will demonstrate spinning and weaving, open-hearth cooking and rifle hunting.

John Tole, of the band Evergreen Shade, will on hand to perform and sing a wide range of ballads.

Sketch artist David Mitchell will be at the event as well.

“He’ll sit down with the kids and work through the different pen and quill-type things,” Lookabill said.

At 12:30 p.m., amateur archaeologist and member of the Friends group, Dale Brown, will talk about Ellwood, the circa-1790 manor at the battlefield.

Brown will have model buildings of the kitchen, dairy, smokehouse and other outbuildings. Brown determined the locations of the buildings from old insurance policies and other documents, Lookabill said.

At 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., Friends members will conduct 75-minute walking tours along the Wilderness Trail.

Lookabill said the walk is pretty easy and encourages people to bring water and wear sturdy walking shoes.

“It’s a very gentle incline. I would say it’s a moderate hike. You wouldn’t consider it strenuous at all,” he said. “I usually bring my walking stick just to make life a little easier.”

Shorter walks will be offered at noon and 4 p.m.

People could easily spend a few hours at the event, Lookabill said.

“I would say if someone was really interested and stands around and talks to people, I would think they could spend maybe three hours,” he said. “The big thing is we want people to going away with the idea that they learned something.”

Almost all of the experts who will appear at “Taming the Wilderness” have been coming to the event over the 13 years it’s been held and look forward to talking to people.

“They just love to have folks who are interested and inquisitive and have questions. That makes it fun for them as well. They’re educators,” Lookabill said.

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