“If you can make it fun and educational you can accomplish something,” she said, and there’s a lot of history here that people don’t know. The chair of North Augusta’s Living History Park looks to the organization’s Colonial Times festival to change that.
The annual event, properly named A Day to Remember — Colonial Times, has actually grown to two days and recreates the lives of American colonial settlers in North Augusta.
“It’s a history that people have forgotten,” she said.
Reminiscent of Colonial Williamsburg before the Disney takeover, this interactive event creates a settler village with the many characters, communities and conflicts, including demonstrations and living exhibitions with blacksmiths, candlemakers, woodworkers, weavers, spinners and other activities customary in frontier life. It has been named one of the top 20 events in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society.
Two new buildings will also be dedicated, both hand-hewn and built by volunteers, like everything else on the site.
“If you give us a dollar, 99.3 percent goes back into the park. We work strictly on donation and grants,” Thompson said.
Volunteers come from all over the Southeast to bring history to life. It’s an inspiring undertaking, one that motivates
many — particularly children. A group of girls who visited the park two years ago returned the next year in full costume as basketweavers. One enthusiastic bunch taught themselves 18th century dancing. A young man jumped into military re-enacting and now helps teach others the intricate turns and maneuvers.
“Kids are saving for an iPod, he’s saving for a musket,” Thompson said. It’s an enthusiasm that bubbles over in her own
voice, a love of history and of learning that motivates her to do what she can to ensure this knowledge never again disappears. Because, this being the South, a certain uncivil war tends to dominate our collective memory. Nearly forgotten is the area’s role in the American Revolution.
“This was the back country. This was not so refined. We still liked the crown back here,” Thompson laughed.
Clearly, that conservatism still thrives. But the memory of the colonial settlers was nearly lost until Brenda Bancroft
uncovered buried graves at the site of the homestead of Samuel Hammond, a colonel during the Revolutionary War and first territorial governor of Missouri during the Louisiana Purchase.
A push to memorialize him with an historical marker grew into a recreation of this prominent settler’s Masonic burial.
Spurred on by community support, the Olde Towne Preservation Association founded the park and started educational
programming that they hope ensures the information will never be lost again. Those hopes are being passed on to a new
generation of re-enactors, two of whom met and will be married on site in an 18th century wedding this Saturday.
“This is the second wedding we’ve had on the site,” Thompson said, describing with affection another couple who married
a few years ago. “And we’ve actually christened their two children from it.”
Colonial Times will be Oct. 21 – 22 beginning at 10 a.m. each day at Living History Park, 299 W. Spring Grove Ave., North Augusta. Admission is free. Visit colonialtimes.us.