Frontier court weekend brings the Revolutionary War era to life at Hanna’s Town
Rex Baughman was busted.
It was the early 1970s when his father caught him heating up a pile of coals in an attempt to bend back into shape a part of the tractor he wasn’t supposed to be using. But instead of punishing him for taking the tractor, Baughman’s father decided to stoke the flames.
“That summer we built the blacksmith shop, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” said the Greensburg resident.
Baughman has been blacksmithing for 46 years and was one of a host of re-enactors and craftsmen at the frontier court event this weekend at Historic Hanna’s Town in Hempfield.
Baughman teaches weekly blacksmithing classes at the Fort Allen Antique Farm Equipment Association in Scottdale. While he was busy making a flint starter for one of the many re-enactors on site, across the road one could hear the sweet strains of fiddle music as the members of Gallowglass played period-appropriate tunes under a shady tree.
“Everything we do is traditional Irish music from the 1700s on,” said fiddler Francine Zajac of the Wheeling, W.Va., group.
Whistle player Pat Plunkett said he never gets tired of playing the hundreds of songs the group has in its repertoire.
“It sits in my soul,” he said. “I’m Irish, so it’s just a part of me. My dad was from Ireland.”
Even the youngest member, 3-year-old David Coughlan, does his part, banging away — occasionally in rhythm — on a small toy drum that hangs from his shoulder.
Throughout the day, visitors to the site were able to check out Native American encampments, mock skirmishes and recreations of real colonial court cases at the frontier-court re-enactment.
Hanna’s Town served as the first English Court west of the Allegheny Mountains.
Thanks to partnerships with the Westmoreland Historical Society and area colleges, more than a million historic artifacts have been discovered since archaeological digs began at the site in 1969. Some of the early finds were on display for visitors to peruse.
“After the town was abandoned, it was farmed for more than 150 years,” said Lisa Hays, executive director for the Westmoreland Historical Society, which manages Historic Hanna’s Town. “So everything below the plow zone was preserved, which made it an excellent snapshot of how people lived on the frontier during the Revolutionary War.”
In 2011, a partnership was formed with Indiana University of Pennsylvania, whose archaeology staff conducts a “field school” every two years at the site to continue unearthing its history.
“It’s a dig, but it’s much more than that,” Hays said. “They’re going to record exactly where an item was found, exactly how deep, the GPS coordinates. A whole lot of paperwork and recording goes into it, and it’s very exciting when you recover an interesting item.”
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.