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Wolfeboro's first colonial encampment a very popular event

CANNON FIRE ON BREWSTER FIELD. Under the direction of Safety Officer Dwight Jones (center), re-enactors Gary Staples (left) and Greg Champlin (right) gave demonstrations of cannon firing last Saturday, Aug. 21, during the colonial encampment on Brewster Field, part of the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the naming of Wolfeboro for General James Wolfe, the hero of the French and Indian War. See more photos on pages A6 and A7. (Courtesy photo by Ash Woodhouse) (click for larger version)
August 26, 2010
WOLFEBORO — The colonial encampment held in Wolfeboro this past weekend turned out much better than anyone – re-enactors and spectators alike – had expected.

The French and Indian War re-enactors were very pleased to be in Wolfeboro camping on Brewster Memorial Field and were delighted with the hundreds of visitors who came by on Saturday to watch demonstrations and ask questions about 18th century military and civilian life. Re-enactor and Tuftonboro resident Sue Weeks remarked that the experience was much different than what she has experienced at larger re-enactments at places like Fort Ticonderoga. "At Ticonderoga there are hundreds of re-enactors organized into regiments, and I think spectators are intimidated by all that," she said. "Here, with a smaller scale, people are comfortable approaching us and asking questions."

Visitors were treated to musket and cannon firings, demonstrations of 18th century skills and trades, and even a trading post offering authentic reproductions of period weapons and crafts as well as antiques. Staff from the Libby Museum came by to offer several hours of 18th century children's games and specimens for the museum's collection of pelts from local animals that were hunted and trapped during the period.

On Friday, Diane Louise Paul demonstrated 18th century leatherwork, showing visitors how bell harnesses were made. On Saturday Blacksmith Jack Page set up his forge and showed how common goods like nails were fabricated and tools were made.

Also on Saturday five members of the Wolfeboro Area Farmers' Market set up a food market in the main tent and, dressed in period costumes, enjoyed a steady flow of customers all day.

An extra special attraction on Saturday was the Wells Fargo stagecoach, an authentic reproduction of the Concord Coach that Wells Fargo used in the 19th century West to carry passengers across the country. The stagecoach with four-horse team was brought to Wolfeboro through the good efforts of Loren Ackerman, manager of the Wolfeboro office of Wells Fargo Advisors. Dressed in appropriate gear, with a black hat and sheriff's badge, Ackerman "rode shotgun" on most of the rides, which ran from the First Congregational Church around the Brewster Academy campus, then down South Main Street back to the church. Young and old alike enjoyed the rides from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Governor's Reception

The weekend began on Friday as re-enactors arrived from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont and set up their tents on Brewster Field. By the end of the day the last of the re-enactors had arrived in time for the Governor's Reception, an event organized by the Wolfeboro 250th Committee at the Pinckney Boathouse to welcome them. In all more than 100 people enjoyed hors d'oeuvres and bright period music performed by Wolfeboro musicians Beverly Woods and Seth Austen.

Governor John Lynch had been invited, but was unable to attend; however, he sent a proclamation that was read by Wolfeboro Historical Society President Jim Rogers, a Wolfeboro 250th Committee member who portrayed Governor Benning Wentworth, the Royal Governor of New Hampshire at the time Wolfeboro was named. In addition to Lynch's proclamation, Rogers also read one written by Governor Wentworth on Nov. 10, 1759, declaring a day of Thanksgiving for the victory in the Battle of Quebec City that was won by General James Wolfe.

The other six members of the committee – this reporter, Historian Dave Bowers, Chairman Kathy Eaton, Chamber of Commerce Director Mary DeVries, Board of Selectmen Chair Linda Murray and Town Manager Dave Owen – also spoke about other aspects of the 250th celebration. Circulating among the guests that evening was General James Wolfe himself, portrayed by Wolfeboro resident Christian Boudman.

For the finale Rogers projected a version, prepared by Wolfeboro Community TV's Peter Pijoan, of the NH Chronicle feature on Wolfeboro broadcast in July, featuring comments on Wolfeboro history by Bowers as well as presenters Tom Griffith and Tiffany Eddy.

Most of the weekend's activities were held on Saturday. Re-enactors camped out on both Friday and Saturday nights and broke camp a little earlier than planned on Sunday morning due to the threat of rain.

Better next year?

When the Wolfeboro 250th Committee chose the third weekend in August for an encampment and began to issue invitations earlier this year, it discovered that most re-enactors had already planned their summer events. Worst yet, it turned out that the town of Hillsborough was staging the second year of a Living History re-enactment the same weekend.

The Committee persisted, however, because it would like to see an encampment anchor a Colonial Old Home Week for Wolfeboro in future years. "Towns around us have Old Home Days and Weeks," Chairman Eaton said. "Wolfeboro should have its own."

Tuftonboro's Ted Wright and New Durham's Dwight Jones, re-enactors who worked with the Committee to organize the encampment were more than pleased with how it went. "It was an amazing experience, one of the best I have been involved with," said Wright. Jones agreed, "It turned out much better than anyone expected."

Based on the strongly positive comments from spectators as well as the re-enactors, a second encampment next year should be even better. The dates may shift, depending on events already set for 2011, but planning for next year has already begun and the dates should be set soon.

For photos of the reception, encampment and other weekend activities, please see pages A6 and A7.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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