By Chesley Oxendine
Early rains on both Friday and Saturday couldn’t stop Fort Gibson Historic Site from hosting its yearly Fall Encampment last weekend.
Guests were treated to a slice of life in the 1840s as interpreters in period clothing demonstrated daily tasks, played music, and ran military drills.
The festivities drew in Falyn Harris and her family thanks to her dad’s appreciation for military history, she said.
“We came down to visit from Broken Arrow and were in the area, and we found the event on Facebook, so we brought my dad,” Harris said.
Also accompanying Harris were her two children, Natalee and Dalton Harris. Falyn said the children “couldn’t believe the little beds,” which visitors could inspect as they roamed the historically accurate living quarters throughout the fort.
“They can’t get over those beds,” Falyn said. “They just keep yelling ‘that looks so uncomfortable!’ All these cabins are really cool to see.”
While Natalee, 6, said her favorite part were “the cannons,” Dalton, 4, couldn’t decide what he enjoyed the most.
“I just really, really like everything,” he said. “It’s all really cool.”
Several times throughout the event, a group of four interpreters lined up, prepared and fired blanks out of a 12-pound mortar, shaking the entire property with the sound.
Interpreter Frank Ruggero from Oswego, Kan. said firing weaponry proved the best part of his job.
“I love shooting that thing,” he said. “I love everything about American history, but I love shooting the cannon the most.”
Ruggero said this event marked his first time at the Historic Site, though he served as an interpreter in Kansas all through his grade school years.
“I really enjoy living history, and I can’t wait to do the 150th next year in Honey Springs,” he said.
Interpreters like Ruggero made history “come alive” for students like Emily and Greg Haan, who came with their mother, Theresa.
“We’re actually studying this period of history right now at home,” Theresa said. “That’s why we came out here.”
Greg said he enjoyed “multiple things” about the encampment.
“I loved when they fired the cannon, and seeing the blacksmith, and the animals, and all the ancient American history,” he said.
Theresa reminded him this period was not necessarily “ancient.”
Emily said seeing the actors stay in character proved “cool.”
“It really helps me visualize what we’re studying,” she said. “It makes you feel involved in all the history going on.”
That was the idea, according to interpreter and Historic Site employee Corey Twilley.
“We wanted to invite people and the local schools out and give them a hands on taste of what life was like back then,” he said. “This was a huge part of Fort Gibson history.”
Twilley portrayed a fife player in the Fort’s burgeoning music band, which patrolled the fort throughout the day, leading drills and giving signals.
“Musicians back then acted like an alarm bell at a school,” he said.
This marked the first time that the Site band’s 25 members were all present for a single event, spread out through the property, Twilley said.
The interpreter said the Fort’s next big events are Bake Day in November, on “the Saturday before Veteran’s Day,” and the Candlelight Tour in December.
“People can come out and see what Christmas was like in 1848 as soldiers returned from the Mexican War to the fort, to spend time with their families,” Twilley said.