A return to Lawrence County#8217;s roots

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 14, 2008

PEDRO — As the smoke and thunder of a 10-pounder Parrott cannon ripped through the valley, the third annual Vesuvius Iron Furnace Festival opened Saturday with sunny skies and a light breeze.

Under the supervision of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery, a Civil War re-enactment group out of Portsmouth and Jackson, the cannon’s inaugural firing for the day followed festival Master of Ceremonies J.B. Miller leading the first few visitors in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Throughout the day the cannon, which takes four men about 30 minutes to reload, reverberated.

Email newsletter signup

Usually the 1st Ohio re-enactors, formed in 1996, get to about six festivals a year lugging the 2,000-pound replica cannon that gets its name from the weight of the projectile it shoots off. Next for the Civil War history buffs will be camping out during the Fourth of July holiday at the Gettysburg National Military Park.

Nearby was Charles Bradley of Culloden, W.Va., who has spent the past 35 years learning all the facts and details imaginable about his hobby, blacksmithing. With a forge and a leather-lined bellows, plus tools and toolbox Bradley built by hand, he pounded scrap metal heated to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit on a English-made anvil into nails and hooks.

“(Blacksmithing is) a whole lot like dancing, even though I can’t dance,” Bradley said. “You have certain positions and places where you have to be.”

Bradley was joined by his wife, Evelyn, who makes the couples’ historically accurate costumes.

“It is nice to know the history of what built this country,” he said. “I think some lose sight of the hard work it took to build the country.”

Wandering throughout the park all day long one could see the fashions of the day, if that day were, say, in 1861. One such fashion plate was Lady Penelope Hyde, of Marlow House, England, aka Rebecca Nobile of Wellston.

Since 1993 Nobile has toured festivals with her first person re-enactment of Lady Penelope, a wealthy orphaned aristocrat, whom she created down to the two-piece traveling costume complete with black snood she wears for the portrayal.

Garbed in pantaloons, a hoopskirt and taffeta dress, Nobile easily segued from Americanese into a very proper English accent to tell the tale of Lady Penelope who is in these country to help out at a Civil War hospital.

“It’s neat to be part of a living history, said Nobile, whose other job is as curator of the Buckeye Furnace in Wellston. “It’s fun to be somebody else for a day.”

The festival was the brainchild of Dr. Robert Culp, who runs the Ohio University Southern Nature Center at Lake Vesuvius. Started three years ago with a one time Appalachian Ohio Foundation grant, it is focused on showing off the history of the area during its heyday as the international hub of the pig iron furnace industry.

Now financed from the revenue that comes from the nature center and the Lake Vesuvius boat house and beach, also run by the center, the festival drew crowds in excess of 500 its first two years.

Culp is hoping after a tally of Saturday’s visitors is made, he will see as much success.

“We have the potential for a fantastic thing up here,” Culp said. “It depends on how the community responds. It is tough to get something going.”