Hollywood-style drama unites with hands-on history
Using Google aerial photos, Chester Burley designed the equivalent of a Hollywood stage set down to every minute detail for this weekend’s re-enactment of the burning of Morehouse Farm in Easton.
He determined where the barn and camps will be and spent all day last Wednesday with seven volunteers building a 14- by 24-foot barn structure that re-enactors will “burn” in a lifelike simulation with smoke bombs and smudge pots.
“After working all day, we still had a well to build,” Burley said. “I took the lumber home, built the well and brought it back.”
Close to 100 re-enactors from the Fifth and other regiments will recreate the sights, sounds and smells of the Revolutionary War during Celebrate Easton from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19, and from 10 to 3:30 on Sunday, Sept. 20, at 515 Morehouse Road. The event will run rain or shine.
The cost for both days is $20 per adult, $15 per child; children under 8 will be admitted for free. For one day the cost is $15 per adult, $10 per child. There will be a $5 parking fee.
On July 18, 1782 Lt. Ebenezer Morehouse and five other men were taken prisoner by a British raiding party of approximately 60 men who landed at Compo Beach, Westport. The raiding party was bent on plunder and destruction. Morehouse so irritated his captors that the British marched to his farm and burned it.
Four regiments of British and Patriot troops, totaling close to 100 armed and uniformed men, will recreate the Morehouse Farm burning.
There will be food trucks and vendors selling hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, gyros and custom homemade ice cream.
The huge event, expected to draw 2,000 visitors, has been on the drawing board since last fall, according to Burley, a board member of the Historical Society of Easton. A former Wall Streeter who now works from home in Easton, Burley has run many events.
He is heading the Revolutionary War Re-enactment with the support of Lisa Burghardt, Historical Society of Easton president, other historical society members and a cadre of dedicated volunteers.
“It will be like a Frank Capra production on a small scale,” Tom Angelo, coordinator of the Fifth Connecticut Regiment, said. “History is hard for teachers to teach in an exciting way, but children will be able to drill with the militia, pull guns around and hear the sound of cannons and muskets being fired.”
A member of the cavalry on horseback will cut a watermelon in half during military maneuvers. There will be a colonial rattlesnake flag, which Angel described as “an amazing symbol of American independence and freedom.”
Women will be spinning yarn and weaving baskets, and people can witness a procedure by an 18th Century surgeon. A colonial fashion show will explain why people dressed the way they did.
“There were no kids’ clothing,” he said. “They wore the same clothing as adults but smaller. People can feel like real Americans in this fun, educational time travel back to a whole different period.”
Burley worked with the Easton Parks and Recreation Department to prepare the Morehouse fields for the event. Gary Simone, parks and recreation director, has been an enthusiastic supporter from the start, Burley said.
The goal of the event is to generate community spirit, create excitement and interest in local history, and raise money for the historical society, whose membership is shrinking, Burley said.
“The historical society is dying like a lot of other non-profits,” he said. Without an infusion of interest and dollars its future looks dim. The society is in charge of maintianing the Bradley-Hubbell House and the Adams Schoolhouse with a declining membership and revenue.
Burley’s hope is that the re-enactment will reignite interest and lead to many exciting events for Easton and the region in the future. The town does not contribute to the historical society, he said.
VivianLea and David Solek of Monroe
VivianLea Solek, an Easton Public Library assistant, and her husband, David, of Monroe, participate in Butler’s Rangers, Capt. Frey’s Company, together.
David Solek is Monroe’s park ranger.
“I started re-enacting while working at a living history museum in Virginia,” VivianLea said. “It looked like so much fun and seemed like an amazing way to learn history, see the country, and meet some really interesting people. Even though I am a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, I have always re-enacted on the British side.”
VivianLea said her current group, Butler’s Rangers, Capt. Frey’s Company, represents a Loyalist or Provincial Unit, raised here in the colonies from men who were born and raised here and would have considered themselves “Americans.”
“Our unit was garrisoned at Fort Niagara on Lake Ontario and was made up of men from the Schoharie and Mohawk valleys of New York,”she said. “The story of the Loyalists is a very important one in American history and, I’m confident that had I lived 235 years ago, I would have been a Loyalist.
“There are many things I do not like about our government today, but I would never advocate the treasonous, armed rebellion against the country. The American Revolution is such an interesting time in our history and I hope people will come out, support the Easton Historical Society, and learn more about our country’s founding.”
David said, “It is an enjoyable outdoor hobby that teaches you about early American history. Also, it provides you with basic skills, such as being able to do more with less, and offers a good time while learning.
“I started re-enacting during the Bicentennial after watching a re-enactment. I thought it looked like fun and signed up with my first unit. I encourage folks to come to the event and learn more of our history and see if this might be a hobby they and their family can enjoy. They should talk to the re-enactors, not only about the history, but also about what it is like to be a re-enactor.”
Fifth Connecticut Regiment
The Fifth Connecticut Regiment was initially formed in May 1775, when the Connecticut legislature created six regiments in response to the hostilities begun at Lexington and Concord. The regiment was then composed almost entirely of officers and men of Fairfield County.
In 1975, exactly 200 years after its first formation, a group of Ridgefield men received a charter from then Connecticut Gov. Ella Grasso to re-form the Fifth Connecticut as an honorary unit.
The Fifth Connecticut Regiment today is made up of people who are interested in the history of the United States and teaching others through living history, according to its website, 5cr.org.
Easton Congregational Church
On Sunday morning, Sept. 20, the Rev. Amanda Ostrove from the Congregational Church of Easton will hold an outdoor colonial period church service at 10 a.m.
The Congregational church was established Oct. 14, 1762 and has been part of the Easton community since before the Revolutionary War. Ostrove will bring her entire congregation, and the public is invited to attend.
“The churches often times preached very patriotic sermons during the Revolutionary War period and preached support for independence,” Ostrove said. “I was eager to volunteer our congregation and my services for the colonial worship to support the hard work and anniversary celebration of the burning of Morehouse farm during the war.”
For more information about the event, contact the Historical Society of Easton at 203-292-3533, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or online athistoricalsocietyofeastonct.org.