Pioneer Days: Living history

Errol Castens

Daily Journal

NEW ALBANY – Pioneer Days at the Union County Heritage Museum literally sounds like fun.

There’s the ring of hammer on steel from the blacksmith shop, the thunk of a tomahawk in wood, the gentle splashing of water on a scrub board, the crunch of corn being pounded into meal – and everywhere, voices narrating the lives of earlier generations.

“When I was a little girl, they didn’t have electricity at my grandfather’s house,” Dorothy Broussard told incredulous second-graders in the museum’s old country store. To computer-literate children wearing LED-spangled shoes, she explained woodstoves, washtubs, chamber pots and churns, along with countless other everyday items from the early 1900s.

Stephen Page showed how the area’s earliest settlers forged metal into necessaries.

“The pioneers had to make almost every tool themselves,” he said.

David Meeks, a dedicated outdoorsman who in real life spends half his year as a trapper, simultaneously demonstrated tomahawk throwing and philosophy. Having been urged to make lots of money, retire early and “enjoy life,” he said, “I’m going to enjoy life right now. I don’t have any guarantee of tomorrow.”

Zack Stewart is the museum’s resident carpenter, having built its one-room schoolhouse, a well-boring tower and a foot-powered lathe, among other exhibits.

Asked what he was working on as he shaped a round of wood, he replied, “a dumaflotchy.”

“Last year’s dumaflotchy turned into a froe handle,” he added.

Other exhibits on Thursday included pastel paintings from natural materials, a primitive physician’s office, practical plants, Faulkner’s garden, a faux cow to demonstrate hand milking and a chance to use a crosscut saw.

Chrystine Ketchum of Keownville looked at the saw and said, “I did all the sawing I ever want to do a long time ago.”

Volunteers often echo Museum Director Jill Smith’s concern that children know their own history to put their lives in context.

“We raised what we ate. My mother made our clothes,” Broussard said. “We were almost self-sufficient. These kids don’t have a clue.”

Stewart Bennett, associate professor of history at Blue Mountain College, encourages his students to volunteer at Pioneer Days.

“I want them to learn about teaching the kids and about the history as well,” he said. “Our students learn a lot from the (older) volunteers.”

Pioneer Days continues today  from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call (662) 538-0014 or visit

Recommended for you

comments powered by Disqus