Cultures’ pastimes are featured

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan Musician and Native American Ron Warren played flute in the traditional style.

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Musician and Native American Ron Warren played flute in the traditional style.

VIENNA – It wasn’t all work in the old days – in fact, European colonists, African Americans and Native Americans had plenty of ways to entertain themselves.

The 8th annual Nanticoke River Jamboree was held on Saturday, with the theme, “Games Replayed”. The location was Handsell Historic Site. The jamboree is Dorchester County’s largest living history event, every year featuring presentations and crafts.

“The ‘old brick house’ at Chicone, known as Handsell, located in the Indiantown north of Vienna, was purchased by the Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance with a Preservation Easement from the Maryland Historic Trust,” a statement on the group’s website says. “Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, the site will be used to interpret the native American contact period with the English, the slave and later African-American story and the life of all those who lived at Handsell.”

Performers in period costume were found throughout the property on Saturday. Visitors toured the site, where they viewed the re-creation of a Native village, heard the chants and rhythms of the Tidewater Agency drum, and learned about the games local residents enjoyed three centuries ago.

Rachel O’Connell demonstrated many favorite 18th-century activities, including trapball (a forerunner of baseball), croquet, lawn bowling, and “Shut the Box,” a dice game. “I’ve been doing this re-enactment for 10 years,” she said. “I really love it.”

Through her work with the “Natural Philosopher” Dean Howarth of Living Histories of Science, Ms. O’Connell has studied the progress of science, technology, literature and even games. She pointed out that learning is more than studying the written word.

“I like educating people,” she said, keeping a hand on her straw bonnet as the breeze picked up. “The visuals are imperative.”

Cathie Fitzhugh of the Nause-Waiwash Band of Indians was present with information and artifacts from the county’s own Natives. Remembering the past is important, she said, “because it’s our history. It’s where we came from.”

Sam Doughty of the Pocomoke Indian Nation demonstrated flint napping, or the techniques of creating arrow heads and other implements by chipping and pressure-flaking the brittle stone. Nearby, his wife Cheryl Doughty, also a member of the tribe, played with a “wamponog,” a Native toy consisting of a stick with a hoop on a string – a child would swing the hoop in the air, and try to catch it on the stick.

Inside the Handsell House, other displays were set up, including one shown by musicians Scott and Laurie Toms. The couple played songs from the era, demonstrating the combination of European and African influences that created American music.

The cultural influences present in Dorchester County in the early days of the colony are still present in today’s rich mix, something the historical interpreters and visitors at Handsell enjoyed demonstrating and learning.

“It’s important to know who you are,” Ms. O’Connell said, and to “preserve places that are meaningful.”

To learn more about Handsell, visit www.restorehandsell.org. To learn more about Living Histories of Science, visit www.livinghistoriesofscience.com.

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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