Handsell highlights three cultures at Nanticoke Jamboree

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Haley Tobin learned about Ned Hector, a Revolutionary War soldier portrayed by Noah Lewis, who also gave a bit of a lesson in 18th-century dance.

CHICONE — The Nanticoke River Jamboree, Dorchester County’s largest living history event, was held at Handsell on Saturday. The event featured open-hearth cooking as experienced by African-American slaves, displays and hands-on demonstrations by Native Americans who once lived on the site, and crafts of early European settlers who built the house at Handsell hundreds of years ago.

“Handsell honors three cultures that made up its history: Native Americans who lived in a sprawling Chicone Village at the site, European settlers who built the house at Handsell around 1770, and African Americans, who worked as enslaved and free people at Handsell,” a statement on county’s Tourism Department website says. “The Jamboree’s purpose is to educate visitors through living history presentations.”

One of the living history interpreters was Dontavius Williams, who portrays an enslaved man in his performance, “The Chronicles of Adam.” He encouraged his audience to keep striving to accomplish their goals, as he spoke to them in the dialect of the early 1800s.

Mr. Williams said, “Your call gonna be proven sure, ’cause you know it’s your’n.”

Then he called up two men, Phillip Fenstermaker and Dion Banks, to receive special gifts, just for the “menfolk,” as Mr. Williams said. He presented each with a blessing doll, small cloth figures he had made, to strengthen them in their lives’ missions.

Mr. Banks found the experience to be a moving one. “It’s a reminder that on the Eastern Shore, we’re walking on hallowed ground,” he said. “It’s a reminder of our roots.”

The Jamboree also displayed model boats crafted after historic vessels of the Chesapeake as a tribute to Dorchester’s 350th Anniversary and the Smithsonian Waterways Exhibit. Examples included native dugout canoes, skipjacks, deadrise oyster boats, crab scrapes, log canoes and skiffs among others.

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