Sunday, May 23, 1999

Springboro weaves tales of its 19th century heritage

Festival spotlights road to freedom, historic crafts

Enquirer Contributor

        SPRINGBORO — Helen Harbaugh and Linda Seever continued their caning and basket weaving demonstration in Olde Springboro Village right through Saturday's rain.

        In fact, Ms. Seever pointed out, baskets need to be moistened twice a year to retain their pliability.

        The two women from Springfield, Ohio, joined other craftspeople at Springboro's first Freedom Festival. The festival celebrates the town's 19th cen tury heritage and its history as a center of Underground Railroad activity.

        Ms. Harbaugh showed festival visitors Debbie and George Myers of Monroe how to weave a chair seat.

        “I have a child's rocker that belonged to my great-grandmother, and I'm refinishing it,” explained Mrs. Myers.

        Many activities emphasized Springboro's link with the Underground Railroad.

        Volunteers led tours of structures in the historic downtown area that have been identified as “depots” on the route to freedom.

        Bounty hunters “Buford Earl Justice” and “Jim Bob Bodean” (Greg Darling and Fred Tomlinson) handed out reward fliers as they tracked runaway slaves through the festival area. A public library exhibit featured materials on African-American history.

        Nearby, Civil War re-enactors Paxton Mendelssohn, Jack Loux and Roy Lee operated a recruiting station.

        By mid-afternoon they had drawn a crowd of potential enlistees.

        “We represent the 94th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, an actual regiment that existed during the Civil War,” said Mr. Mendelssohn. “They were mustered in at Piqua.”

        The 94th drew men from several southern Ohio counties, including Warren County.

        “We're always looking for volunteers who would like to be re-enactors,” Mr. Mendelssohn said. “They can even join us for a drill session.”

        Quilting, weaving, rugmaking and blacksmithing were some of the skills featured at the festival.

        On the porch of Aunt Susie's Florals and Necessities, Peach's Little Band played old-time music. Up the street in front of The Brass Pig Tea Room, Dayton a cappella group Act V harmonized on several gospel tunes.

        The music, demonstrations and activities continue today.

        Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today; Underground Railroad walking tours leave the Historical Society headquarters (110 S. Main St.) at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m., and 1, 2:30 and 4 p.m. Information: 748-2192 or 748-5370.


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- Springboro weaves tales of its 19th century heritage