Crawford County history comes to life


Annual even draws reenactors, craftsmen, visitors to Lowe-Volk Park

LEESVILLE — A solemn moment in Crawford County history was recreated last weekend during the annual Living History Days at the Lowe-Volk Nature Center.

The capture and subsequent death of Col. William Crawford, for whom the county is named, was reenacted for the 16th year at the Crawford Park District facility on Ohio 598 near Crestline. The three-day event also featured numerous history enthusiasts who presented demonstrations and displays of 18th century tools, weapons, household goods, clothing, and the like.

Crawford’s doomed expedition

Commissioned to lead the ill-fated Sandusky Expedition in late spring of 1782, Crawford marched with an army of about 500 western Pennsylvania volunteers from what is now Mingo Junction, Ohio, in the eastern part of the state to the area that is now Crawford and Wyandot counties. The force was assembled to eliminate enemy Native American towns along the Sandusky River in hopes of quelling attacks against American settlers.

In the Battle of Sandusky — also known as the Battle of Battle Island — Crawford’s party squared off with warriors from the Delaware, Wyandot, and Shawnee tribes as well as British forces. Crawford’s army was forced to retreat.

While in retreat, Crawford’s force was separated during the Battle of Olentangy in Crawford County. He and five of his men, including Dr. John Knight, were captured by Delaware warriors on June 7, 1782, near Leesville, at the current site of the Lowe-Volk Nature Center.

Delaware Chief Wingenund took Crawford and Knight to his village, located about a half-mile northeast of the present-day Lowe-Volk Nature Center. Due to his previous positive relationship with Wingenund, Crawford thought he would be safe.

However, it was decided that Crawford would pay the price for the slaughter of the 100 peaceful Moravian Delaware Indians who lived at Gnadenhutten, Ohio. Col. David Williamson, Crawford’s second in command, led the raid that became known as the Gnadenhutten massacre. Williamson escaped back to Pennsylvania.

Crawford and Knight were transported to the Delaware tribe’s village of Tymochtee in present-day Wyandot County. Crawford was tortured and then burned at the stake on June 11, 1782.

Knight was given to Shawnee warriors for transport to southern Ohio, where the same fate that befell Crawford awaited him. However, Knight escaped and returned to Fort Pitt in Pennsylvania, surviving to tell the tragic tale of Crawford’s demise.

Reenactors enjoy encampment

Reenactors from Ohio and other states attend Living History Days each year, each bringing their own distinct flavor to the event.

Galion resident Randall Bryhn is an artist who makes Native American flutes. He sells the hand-carved wooden instruments on eBay and other internet sites. Bryhn has been a regular at Living History Days for the past 15 years.

“The recipe I use is kind of rare. For one thing, I whittle my own flutes,” Bryhn said. “I use an FDA-approved clear coat on them. I don’t use polyurethane or shellac or anything like that. The recipe that I have is actually from a hand-measurement method. I learned from Dan Bell who is of the Blackfoot tribe.”

While Bell taught Bryhn about the basic construction of the Native American flutes, because Bryhn was not a member of the Blackfoot tribe, Bell could not share with him the secret of making the all-important tuner for the flute. But that changed.

“Years ago, he adopted me to be part of his family,” Bryhn said. “One of the nice things about being adopted into his family was that he told me a lot of stories about the history of his family. A lot of stories that have never been shared or written down. I’d like to compile those stories and write a book someday.”

Bucyrus resident Melissa Gee partners with her friend Emily Gilliam of Dayton to present an exhibit each year. Gee said she’s been involved in historical reenactments for about 20 years and enjoys providing educational opportunities for children.

“I like watching kids’ faces when you teach them stuff they don’t learn in school, in the books,” Gee said. “My stuff’s hands on. It’s the little things about our clothing, how we’re dressed, what it means. All those things you don’t get in school, you can get by going to a rendezvous and just talking to people.”

Gee’s and Gilliam’s display included handmade Native American war clubs as well as handmade tools, musical instruments, toys, animal pelts, and period clothing from the 18th century.

Carl Snyder, another Bucyrus resident and Gee’s father, is the blacksmith for Living History Days. He was recruited to participate in the encampment about six years ago.

“They needed a blacksmith out here and I’d had knee surgery, so I wasn’t doing anything,” Snyder said. “I have twin boys who both do blacksmithing and they both do flintknapping, which is making arrowheads. The (Living History Days organizers) asked my one son if he could do the blacksmithing here, and he said, ‘Dad, you can do that.’ So, the first time I did blacksmithing was here.”

Snyder said he’s more than happy to chat with visitors and answer their questions.

“I enjoy the fact that so many people are interested in what you’re doing,” he said. “It’s teaching history, basically. Blacksmithing is really gaining a following thanks to the ‘Forged in Fire’ show. A lot of people ask me questions about that. I can answer many of their questions. People hear about the Damascus steel, they see it on the show, and here they can actually pick a knife up and look at it and feel it. It’s much different.”

Snyder had several of his forged pieces on display over the weekend, including knives, hatchets, hammers, and other tools.

Jeff Casey traveled about 300 miles from Nashville, Indiana, to be part of Living History Days. He portrays 18th century Native American characters and provides education about their customs and artifacts.

“One thing that I find most people are surprised about is the Natives in this area had their own cloth long before the Europeans ever settled here,” Casey said. “They had material that was woven from stinging nettle. They would also weave cloth from any fibrous plant that grew in the area. Milkweed was another common plant that they made cloth from. They also used hemp.”

For information about Living History Days, visit the Facebook page Living History Days at Lowe-Volk Park.

Information about the Crawford Park District is available at www.crawfordparkdistrict.org.

Andrew Carter | Galion Inquirer

The torture and subsequent death of Col. William Crawford was reenacted during Living History Days last weekend at the Lowe-Volk Nature Center near Crestline. The three-day event featured numerous reenactors as well as demonstrations and displays detailing life on the American frontier in the 18th century.

https://www.galioninquirer.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2019/06/web1_LIVING-HISTORY-01.jpgAndrew Carter | Galion Inquirer

The torture and subsequent death of Col. William Crawford was reenacted during Living History Days last weekend at the Lowe-Volk Nature Center near Crestline. The three-day event featured numerous reenactors as well as demonstrations and displays detailing life on the American frontier in the 18th century.

Andrew Carter | Galion Inquirer

Galion resident Randall Bryhn plays one of the Native American flutes that he handcrafts from wood. Bryhn sells the flutes online.

https://www.galioninquirer.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2019/06/web1_LIVING-HISTORY-02.jpgAndrew Carter | Galion Inquirer

Galion resident Randall Bryhn plays one of the Native American flutes that he handcrafts from wood. Bryhn sells the flutes online.

Andrew Carter | Galion Inquirer

Bucyrus resident Carl Snyder serves as the blacksmith for Living History Days at the Lowe-Volk Nature Center. It’s a role he’s portrayed for the past six years.

https://www.galioninquirer.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2019/06/web1_LIVING-HISTORY-03.jpgAndrew Carter | Galion Inquirer

Bucyrus resident Carl Snyder serves as the blacksmith for Living History Days at the Lowe-Volk Nature Center. It’s a role he’s portrayed for the past six years.

Andrew Carter | Galion Inquirer

Bucyrus resident and reenactor Melissa Gee, left, shows a Native American war club to Marion County teenager Joel Carter during his visit to Living History Days last weekend.

https://www.galioninquirer.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2019/06/web1_LIVING-HISTORY-04.jpgAndrew Carter | Galion Inquirer

Bucyrus resident and reenactor Melissa Gee, left, shows a Native American war club to Marion County teenager Joel Carter during his visit to Living History Days last weekend.

 

By Andrew Carter

Galion Inquirer