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Published: Tuesday, 1/29/2013

Fort Meigs celebrates 200th year

BY TANYA IRWIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Director of Fort Meigs Rick Finch poses near one of the displays at Fort Meigs in Perrysburg. The Fort is gearing up for the first event in its bicentennial celebration of the War of 1812 on Feb. Director of Fort Meigs Rick Finch poses near one of the displays at Fort Meigs in Perrysburg. The Fort is gearing up for the first event in its bicentennial celebration of the War of 1812 on Feb.
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Fort Meigs will come alive Saturday with a re-creation of what life was like when the fort was constructed 200 years ago at the historic Perrysburg site.

“That is the actual day that construction began,” said Rick Finch, Fort Meigs director.

About two dozen War of 1812 soldier and civilian re-enactors will host a small winter encampment at the fort, the largest reconstructed, wooden-walled fort in the country, Mr. Finch said. Activities will take place inside and outside the visitor center.

The event at 29100 W. River Rd., Perrysburg, runs from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for students, and free for Ohio Historical Society members and children ages 5 and younger.

Re-enactors will demonstrate period construction such as hewing logs and building defensive works. Visitors can help dig a trench by using a pick ax or shovel to break what might be frozen ground. Soldier re-enactors also will provide weapons demonstrations.

“People will see the tools and techniques that the soldiers used to build this fort, and they will hopefully appreciate the effort it took in 1813 to construct a fortification as large as Fort Meigs, by hand, while living in terrible camp conditions,” Mr. Finch said.

Demonstrations, including how clothing was made in 1813, will take place in the visitor center, where hot chocolate and treats will be offered. Young attendees can dress up as soldiers, learn to make rope, watch period carpenters work, or try hand sewing.

An exhibit of never-before-displayed artifacts will be in the museum.

“We have over two dozen artifacts that have never before been displayed at Fort Meigs such as a piece of the ship that Francis Scott Key was on when he wrote the ‘Star Spangled Banner’,” Mr. Finch said. “Visitors can see soldiers’ diaries, letters, weapons, personal items, and more.”

Outdoor activities include a demonstration of camp life, tent tours of what it was like to camp outside in the winter of 1813, and period-cooking demonstrations.

Inside activities include skilled trades such as period carpentry, straw sewing, and a period tool display. Domestic arts demonstrations include period clothing construction, period sewing, and spinning and weaving.

Tamia Land and her husband, Marty, of Northwood are two of about 15 volunteers who will serve as costumed interpreters.

“I’m wearing a dress for a change, usually I dress as a soldier,” said Mrs. Land, president of the Old Northwest Military History Association which supplies most of the volunteers for the fort’s activities.

Women were not allowed in the Army, but some dressed as men in order to participate. Many female re-enactors dress as men, Mrs. Land said.

Dressing like a woman is much more complicated than dressing like a man. Mrs. Land will don many layers — a chemise, corset, petticoat, a dress and an apron, along with a hat or bonnet. Her husband, who will dress as a soldier, will be doing drills or weapons demonstrations.

“It’s one thing to read about it, but it’s another to actually dress like they did and use the tools they used,” Mrs. Land said.

During the War of 1812 Fort Meigs stood at the center of American military operations in the Northwest Territory.

Named for Return Jonathan Meigs, Jr., then governor of Ohio, the garrison was home to more than 2,000 men.

Contact Tanya Irwin at tirwin@theblade.com or 419-724-6066.



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