WATSONTOWN – For four decades, the Warrior Run-Fort Freeland Heritage Society has brought Revolutionary-era history to life for the public at its annual Heritage Days event.
This year, visitors can check out demonstrations of brickmaking, cooking, food preparation, needlework, pump making, coopering, paper making, shingle making, woodworking, flax culture, and much more.
There will also be reenactments, Revolutionary War and Indian encampments, and new this year – cemetery tours.
Heritage Days will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Typically held on the property of the historic Hower-Slote House and Farm, since construction is underway at the nearby elementary school Heritage Days this year will be centered around the Historic Warrior Run Church. The church, located at 41 Warrior Lane (intersection of Susquehanna Trail and 8th Street Drive, Watsontown), will be open each day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The cost is $5 for adults, $2 for students, and free for kids under 5. No smoking or pets allowed on the grounds.
According to Betsy Watts, co-chair of Heritage Days, many of the demonstrators and artisans return each year to demonstrate early crafts, foods, and occupations of the historical era. The military reenactors return each year as well.
“They like coming to a truly history-centered event,” she said.
She said 1,800 to 2,000 people attend each year, many of them repeat visitors. This year is the 39th year of the event. It was canceled last year due to COVID restrictions.
“Heritage Days was started by a group of people who wanted to teach the heritage of the Warrior Run area so that our local history will not be lost,” Watts said. “Our event has grown since those early days to become one of the best teaching events in this area.”
Docents will be at the church to talk about items in the church building, as well as church history. A hymn sing will be led by Randy Watts from 1 to 1:30 p.m. each day, featuring music from the Watts Hymnal played on the Reed pump organ. Local historian Robert S. Frank will portray Warrior Run Church minister Reverend Bryson.
In addition, volunteers will be in the adjacent cemetery to tell the tales of Revolutionary patriots buried there.
The church was built in 1835 with bricks made along the Warrior Run Creek. Leon Hagenbuch, historical society vice president and brick master, will demonstrate this brickmaking craftsmanship from the historical period.
E. Jane Koch, the other co-chair of Heritage Days, said the church is still historically authentic, with no electricity or lighting, “except for the beautiful oil lamps on the pulpit.”
The contour of the ceiling, she added, provides wonderful acoustics for music and singing. Visitors can hold the original hymnals and view display cases with the original seating charge of the Presbyterian congregation – “Back then you paid for your pew,” Koch explained.
She said the cemetery was formed in 1789. Within it are buried more than 74 Revolutionary patriots and veterans from four wars. The stone wall was built after 1813.
“Our guests enjoy seeing how the early settlers of the region lived and worked, and what they ate,” Watts said. “It is like a step back in time.”
She said they also enjoy seeing Warrior Run school students “knowledgeably explain what they are doing and why it was important to our ancestors.”
Watts can’t choose just one aspect of the event that she likes most.
“I personally enjoy the entire event!” she said. “But I especially like to see families learning together. It is important for children to know their heritage. I look forward to seeing everyone having a good time.”
The Warrior Run-Fort Freeland Heritage Society was founded in 1978. The non-profit organization is dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of the Warrior Run area.
For more information, visit www.freelandfarm.org or call 570-538-1756.