Beverly Heritage Days to celebrate history

BEVERLY — It’s dusk, the end of a long day. Men of the Augusta County Militia are camped near the waters of the Tygart Valley River. A campfire is blazing, even in July. It isn’t cold, but they need a cooking fire nonetheless. The year is not 1790. It’s 2018, and this is Beverly Heritage Days: Centuries of History.

The Pioneer Camp is just one of the living history camps throughout town. Along with live music, period craft demonstrations, and other activities, Beverly Heritage Days celebrates a timeline of history spanning 1750 to 1950. The weekend-long event will be held on July 14 and 15.

For Beverly resident and reenactor Karl Mulac, living history helps him to better understand the region in which he lives. “In 2007 when I moved here from Illinois, I began to focus on settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains,” he explained. “It is my goal to better understand all aspects of settlement: why they came, the trails they took.” He has been involved in living history since the mid-1990s.

Mulac portrays one of his wife’s ancestors– Col. Sampson Matthews of the Augusta County Militia. From 1772 until the 1790s, militia traveled a circuit of forts between Staunton, VA and Buckhannon to aid settlers in fortification and provide information on Native American activity. “I find history and the research as equally fascinating as any fiction I have read,” Mulac said. “This provides me with a context to base my clothing, equipment, and even skill sets that I develop for presentation at events.”

One of the most rewarding things about living history is the passing of information on to others. “Many of the pioneers’ descendants still live in Randolph County and do not know their own heritage,” Mulac explained. “But then comes the look on someone’s face when they hear their last name mentioned from an early settler in the 1800s. The cell phone goes down and the attention goes up. It’s priceless!”

An understanding of our shared heritage also helps to illuminate our present. “There is one thing that stands out the most–a trait that I still see in many West Virginians,” Mulac added. “The sense of community was crucial to survival. Building the forts in the Tygart’s Valley was a community effort. When danger was near they would rush to the fort to embrace safety in numbers until the danger has passed. The community of settlers was widespread but came together when needed. Back in 2016, floods ravaged many communities, but when the need was there, the greater community of West Virginia stepped up to support those in need. This remains today as a strength of West Virginia.”

Living history from the Pioneer, Civil War, and World War II periods will be offered all weekend throughout the town of Beverly. A Civil War encampment of both Union and Confederate troops will be located behind the 1841 Randolph County Jail, with camp life and weapons demonstrations. The World War II camps will feature American GI and German impressions along with displays and vehicles. Visitors are invited to live music, a Civilians Through Time presentation, and a Time Travel Dance to be held on Saturday. All activities are free and open to the public.

“The history our ancestors lived through shows both failures and triumphs,” concluded Mulac. “By remembering where we come from, I hope we continue to hold on to what makes us strong and change what makes us weak.”

Beverly Heritage Days will be held on July 14 and 15 with many events representing Centuries of History. For more information, contact the Beverly Heritage Center at (304) 637-7424 or email info@beverlyheritagecenter.org.

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