|Raid Reenactment Commemorates Blountsville History|
When Tim Williams and his wife, Irene, were first married, they never bought a loaf of bread. Instead Irene kneaded the dough, let it rise and cooked it in their antique wood-burning cook stove, adjusting the amount of wood needed in the firebox, until the light brown crust was "just right."
They also never ate store-bought meat. Instead they raised chickens and cattle themselves. Not because they had to, but because somehow it just seemed better.
While technology grows by leaps and bounds around him, Tim still has one foot (or maybe a foot-and-a-half!) in the past! He feels you can’t move forward unless you know where you’ve been!
This year, once again, Tim is in charge of the Blountsville Historical Society’s reenactment of the Forrest-Streight Raid through the area. Tim himself conceived and planned the first such event in the small town in 1999 so it’s only fitting he’s the coordinator of the reenactment activities ten years later.
Tim is joined by event-coordinator Joyce Thompson in planning what will be the 146th Anniversary of the May First Raid, with the Blountsville event fittingly to be held on May 1st (when many of the re-enactors and others will gather to get ready), and then the second and third with day-long events planned for the public.
The jewel of the event is certainly the Blountsville Historical Park, an on-going project of the Blountsville Historical Society and an amazing feat considering the small size of the group in the small town which was originally known as "Bear Meat."
The Park, two miles north of the town’s one traffic light on U.S. 231, includes the restored historic Freeman House, original to the site; the old Blountsville Calaboose, (the first jail); the Brooksville Post Office; a small hand-hewn log cabin; and, its newest addition, a larger cabin with a sleeping loft bought from the McCullough family.
The McCullough family had purchased the cabin from Tennessee in the 1970s, numbered each log, and moved it to the Blountsville area. Tradition has it belonged to John Coffee, Andrew Jackson’s brother-in-law, one of the first settlers who came through the area along about the time Davy Crockett visited.
Joyce explained, "This was when all our ancestors first came to the area; so that makes the cabin’s link to us very special."
The area was originally called "Bear Meat" after an Indian who lived in the area.
But the settlement came on the backs of persecution of the Native Americans. Information provided by Joyce shows there were permanent white and black settlements in the area following the Treaty of Fort Jackson in 1814 when most of the Creek Indians were removed. General Coffee’s troops had wiped out most of the Indian settlements in the area in 1813. The Cherokees gave up their lands a little north of Blountsville in 1816.
But not all the Indians were killed or driven out. Several current residents have Native American ancestry where early settlers married into the tribes.
A spring near the Historic Park was the area where travelers stopped to rest on their seventh day as they traveled from Huntsville to the north or to more southern areas.
Tim explained, "They had to stop to rest their horses or mules, grease the wagon wheels and cook up enough food to keep them going another few days."
Williams and others have been clearing that spring, along about a half-mile of the old Bear Meat Road, which sits on Historical Society President Jane Wright’s land now. There will be tours to the spring during the May weekend activities for the first time!
Marlin Beasley serves as the Society’s vice-president.
Joyce explained the biggest change this year will be the Civil War battle will take place in the actual village.
While Tim’s group is known as the 11th Alabama Calvary, during the weekend some members will portray the 13th Wisconsin Infantry. Tim explained northern sympathizers from Claysville were given horses and guns to point out the homes of Confedeate Army families to raid and destroy.
Union Colonel Abel Streight and Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest battled off and on throughout the area, including the Battle of nearby Hog Mountain on April 30, 1863.
Streight and his men arrived in Blountsville on the morning of May 1, 1863, resting and raiding the citizens of food and anything else they wanted. Forrest and one squadron of the 4th Tennessee Regiment rushed in and had a "lively skirmish" according to local history books. The two forces fought off and on along a ten mile stretch.
In the nearby Royal area of Blount County, the Murphree sisters marched three Union "marauders" into Forrest’s camp, and received two horses for their heroic actions and quick thinking!
The entire historic raid path has been marked by the Sons of the Confederate Veterans and makes an interesting day trip for anyone in the area.
Since all Field Trips in Blount County have been cancelled this year because of the economy, the big all-day usual Friday event for school children from all over the county cannot be held. So re-enactors are going into the schools by invitation and giving short programs.
On Saturday, May 2, gates open at 9 a.m. Admission is $10 each day. Kids are invited to participate in a period-area school from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Wagon rides to the spring will be available from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. A Maypole Dance will take place at 10 a.m. and there will be singers, musicians, lecturers and soldier activities throughout the day.
The battle will take place in the Village at 2 p.m., with the camp closing at 3:30 p.m.
Saturday night events are free with gates opening at 6:30 p.m. and include a period fashion show, entertainment and camp dance.
On Sunday May 3, events follow basically the same schedule as Saturday except for an Arbor-Styled Church Camp Meeting from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Joyce said, "We hope everyone enjoys this new and more authentic version of the era. We invite everyone to be a part of 1863 village life. Let your kids attend school, dance at the Maypole and then attend the period church service. You’re invited to talk with participants and stroll around the park. There will be a lot to learn but a lot to enjoy as well."
Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County.