Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The next Birney's Division events

The next two Birney's Division events are just a few weeks away!

The Battle of Smithfield Crossing, September 9-10, 2017 (Middleway, WV). The Federal Commander will be Colonel Bouwhuis. More information at www.facebook.com/SmithfieldCrossing

The Battle of Antietam, September 9-10, 2017 (Zoar, OH). Birney's Division 2nd Battalion will be on the field. More information at www.zoarcivilwar.com

Monday, August 07, 2017

Civil War Reenactment at Perryopolis, PA to be No More

It started in 2002 with an invitation request from borough officials to have the Civil War reenactors come out as part of the attraction for the weekend’s activities during the town’s annual celebration of Pioneer Days. Could we put on a reenactment in the back of the park to attract some additional visitors for the borough’s festivities? That is how it all started 15 years ago and things went well, the reenactments drew a large crowd and the reenactors had a permanent home to teach history to all who came.

After a few years we were given permission from the then Heritage Society to build log cabins and build we did, we built structures as close as possible to how they would have been built in the mid-19th century. As the years passed we built a small town in what was once the local dump in back of Sampey Park. Over the past 13 years we maintained the building and the park, much to the delight and approval of many Perryopolis residents, who used the park for walks and recreation. We were reenactors volunteering our time and money into developing a living history museum for all to experience and enjoy. Most all our materials were from the land or donated by individuals who were more than pleased to see the park develop. The Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and even the Girl Scouts used our buildings throughout the years learning a little about history and about the beautiful natural surroundings of the park. The High School track team trained on our cleared trails and land throughout the park, special events were put on at Halloween by the High School students and many of us volunteered to help and be part of their program. Each year after the annual reenactment we would turn all the proceeds over to the Perryopolis Heritage Society to be used in the community, our success brought many thousands of dollars in over the years, it seemed like a perfect match.

Then suddenly last year we were approached by borough officials and told we could not use the park any longer and we had to cancel our annual Oct. event. We were shocked and asked why, what had changed, has the land been sold for development? After all the years of us building and maintaining the park we were shut out and no one could give us a reason why. Ever since our cancelation last year we have attended at least a dozen meetings with different departments and borough officials trying to determine the reason why we were being denied access to the park? Issues arose about insurance, this I did not understand as we have always provided the borough with our insurance naming Perryopolis as the additional insured on certificates for liability and property damage for our activities at the park. In addition to the insurance issue, we were then forbidden to build or repair any of the structures and at one point we were told not to even cut the grass (which is now 4 ft. high) unless we could provide independent contractor insurance for each individual volunteer? This was an impossible and unnecessary request, as we were just volunteers working in the community and for the 13 years prior, no one had ever requested such insurance.

The rough wood and log structures are now in the second season of no maintenance or repair, insects and rodents are attacking the neglected structures, the park is over grown, fallen and dead trees and limbs are littering the park and the road has become washed out and full of holes.

It saddens us deeply to watch this very unique one of a kind park, so many worked so hard to create, decline and degenerate back into the earth. We are sorry the residents and the children will no longer be able to experience and enjoy the park as it once had been.

We would like to extend a special thanks to all who have supported us over the years in helping with the park, attending events and bringing a little Civil War history of our ancestors who fought and died in that war from Western Pennsylvania. For all the residents of Perryopolis and the surrounding areas that came and watched our recreation of history year after year, we also must say thanks. It was good for all of us…while it lasted!

Michael D. Maffei and the Reenactor Volunteers