Step back in time at 300th celebration

Published 10:05 pm Thursday, September 20, 2012

Children visiting the Historic Bath State Historic Site take turns learning rope-making during the site’s Heritage Days. Rope-making will be one of the skills demonstrated at Beaufort County’s 300th anniversary celebration Saturday at Festival Park in Washington. (Submitted Photo/Historic Bath State Historic Site)

Leigh Swain knows how to make rope. She can craft candles over a fire and write with quill and ink. When it comes to all things colonial, the Historic Bath State Historic Site manager is a font of information.
That’s why Swain, along with Historic Bath volunteer Susan Lindbergh, will be on hand at Saturday’s celebration of the Beaufort County’s 300th anniversary at Festival Park on the Washington waterfront. From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. the two will demonstrate how colonial kids entertained themselves with hoop races and games like “graces,” played by successfully passing a wooden ring from one player to the next with a pair of sticks, and doing it gracefully. Children in colonial times had to make fun where they could find it, and with whatever was available, according to Swain.
“Very likely, if children got hold of hoops here in the Bath, they were from the cooper’s,” Swain explained. “There were barrels being made here to ship out tar pitch and turpentine. The hoop is part of the barrel that would hold the staves in place. Sometimes children would find a creative use for that.”
Rope-making, however, was big business, especially for 19th century Bath resident Jacob Van der Veer. In addition to being one of the founders of the Bank of Washington, Van der Veer owned a rope-making enterprise in Bath during the 1800s. With the many ships entering and leaving the port of Bath sailing to foreign shores, rope was in high demand, and it took some skill to make it: hooks and gears, keeping track of patterns of strings as they twist together. Saturday, Swain and Lindbergh will demonstrate how it was done.
Swain said she was glad the 300th anniversary committee tapped into the resource of the Historic Bath site because the demonstrations of colonial tasks and recreation are a way to physically connect with the past.
“I think it’s important for us not just to think about where we are now, but to give a nod to where we’ve been,” Swain said. “Just a reminder that’s tangible that people can put their hands on and maybe get an appreciation for what life was like for people who were living here in Beaufort County 300 years ago.”
The authenticity of games and skills will be reflected in the ladies’ clothing on Saturday as both Swain and Lindbergh will be dressed in period costume, teaching about a way of life, part of Beaufort County’s long past, but never forgotten history.