We enjoyed a pleasant spring afternoon at the Iron Hill Museum’s annual archaeological Festival. The Old African-American School and the grounds were lively as an array of exhibits, demonstrations and activities filled the area. When we arrived just after 12:00 p.m. the parking attendant remarked that there was only one spot remaining on the lot.
At the festival people were busy explaining the history of the area, and Bob Fullmer, a Revolutionary War reenactor, was one of them. Today he took on the role of a colonial brewer, and as he stoked the fire warming a boiling cooper kettle of water, the beer maker dressed in colonial attire explained the process. For moving the mash to another cooper container, he used a huge wooden ladle. On his work table there was another large pot, which helped strain the product before it was drained off to be put into kegs. Young and old alike had plenty of questions for Bob as expertly helped them understand what making beer was like centuries ago.
Elsewhere we ran into Willis Phelps, Jr., portraying Private Elbert of the United States Colored Troops. This afternoon Private James Elbert was talking about the burdens for Delaware’s African American soldiers during the Civil War. The 24-year old farmer from Polktown enlisted with C Company of the 8th United States Colored Troops in September 1863. After leaving his home just outside Delaware City, he trained at Camp William Penn and fought in many battles during the conflict.
In an engaging hour-long presentation, the audience felt as if they had been transported back through time to the Civil War as the soldier, following orders from his sergeant-major, unexpectedly arrived at Iron Hill. Along the way, the private shared stories about the fears, the courage, and the extraordinary achievement of the state’s African-American Soldiers. This popular program was supported by the Delaware Humanities Forum.
Two colonial ladies staffed the John Dickinson Plantation booth, a very popular spot. They had plenty of active games for children so throughout the afternoon youngsters played with hoops, throwing rods, racquets, and shuttlecocks, and more.
Late in the day, James Knott, a graduate of the “Hockessin Colored School No. 107-C” talked about attending the school. It was built about 1920 and closed in 1959. After that, as the day passed quickly, it was about time for the closing act, a popular musical group. The Dog and Pony Show, interacted with the audience, especially the children, while sharing enjoyable songs to wrap up a fun-filled Sunday in May.
There were plenty of other activities too, but the event had drawn to a close. Thank you Iron Hill Museum for an excellent afternoon and for sharing the stories of the area. We’ll make sure this is on our calendar next year.