Tucker County Chamber Of Commerce Hosts “School Day” At Leaf Peeper’s Festival

Dean Hardman from the Jackson's Mill "History Hitting the Road" at 2012 Leaf Peeper's School Day
Dean Hardman from the Jackson’s Mill “History Hitting the Road” at 2012 Leaf Peeper’s School Day

This Friday, Sept. 27, the Tucker County Chamber of Commerce will again sponsor a field trip for Tucker County school children grades K-8 to visit exhibits at the 25th Annual Leaf Peeper’s Festival in Davis.   This year, each class will be able to spend approximately three hours at the festival watching live demonstrations of West Virginia heritage arts and learning about history thanks to the support of area businesses and individuals.
“We are thrilled to have WVU Jackson’s Mill’s “History Hitting the Road” back again this year, and that we will also have Stephen Cassle portraying the General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson,” says Roxanne Tuesing, Chamber President.  “We also thrilled that Chip Turner of Appalachian Glass in Weston will be returning again to give live glass-blowing demonstrations.”

New this year will be live demonstrations of barrel and bucket making by John Kessinger of St. Albans, wood lathe demonstrations by Stuart Strong of Elkins, blacksmith demonstrations by Aric Heckler of Mill Creek, and weaving, spinning and basket weaving demonstrations by a group of local ladies from Ben’s Old Loom Barn in Canaan Valley. Also, Don Teter of Monterville will portray David Hunter Strother, aka“Porte Crayon”, speaking to the students in character. Strother was one of the most accomplished and diverse men of the new state of West Virginia. Born in Martinsburg, he trained as an artist in Europe and gained fame as a writer and illustrator for national magazines under the name Porte Crayon.  He illustrated several early travel stories including The Blackwater Chronicle that shared the exploits of an 1851 expedition of sportsmen into the Canaan Valley. From Charles Town he reported and illustrated John Brown’s capture, trial and execution for Harper’s Weekly in 1859.  During the Civil War, Strother served as a Union officer and topographer who saw action in several major battles. He was one of the founders of the West Virginia Historical Society and a speaker at the first commencement held at West Virginia University.  Porte Crayon visited the Canaan and Blackwater country in the 1850’s, and the portrayal at Leaf Peeper’s will include tales of hunting and fishing in that area, illustrated with Porte’s sketches, including images of Blackwater Falls and Douglas Falls.   Porte Crayon’s appearance at this year’s Leaf Peeper’s Festival is sponsored by the Tucker County Chamber of Commerce and the Alpine Festival Association with assistance of the West Virginia Humanities Council’s History Alive! Program.  This program provides audiences with the opportunity to explore history by interacting with noteworthy historical figures and questioning those who have shaped our history.   The appearance is also financed, in part, by assistance from the Tucker County Parks & Recreation Commission.  Canaan Valley Resort State Park is an additional sponsor of the Porte Crayon appearance.

The appearance of Stephen Cassle of Dunbar as General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson will also be in character.   Born in Clarksburg in 1824 and raised as an orphan on his uncle’s farm along the banks of the West Fork River in nearby Weston, Thomas Jonathan Jackson overcame tremendous personal setbacks throughout his life and became one of the most legendary and fascinating individuals of the American Civil War.  As we commemorate the 150th Anniversary of our nation’s greatest conflict and the creation of the State of West Virginia, Stephen Cassle brings back to life the man simply known as Stonewall.  His likeness to Jackson is uncanny and his presentation of Jackson goes well beyond simply looking like the general.  He stresses the importance of creating a total experience when depicting him.  Cassle includes the various uniforms worn by Jackson at different stages of the war and also depicts additional items associated with the general in his encampment.  When viewing Stonewall’s encampment, one will see the field desk that accompanied him throughout the war, along with his Bible, writing box and pens, and the food that Jackson ate.  This exhibit is sponsored by the Tucker County Chamber of Commerce, the Tucker County Historic Landmark Commission, and Blackwater Falls State Park.     The Tucker County Parks & Recreation Commission also provided partial funding for this appearance.

“School Day at Leaf Peeper’s is a community outreach project of the Tucker County Chamber of Commerce which we feel is extremely beneficial for the children” says Kim Bennett, board member and project coordinator.  “We are excited to have more exhibits this year and are very thankful for all of the sponsors whose donations have made the field trip possible.”   Sponsors helping defray transportation costs for School Day include Mettiki Coal, LLC; Jenni Ray, Associate Broker, Canaan Realty; Best of Canaan Realty; Cooper & Preston Law Firm; Ray and Roxanne Tuesing; and Jed Drenning dba Victory Marketing.

Bill Smith, Executive Director for the Chamber, says that School Day is truly a cooperative effort between Tucker County Schools, the Chamber of Commerce, and members of the local community.  “It is quite a task to organize and finance the transport of nearly 700 of the county’s school children to visit the festival, but we believe that this field trip “in their own back yard” is one of the most educational experiences they could possibly have.”