‘Decoration Day’ re-enactment at Old Stone Fort brings history to life
SCHOHARIE Visitors to Old Stone Fort celebrated what was once known as Decoration Day with Abraham Lincoln on Sunday.
The fort’s second annual Decoration Day celebration transported participants to the Schoharie Valley during the Civil War with historical readings from newspapers, letters written by a traveler in the valley and a speech from an Abraham Lincoln impersonator.
Before Memorial Day was mostly about barbecues, retail sales and the start of the summer holiday season, communities throughout the country remembered those who had died in the military by decorating gravestones, which was a holiday called Decoration Day traditionally held on May 30.
Decoration Day started as people on both sides of the Civil War began remembering the end of the conflict by putting flowers at the grave sites of those who had died during the war, according to Carle Kopecky, director of The Old Stone Fort, who was also dressed as a Civil War soldier.
About 60 people gathered to listen to the historical readings and speeches and watched as re-enactors dressed in Civil War-era clothing raised a Civil War-era flag. The day was filled with historical and educational activities, including graveyard tours that pointed out the 35 Civil War soldiers and one nurse buried at the fort, period music and singing.
Several people who attended the event Sunday came dressed in period clothing, adding to the ambiance. Lew Warner, his wife Sue and their daughter Kearny, 8, were dressed in costume.
The Loudonville family said they attend a lot of events for re-enactors.
Sue Warner said she was glad a traditional Memorial Day celebration was occurring locally.
“We are beginning to forget the true meaning of the holiday,” she said.
Scotia residents Joe and Lisa Gatta and their 12-year-old daughter, Victoria, visited the Old Stone Fort Sunday as an excuse to drive into the Schoharie Valley.
“Anytime we want to go for a drive, we seem to head this way,” Lisa Gatta said.
The family said they enjoy anything historical and are also regulars at the Mabee Farm in Rotterdam Junction.
The day was also a way to draw attention and support for the erection of a Civil War memorial that would honor those from Schoharie County who fought in the war. At present, there is no such memorial in the county.
The Cpl. James Tanner Camp of the Sons of the Veterans of the Civil War, the local chapter of a national organization that works to make sure those who fought during the Civil War are properly recognized, is organizing the effort to erect the memorial.
Richard Shermann, head of the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Committee, said the goal is to have the memorial in place by next year’s Decoration Day, which would mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.
The monument will cost about $50,000, Shermann said. Sunday kicked off the committee’s fundraising campaign with a $5,000 donation from the Schoharie Valley Masonic Lodge. The committee will also be selling engraved brick pavers to finance the project and will be accepting donations at the fort.
Shermann said he doesn’t think there will be a problem raising the necessary funds. He said there is strong support for history and especially for Civil War history in the Schoharie Valley.
Initial research suggests that about 2,000 people from Schoharie County participated in the Civil War, according to Pete Lindemann, the Abraham Lincoln impersonator, who is involved with the project.
Lindemann said there is a strong connection with history in Schoharie County because so many people have lived in the area for generations.
Contributions to the Civil War memorial project can be made to the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Committee at the Old Stone Fort Complex, 145 Fort Road, Schoharie, 12157.