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Visitors to experience Civil War era at Akron history sites

6/6/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Civil War and civilian re-enactors will be part of this year’s Civil War 150th Anniversary Commemoration event June 15 at the Summit County Historical Society. Shown are re-enactors from last year’s event.
Photo courtesy of Summit County Historical Society
WEST AKRON — Soldiers and civilians will be part of this year’s Civil War 150th Anniversary Commemoration event at the Summit County Historical Society (SCHS).

The free June 15 event, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the grounds of the Perkins Stone Mansion and John Brown House, at 550 Copley Road, will allow visitors to experience life in Akron during the Civil War years, according to SCHS Director Leianne Heppner. It’s the third annual commemorative event to take place there.

“The first year, when we had [Civil War-era musician] Bobby Horton here, we had close to 500 people,” Heppner said. “It was a little smaller last year but not as much as you might anticipate. What we’re doing this year is changing it a little bit.”

Based on volunteer and visitor feedback, organizers are having this year’s musical guest, guitarist Steve Ball, circulate on the grounds to be more accessible to listeners. Ball, from Columbus, is a musician and historian with a repertoire of songs from 1861 to 1865.

Also, Civil War re-enactors from the 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry will return to share their knowledge of the life of a soldier during the time period. This year, the event also will host civilian re-enactors, Heppner said, giving it a more interactive feel.

“They wanted to provide more opportunities for people to see what it would have been like in that time period for others,” Heppner said. “The ladies will be in corsets and hoops, wandering around the property and in the rooms and having conversations amongst themselves about what is happening.”

The day also will feature a display in the Perkins Mansion from retired Ellet High School history teacher John Gurnish of items from his personal collection of material on soldiers from Summit County.

Visitors also will be able to see the exhibit highlighting the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in the Perkins Mansion.

The SCHS grounds will be open for picnicking. Visitors are welcome to bring their own food, and some refreshments will be available at the event for purchase.

In addition, children will learn about games and activities from the Civil War era throughout the day. In the gift shop, located in the Wash House, Heppner said a selection of inexpensive, simple games and toys from the era will be sold. SCHS members can check in there to receive a copy of the local history book by Mark Price, and he will be on hand to sign copies, as well.

Heppner said offering the event at no cost is an important way for the SCHS to uphold its mission.

“Our slogan is ‘History Within Reach,’ and we look at that as our vision,” she said. “We don’t want people to say they can’t come here because they can’t afford it. We feel it’s important to give back to the community.”

As part of that, the SCHS holds monthly free open houses at the John Brown House. The next open house there will be June 27 from 4 to 6 p.m.

For more information, call 330-535-1120.

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