Re-enactors at Henderson Hall

BOAZ – Just a few days before West Virginia celebrates its anniversary on Tuesday, visitors to Henderson Hall over the weekend had a chance to step back to the period of history which brought about West Virginia’s creation.

The annual Civil War Re-enactment Weekend took place on Saturday and Sunday at the historic home on Old River Road at Boaz, put on by Henderson Hall in association with Carlin’s Battery D of Artillery and Western Virginia Artillery.

The re-enactment was free and open to the public, although tours of Henderson Hall itself required the purchase of tickets. Visitors could tour the soldiers’ encampment through the day and watch tactical battles both afternoons featuring a mixture of infantry, cavalry and working cannons.

A barn dance was held Saturday night, while Sunday included a period church service.

Henderson Hall director Randy Modesitt said the weekend was a positive one, with good weather and good attendance.

“We had a nice crowd here (Saturday), probably 200 people or more watching and we’ve had more re-enactors here than we’ve ever had in the past,” he said.

The re-enactors set up period campsites for the weekend behind Henderson Hall and presented two simulated battles, one each weekend, in the field below Henderson Hall.

“It’s been a fun weekend,” he said.

Mary Ann Wells, of Boaz, was watching the battle Sunday between Union and Confederate soldiers near Henderson Hall. She has been attending the re-enactment every year since it started.

“I love it because it’s a way of really getting a feel of what history is really like. You can feel it when they set off the cannons, you can feel the vibrations. It’s way of bringing the history to life,” Wells said.

“I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, to see it like this makes it more real, more interesting,” she said.

Wells said she passes Henderson Hall on a regular basis and likes to take the tour every few years to see what changes and additions have been made to the historic home.

A special pair of visitors to Henderson Hall during the weekend were President Abraham Lincoln and First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, portrayed by John W. and Marian King of Ashtabula, Ohio.

“This is a great event, this is our fifth time here out of the last six years,” John King said.

The couple said they get a good response from visitors to their portrayals, especially from children. They take pictures with people and also try to give some information and history about the presidential couple, “my life and what I stood for,” he said, as Lincoln.

King has been portraying Abraham Lincoln for about five years and makes about 60 appearances annually, with his wife joining him as Mary Todd for about half of those, while also doing her own presentations.

The couple is scheduled to return to Williamstown on Tuesday, meeting with visitors from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Williamstown Welcome Center in celebration of West Virginia Day “since I signed the document that made you a state,” he said, once again as Lincoln.

King will also be participating in activities surrounding the annual Ripley Fourth of July Celebration between June 28 and July 4 in Ripley.

Modesitt said other special activities planned at Henderson Hall include an antique engine show on Aug. 5 and a gathering of the Henderson Clan on Oct. 14. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the hall contains artifacts and historical treasures preserved through more than 200 years of the Henderson clan. The Hall and its environs are open to visitors from March through December, Tuesday through Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m.

The Henderson family itself was involved in the West Virginia statehood movement, with George Washington Henderson being elected in 1861 to serve in the Wheeling Convention as a delegate from Wood County. The efforts of the convention eventually led President Abraham Lincoln to sign the act which made West Virginia a state. His son, G.W. Henderson Jr., joined the Union Army.