Handsell to host living history presentations

By Dave Ryan
Posted 10/5/21

VIENNA — Visitors to Dorchester County’s largest living history event will enjoy hands-on interaction with a variety of activities on October 9 at the 10th annual Nanticoke River Jamboree …

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Handsell to host living history presentations


VIENNA — Visitors to Dorchester County’s largest living history event will enjoy hands-on interaction with a variety of activities on October 9 at the 10th annual Nanticoke River Jamboree at historic ‘Handsell’ near Vienna.
Handsell honors three cultures that made up its history: Native Americans who lived in a sprawling Chicone Village at the site, European settlers who built the house at Handsell around 1770, and African Americans, who labored as enslaved and free people at Handsell. The Jamboree’s purpose is to educate visitors through living history presentations.
Designed as a safe, mostly-outdoor event for families, the Jamboree will feature open-hearth cooking as experienced by African American slaves, displays and hands-on demonstrations by Native Americans who once lived on the site, and crafts of early European settlers who built the house at Handsell hundreds of years ago. At this time, masks are optional for unvaccinated visitors outdoors, but required for all persons wishing to enter the house or longhouse.
In addition to displays and demonstrations by living history interpreters, this year’s Jamboree will explore the August 1781 British attack on the custom port of Vienna, located on the Nanticoke River just one mile below Handsell. The Chesapeake Independent Blues will be interpreting this important, but little understood period in Dorchester County’s history.
In the kitchen at Handsell, Jerome Bias of the Slave Dwelling Project will be demonstrating activities from a 19th century plantation kitchen while discussing life as an enslaved cook. Marvin-Alonzo Greer, lead Historic Interpreter for the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission is joining the Handsell group for the first time this year. Noah Lewis of Philadelphia will portray “Ned Hector,” a free black revolutionary war soldier.
Traditional crafts people and living history interpreters will also be exhibiting at the Jamboree as they explore life in the 18th and 19th centuries. This year there will be more craftspeople than ever and will include blacksmithing, basket weaving, wood lathe turning, spinning, rug-hooking, wool dyeing and broom making.
Representatives from the Pocomoke Indian Nation, Hermann Jackson of the Nanticoke of Milford, Delaware and Nause Waiwash Band of Indians as well as Handsell’s own Village Volunteers will explore many life skills of the Native people who once lived at Chicone.
These demonstrations include fire-making, weaving, pottery, chipping of implements, and techniques used for the building of the longhouse. These demonstrations occur in Handsell’s Chicone Village throughout the day.
Drew Shuptar-Rayvis, whose traditional name is Pekatawas MakataweU (Black Corn) is an Algonkian living historian of the 17th and 18th century of Accomac and Pocomoke descent. He has interpreted Algonkian life for a multitude of institutions and will be interpreting late 17th century Pocomoke life on behalf of the tribe.
Special events this year include the unveiling of the recently finished Handsell front porch with State and local dignitaries at 11:30 a.m. Following this at 12 noon, there will be a dedication of the newly installed African American Memorial at Handsell. The public is invited to both events during the Jamboree. Event admission is required.
Handsell is located on the site of the pre-historic Native Village at Chicone, later set aside as an Indian Reservation (1721-1769). Today it is a State and National Register Listed Historic site, held with a Maryland Historic Trust Preservation Easement on a Maryland Scenic By-Way and listed on the Michener Chesapeake By-Way and John Smith Historic Water Trail.
Partner organizations for the 2021 Nanticoke River Jamboree are the Harriet Tubman UGRR Visitors Center and State Park and the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Sponsors include NRG Energy, Dorchester Art Center and Bradshaw Auto Body and Zeke Willey.
Admission is $5, children 12 and under are admitted free. Gate opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m., October 9.
Handsell is located at 4837 Indiantown Road, 1 ½ miles north of Rt. 50, near Vienna, Dorchester County Maryland. It is owned and operated by the Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance. For more information go to www.restorehandsell.org or www.nanticokeriverjamboree.com. Interested historic craftspeople can call 410-228-7458 or email restorehandsell@gmail.com.

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