Tahlequah Daily Press

May 7, 2013

19th Century setting

Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Visitors to the Murrell Home on Saturday took a trip back in time to discover life as it was in the 1800s.

The 1800s Lawn Social, an annual event at the historic site, engages visitors in hands-on activities like churning butter and learning dances of the time.

According to Jennifer Frazee, historical interpreter of the Murrell Home, the lawn social at the house shows a sense of community.

Shirley Pettengill, former Murrell Home staffer, said the Murrells were a wealthy family.

“That is what makes our lawn social unique,” she said. “It’s a re-enactment of an occasion that many people of Park Hill at the time could afford to put on.”

Oklahoma Historical Society educator Sarah Dumas agrees on the uniqueness of the Murrell Home lawn social.

“It’s good for people to see all different levels of societies of the past,” said Dumas.

Re-enactor Cody Jolliff has been participating in the lawn social for many years.

“It’s fun, because people get to see what life was like 150 years ago,” Jolliff said. “People have the opportunity to see the different social situations you would have normally seen back then, and see what people wore that was appropriate for this type of event.”

Portraying the different levels of society is part of what the historical re-enactors do.

Omar Reed, an African-American re-enactor from Fort Gibson, portrayed a slave butler at the historical event. Reed said slavery is a part of his heritage. He said  there was still a North Carolina plantation bearing his last name, only spelled Reid.

“I’ve waited tables before, carried people’s luggage,” said Reed. “So, playing a servant is nothing,” Reed said. “Portraying the history of the past is a way to learn from it. I don’t want [slavery] to happen again.”

According to Pettengill, the Murrells had about 40 slaves, including a butler named Andy. Besides being a butler, Andy served as a scout for the Union Army during the Civil War.

“Re-enactors try to be as accurate as they can,” Pettengill said.

This year’s event included a wedding re-enactment. The ceremony was performed by historical re-enactor Harold Trisler, of Fort Smith, Ark. Trisler portrayed a preacher from the hills, who said, “It’s a high-tone wedding because there are rings.”

According to Trisler, many of the hill people were colorful characters, including the preachers.

“Church in the 1800s weren’t what you’d expect it to be,” said Trisler. “The hill preachers were tough, colorful characters. You wouldn’t see that today.”

Dumas and Jolliff portrayed the bride and groom, saying their “I reckon’ I dos,” at the end of the service.

This year’s Murrell Home Lawn Social was held for the first time in May, instead of June.

According to Belinda Burnett, secretary of Friends of the Murrell Home, the date was moved up to coincide with the Educational Day scheduled last Friday.

Seeing the 1860s through live re-enactments gives people an idea of what life was like during that time period.

Al Drap, also of Fort Smith, Ark., was an extra dressed in period costume.

“You get to relive the past and get a slice of what it was like in that time,” said Drap. “That’s why I like to wear the clothes, to feel like a part of it.”

Interacting with the costumed players was a learning experience and fun for visitors of all ages.

This year was the first visit for Beth Green-Nagle, who brought her 6-year-old daughter, Anika Nagle.


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