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Pioneer Day: "better than I could have imagined"

Chris Ozbirn and a committee of volunteers opened the door of history Saturday at Pioneer Day and local residents poured in by the thousands.

To celebrate the bicentennial of Franklin County, which was created by the Alabama Territorial Legislature on February 6, 1818, Pioneer Day featured living history vendors from the era when Franklin County was born.

More than 50 vendors and artisans were on hand at Sloss Lake. The weather was beautiful and the turnout was great—a day Ozbirn described as perfect.

I've been asked several times today if I thought it was as good as I thought it would be, and I said no, it was better,” Ozbirn said. “We wanted to show children and young people who may not understand how people lived in the 1800s and it was educational—not just something to look at and have fun, but also a teaching tool,” she added.

Activities included a working spinning wheel, broom making, goat milk soap making, chair caning, handkerchief dolls, corn shelling and much more.

Toby and Sherry Hutcheson spent Pioneer Day representing the Alabama Trappers and Predator Control Association. Hutcheson explained to kids how the lost art of trapping works. He had several animal pelts on display as well.

This is part of our history. The fur market is almost gone. To sell fur these days, you have to go outside of the United States. People have quit wearing fur so most of it goes to Europe, Korea and other overseas locations,” Hutcheson said.

Trapping is something Hutcheson said he's done his entire life. He also enjoys traditional hunting but said trapping is another reason to get out and enjoy the wilderness.

Hutcheson recalled trapping in its heyday, when he used his check from fur sales in 1981 to purchase a Chevrolet pickup. He said most local trapping now is for beaver, raccoon and coyotes because of the damage and scavenging they cause.

The Alabama Trappers and Predator Control Association holds annual workshops for kids at Johnny Mack Morrow's Cypress Cove Farm. There's also an annual adult workshop at the Hamilton Fire Department sponsored by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

More information about the organization and a membership application is available at www.atpca.org.

Russellville resident Louise Woodruff attended Pioneer Day in part to listen to the Sacred Harp Singers.

Sacred Harp singing comes from the shape-note book the music originates from, called the Sacred Harp. The unusual singing style is based on a four-note system. Woodruff's father, Wade Richardson and her great uncle Albert Thorn were both Sacred Harp singers so she said listening to the music Saturday was a special piece of history for her.

My great uncle would come and get my dad every year in April for a sining at the Pleasant Grove Primitive Baptist Church,” Woodruff said. “It was a great memory from the past and the singing was very good. It nearly made me cry,” she added.

The Sacred Harp Singers perform each month on the first and third Wednesdays from 9-11 a.m., at the Donald Green Senior Center in Cullman.

Orland Britnell had three tables of historic tools and household items that were used by his family. Each item had a tag explaining its use and a bit of history about the item.

Britnell had a tool his father used to make railroad crossties, which he sold for $1 each. He also displayed a mule wagon side lantern light, which was required in the early 1900s to be on the side of wagons in order for them to be seen at night.

Britnell's mother, Methyl, was a school teacher in Franklin and Marion Counties. He still has some of her schoolbooks dating back to 1925.

Other historical items in his collection included a butter churn, a lard cooking paddle, hay scythe and dozens of other items.

Britnell also had a traditional corn grinder which was a popular item for some of the children at Pioneer Day.

When it comes to arrowheads and old Native American flint tools, Johnny Richardson is an expert.

Richardson had his extensive arrowhead collection on display, including some he found more than 20 years ago across the road from Sloss Lake.

There's a lot of history in rocks. We grew up east of town and Jackie (Richardson) and I worked in the fields. The area had a lot of flint in it so that's how we got interested,” Richardson said.

In conjunction with Pioneer Day, the Franklin County 4-H held a poster contest with the theme, “My Franklin County: People, Places and Stories.”

Tharptown sixth grader Jackson Clement was the winner of the poster contest. Russellville Elementary fifth graders Blanca Santamaria and Kimberly Salgado Valenzo won second and third place respectively.

As she sat in one of her historic rocking chairs late Saturday afternoon, archives volunteer Doris Hutcheson was tired from a busy day, but delighted in how the community responded to Pioneer Day.

It's very educational to listen to the actors talk about the tools of the day. Today we have all this automation but we're all so busy we don't build the relationships with people like they did in 1818,” Hutcheson said. “I think it was a better general time back then.

Even though they had a hard life, my grandparents enjoyed building relationships with their neighbors and they were really able to enjoy other people which is something we don't always have time for today,” she added.



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