GALLIPOLIS — Imagine that you are in a time capsule with the ability to go back into time and to meet and talk to the great historical figures we can only read about in our history books. You can come close to that this week at the Gallipolis City Park each evening at 7:30 p.m. as fascinating characters of the Ohio Frontier when Ohio was part of the Northwest Territory of the fledgling United States of America come to life.
Appearing Tuesday evening was Margaret Blennerhassett, a wealthy British immigrant who, with her husband, built a mansion on an island of the Ohio River between Marietta, Ohio and Parkersburg, W.Va. They contributed to the development of the region and are credited with stopping a small pox epidemic. Today the mansion is a rebuilt tourist attraction, accessible from Parkersburg.
Also appearing this week was Oliver Hazard Perry, a hero of naval battles on Lake Erie during the War of 1812. William York, a slave who had an important role in the Lewis and Clark Expedition follows on Thursday. Friday brings Chief John Logan, a peace maker on the frontier. The finale on Saturday features the dynamic Hank Fincken, an annual fixture on the annual Chautauqua circuit performing as Johnny Appleseed. Fincken portrays a variety of historical figures for schools and community groups as his profession throughout the year.
Last year, five Civil War figures were featured. In previous years, area residents and visitors have met Chief Cornstalk; Francisco Pizarro, the conquistador of the Incas in Peru; Ernie Pyle, the famed war correspondent of World War II; Clara Barton, a Civil War nurse who achieved fame as “The Angel of the Battlefield” and later as a pioneering leader in Red Cross war and disaster relief. Other guests included President Theodore Roosevelt, of “Rough Riders” fame, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
These actors and scholars have studied and researched their characters in depth. As such, it seems as though the actual historical figure comes to life and vividly shares his/her personality, character and mannerisms with insightful stories. Later the audience participates in a press conference format.
Each morning in the Bossard Library, there is a youth workshop for kids and a more scholarly program for adults in the afternoon. People of all ages are welcome at every session.
The Ohio Chautauqua is a revival of the Chautauqua Lectures which were very popular from the 1890s through the 1920s before movies, radio, television, and now the Internet.
Ohio Chautauqua is sponsored by the Ohio Humanities Council (http://www.ohiohumanities.org).