COCHRANTON — From the front of a large tent at the Cochranton Community Fairgrounds, Mark Roche told a crowd of about 40 that the schedule for Saturday’s French Creek Heritage Event had been “abbreviated” due to a deluge of rain. “We’re still going to continue,” said Roche, whose duties include Cochranton mayor, historian and businessman. “There’s no way you’re leaving. You can’t unless you have a boat.”
Saturday and Sunday mark the third annual French Creek Heritage Event. The title of this year’s event is “Stepping Back in Time: 1754-1763 Clashing Nations Mired in World War.” Admission is free and the event continues today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturday’s downpour resulted in a mixture of weather-appropriate fashions as rain ponchos and period hats, large enough to serve as an umbrella, both provided a shield from the rain. While the temporary monsoon canceled plans for Saturday’s re-enactment, Roche said various events would continue under cover.
The event features authors, historians, re-enactors and living historians who stage two days of presentations and exhibits that bring to life a time of conflict in northwestern Pennsylvania and around the world.
The large tent Roche spoke from on Saturday afternoon hosted a roundtable discussion featuring questions posed to all five guest speakers, each of whom presented a topic of their choice related to the French and Indian War. The roundtable discussion gave each panelist the chance to weigh in on various questions all together.
The French and Indian War (1754-63) comprised the North American theater of the worldwide Seven Years’ War of 1754-63. It pitted the colonies of British America against those of New France.
Fighting took place primarily along the frontiers between New France and the British colonies, from Virginia in the south to Newfoundland in the north. It began with a dispute over control of the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers called the Forks of the Ohio, and the site of the French Fort Duquesne within present-day Pittsburgh. The dispute erupted into violence in the Battle of Jumonville Glen in May 1754, during which Virginia militiamen under the command of 22-year-old George Washington ambushed a French patrol.
Roundtable moderator Robert Cranmer started the discussion by asking the panelists about the difference in relationships between the French and British with the Native Americans during the conflict in the 1750s.
Cranmer is a veteran, businessman, author and politician, best known as a former Republican county commissioner of Allegheny County from 1996 to 2000.
Robert Emerson, the executive director of Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown, N.Y., responded by explaining how the French were more concerned with building forts and military posts and the British were concerned with settling the area.
Douglas Cubbison, author and curator of the Wyoming Veterans Museum, commented on the fashion sense of the French. “The French were much better dressed,” he joked.
Later in the discussion, when panelist Mark Hersee, researcher and living historian, mentioned that priests were often the first explorers to lead an expansion to a new area, Cubbison again said, “even the French priests were better dressed.”
The discussion remained lively and entertaining, while offering expert knowledge of the interaction of the French and British with Native Americans in our local area.
All five panelists agreed the primary difference between the French and British was in their respective mission. “The French were more concerned with trade. They established trading posts and relationships with the natives,” Cubbison said. “The British were concerned with land occupation. They developed infrastructure.”
Panelist Erica Nuckles, director of history and collections at Fort Ligonier, estimated the number of French settlers in North America at the time to be about 55,000 as opposed to more than 1 million British settlers.
While Native Americans initially supported the French, who had formed a relationship with them, eventually their allegiance turned to the British, according to Cranmer. When Cranmer asked panelists why this was, Cubbison replied, “We still see this in conflict today. People side with the winner.”
Today’s schedule of events runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Roche assured the event will continue with possible alterations in the schedule in the event of more inclement weather.
Lorri Drumm can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.
You Can Go
The third annual French Creek Heritage Event continues today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cochranton Community Fairgrounds. Admission is free with free parking at Cochranton Junior/Senior High School, 105 Second St. The fairgrounds are located across the bridge from the school parking lot.
Today's schedule of events:
Main Tent Presentations
• 9:45 a.m. — Introductions and Welcome by Mark Roche, board member of the Cochranton Area Redevelopment Effort
• 10 — "Rogers Rangers: Innovative Troops and Tactics for a New World" presented by Matt Wuff, author, historical researcher and living historian
• 11 — "Remarks on a March: Gender and Rank During the French and Indian War" by Erica Nuckles, historian and expert on the colonial period and French and Indian War
• Noon — Lunch break
• 1 p.m. — "Guyasuta and Custaloga Town: Recent Archeological Explorations" by a speaker from Mercyhurst University Archeological Institute
• 2:30 — Battle re-enactment and artillery demonstration
• 4 — All activities, events and encampments closed
Living History Presentations
• 9 a.m. — Open French, Colonial and Native American encampments open
• 9:15 — 18th-century divine service
• 2:30 p.m. — Main tactical re-enactment event, "Peril in the Forest"
• 3:30 — Artillery demonstration
Ongoing events include: historical artwork displays, book signings, George Washington portrayed by Jason Cherry, blacksmithing, 18th-century trading and commerce demonstrations, Native American games, artifact exhibitions, flint knapping demonstrations and period sutlers. A sutler is a person who followed an army and sold provisions to the soldiers.