It’s been 224 years and 10 months since Gen. Richard Butler — for whom Butler County was named — was killed fighting Native Americans near Fort Recovery, Ohio. But he’ll be in Hamilton on Saturday to celebrate the 225th anniversary of the completion of Fort Hamilton, believe to have happened on Sept. 30, 1791.
Also there will be Lt. Col. William Darke, for whom Darke County (home of Greenville) was named. They will be among 10 historical figures — men and women, including pioneers, founders and civic leaders and the first doctor — who will be portrayed by actors from the Greater Hamilton Civic Theatre.
Their performances, free to the public, will be offered Saturday as part of a several-day celebration of the fort’s founding, the date to which Hamilton prefers to date its establishment.
Lt. Col. Darke during the performances will be brandishing an authentic-looking 1763 model French flintlock pistol, the kind France contributed to the American Revolution. Those guns were stored away and used later in the Northwest Indian War, in which both soldiers fought. Darke’s firearm, a replica for theater and re-enactors, won’t endanger anyone. It doesn’t even make a bang.
Darke’s story “is both interesting and tragic at the same time,” said civil attorney Tom Dierling, who will portray Darke, who later became a general. “The discussion he’s going to give to the people going on the Pioneer Day tour is about the expedition north of Fort Hamilton, in which they encountered all kinds of Indian fighters and most of his company was wiped out, including the death of his son, which he witnessed.”
“It’s similar to something we did a few years back,” Dierling said. “There were some historical walks through the Greenwood Cemetery, and (actors) dressed up as notable people buried there, and hung out by their grave stones. As groups of tours would come by, we’d give a similar speech to what we’ll be doing on Saturday, explaining a little bit about that person’s life and their impact on the city of Hamilton.”
John Ginter will offer a brief performance as Major Richard Butler, who later became a general.
Among others to be portrayed are “Red Headed Nance,” one of three woman who survived an Indian attack; a canal builder; and the wife of a pioneer surveyor.
“They’ll be putting a human side to the history, telling heartfelt stories, instead of just spouting facts,” said Richard “Dick” Scheid, one of the celebration’s organizers.
“It’s real fun. It’s a nice experience to portray an historical character, and it’s not too long — a five-minute speech, and you get to give a flavor of the person, and let the people know there actually was a person named Richard Butler,” Ginter said.
Butler “had quite a storied life. He was born in Ireland. He spent most of his life in military service, either fighting in the Indian wars, or fighting in the Revolution,” and later in the Northwest Indian War, which claimed his life.
Gen. Butler “loved his country, he loved being free, and that’s what I like about him a whole lot,” said Ginter, who teaches media production at Butler Tech. “He sacrificed his life, obviously, for his country, and even when he may have know it wasn’t a very good idea — he was under Gen. (Arthur) St. Clair, who he didn’t love, but he still went, he still did his job, and when George Washington called upon him to step up, he stood up. I wish we had more people like that.”
“I think it’ll be an enjoyable walk and very involved historically with Fort Hamilton and things that were going on at that time,” Dierling said.
225th CELEBRATION EVENTS
Here are details of the various parts of the 225th Celebration:
- The celebration will kick off from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday with a “Birthday Party” at Municipal Brew Works, at the rear of 20 High St., and a tapping of the micro brew’s “1791” beer, created in honor of the 225th anniversary.
- Also on Friday will be a free concert nearby at RiversEdge Amphitheater featuring Moment 44 playing at 7 p.m. and Hamilton’s own ZAPP performing at 8:30 p.m. Food vendors, beer and soft drinks will be available. No pets, coolers, or carry-in alcoholic beverages will be allowed, and other beverages must be factory sealed.
- From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Pioneer Cabin area (near the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers monument, across from 1 High St.), visitors can experience pioneer cooking, a pioneer surveyor, music of the period and other things. The event is free.
- Three free walking tours will be offered at 11 a.m., 11:20 a.m. and 11:40 a.m., starting from the Hamilton Visitors Center at 1 High St., where people can watch brief performances by actors portraying five people from the time of Fort Hamilton’s founding. The walking tours are expected to take about an hour.
- From 1:15 to 2 p.m. George Ironstrack of the Miami Tribe will speak at Miami University’s Hamilton Downtown building (221 High St.) about “The American Invasion of the Miami Homeland.”
- Three more free walking tours, featuring actors portraying five other people (not the ones from the morning tours) from the time Hamilton was founded, including Israel Ludlow, who laid out Hamilton and actually owned it. He sold off lots to people to build on. Tours will begin at 2:30 p.m., 2:50 p.m. and 3:10 p.m. and begin at the Hamilton Visitors Center, 1 High St.
- Also available on Saturday during the events: Heritage Hall (20 High St.) will be open; the Butler County Courthouse will be open; Farmers’ Market vendors will be located around the courthouse from 8 a.m. into the afternoon; Food Trucks will be open on South Front Street; the Butler County Historical Society and Benninghofen House Museum will be open (327 N. 2nd St.); and a Native American Artifact Exhibit will be open at Ryan’s Irish Pub all day (241 High St.)
- Family-friendly geo-caching will be offered. For more information and to register, visit bit.ly/225geocache
- The Butler County Historical Society will have extended hours and a scavenger hunt at 327 N. 2nd St. The society will be open from 4 to 9 p.m. with the scavenger hunt at 7 p.m.
- Butler County Historical Society Director Kathy Creighton will speak at Miami University Hamilton Downtown (221 High St.) from 6 to 7:30 p.m. about “The Founding of Hamilton.”
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