Lanier Days

Re-enactors to turn Lanier Mansion
into history classroom

Costumed citizens, artisans
and soldiers to participate in Lanier Days

By Don Ward

(May, 2002) MADISON, Ind. – If you’ve ever wondered what life was like during the Civil War era, then take a step back in time to the mid-1800s during the May 18-19 Lanier Days Celebration.

Lanier Cover

The Lanier Mansion State Historic Site will serve as the backdrop for a weekend of history brought to life as re-enactors, musicians and artisans gather in period costume to portray military and civilian life. Visitors to Madison’s top-visited tourism site will be able to watch demonstrations, listen to music, dance and tour military encampments, including live cannon firings, as marks another year of history. Demostrations will be held in candle and soap making, spinning and weaving, rope and show making, and long rifle. Organizers have also brought back the popular afternoon tea and the Lanier Ball, both scheduled for Saturday. Of course, there will also be free tours of the mansion on the hour throughout the weekend.
In addition, a vintage baseball game will be played on the grounds of the mansion.
“Lanier Days has been going on for many years but has had its ups and downs. We have really worked hard this year by adding more events and activities, so it’s like starting over,” said Phyllis Stephenson, the mansion’s assistant curator.
The weekend will kick off with Heritage Day on Friday, during which the mansion will play host to nearly 400 fourth-graders visiting from Madison elementary schools. The students will tour the grounds to view the encampments and watch demonstrations by re-enactors portraying merchants and soldiers of the period.
On Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, the mansion and grounds will come alive with three Civil War era military encampments, a medical surgeon’s station, a storyteller and more than a dozen artisans.
Many period artisans will demonstrate trades and activities of the period. Among those demonstrators will be Russ and Jackie Leckband, Earlham, Ohio (potter); Mike Runyon, Archebold, Ohio (tinsmith); Ron Goad, Madison (hewing); Sonny Ash, Brooksburg, Ind. (stone work); John Hall, Madison (furniture); Brian Burke, Madison (broom making); Steve Thomas, Madison (apple and cider); Donna and Tom Weaver, Vevay, Ind. (wax silhouette); Lois Fish, Bicknell, Ind. (quilting); Les Kovaks, Kilbuck, Ohio (coopering); Steve Ratterman, Louisville, Ky. (shoemaking); and Carole Cunningham, Madison (period-style food).
The Civil War military encampments will portray the 1st Wisconsin Artillery, the 1st Indiana Cavalry and the 32nd Regiment of the Indiana Volunteer Infantry Co. G. Two full scale cannons will be fired as part of military training and drilling.
Andrew Rowden, the director of the Scott County Public Library and an avid re-enactor, will portray a Civil War medical surgeon, a new addition to this year’s event. Rowden will be accompanied by his wife, Pam, who will portray a nurse.
The couple met a decade ago during a re-enactment in Newark, Ohio. Andrew proposed to her in late 1991 at Perryville, Ky., Civil War battlefield, and in 1992 they were married in a Civil War-style wedding at Gettysburg, Pa.
“As a kid, I always loved the movie ‘Gone With the Wind,’ and a high school friend got me into re-enacting,” said Pam, now a 39-year-old dance school owner and instructor in Scottsburg. “Through re-enacting, I enjoy teaching history to the public because so many things you see on TV are not authentic. This is like stepping back in time.”
The vintage baseball game will be played on Friday for the students and again on Saturday for the public on the Lanier lawn.
Jeff Kuehl, an actor and storyteller from Greensburg, Ind., will spin yarns of politics and folklore of the day. Kuehl’s stories will be told every hour.
The Afternoon Tea will begin at 12:30 p.m. Saturday with a private tour of the mansion. Tea will be served at 1:30 p.m. on the portico. Tickets are $10, and reservations must be made by May 14 because seating is limited. Tickets are available now at the mansion and will be sold on a first come, first serve basis, according to Melanie Maxwell, the mansion’s marketing consultant.
This 19th century tradition will be catered by Veranda Catering of Madison and include finger sandwiches, desserts, including scones, and three types of tea. Myra Dworski of Indianapolis will play the lap dulcimer and Kuehl will entertain with his stories.
Betty Copeland of Canaan, Ind., will serve as the hostess. Both men and women are invited.
On Saturday evening, many of the re-enactors and visitors are invited to the Lanier Ball, which will be held on the mansion’s north lawn from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are $10 and period dress is not required. The ball includes refreshments and music by Sleepy Holler of Indianapolis. Dancing will begin with beginner level reels and set dances, and progress to advanced levels throughout the evening. Caller Suzanne LaBeaux of Indianapolis will direct the dancing.
“The ball will be a lot of fun, and it will give our re-enactors something to do on Saturday night during their stay in Madison,” Maxwell said. “Plus, it will give visitors a reason to stay overnight.”
Located at 511 W. First St., the Lanier Mansion is the former home of James F. D. Lanier, a lawyer, businessman and financier who is credited with helping to bring the railroad to Madison. The Greek Revival-style mansion sits majestically along the Ohio River and is owned and operated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Museum and Historic Sites. Free tours of the mansion are conducted throughout the spring, summer and fall. Donations are accepted.

Story on Lanier-Madison Visitors Center

• For more information about Lanier Mansion or the Lanier Days celebration, call (812) 265-3526. Lodging packages with local hotels and bed and breakfasts also are available.

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