Panning for history

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Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
Eli Noble (front) and Bentley Frye, both from London, pan for “precious” minerals in a sluice built by Madison County Historical Society volunteer Vince Shuler.

(Posted June 8, 2018)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

They panned for “gold,” planted seeds, and ate corn fritters made over a campfire.

These and other activities made up this year’s Pioneer Camp, hosted May 30-June 1 at the Madison County Historical Society in London.

Open to children in grades 3-5, the annual summer camp offers youngsters a chance to experience what it was like to live as the pioneers did. For $20, each camper gets a t-shirt, snacks, and three mornings of hands-on lessons in the old ways of life.

This year, one of those lessons had campers pressing clay into molds to make wildlife paw prints. Choices ran from squirrel, badger and possum to mink, coyote and fox.

At the same time, Jen Dennison, an education coordinator from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, informed campers about the ways pioneers interacted with wildlife, including trapping and hunting.

“Only 43,000 people lived in Ohio when it became a state. There were no regulations (on hunting) then. Now, there are 4 million people, and we have seasons and bag limits,” she explained.

Campers absorbed information on a wide array of topics, thanks to a host of knowledgeable volunteers.

Steve Saltsman, former Madison County sheriff, explained the responsibilities of law enforcement as campers took turns spending time in an old iron-barred jail cell on the museum grounds.

Vince Shuler, a Historical Society member, helped campers pan for fool’s gold, emerald run, calcite, and Herkimer diamonds in a wooden sluice he built himself.

Carol Carpenter, a former teacher from the Bowling Green area, dressed in pioneer garb and cooked food over a campfire. This year, her theme was corn. She talked about food preparation and preservation as she passed around samples of corn nuts, corn bread, and corn fritters.

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
Tessa Bexfield (left), 9, and Maddie Hochstetler, 8, make molds of wild animal paw prints during a Pioneer Camp activity at the Madison County Historical Society. Both are from London and both chose to make fox prints.

Nancy Dever, director of the history museum, and her husband, Larry, dressed as Mary “Polly” Blount and Jonathan Alder, one of Madison County’s early pioneer couples. Their talk took place at Alder’s cabin, one of several historic structures on the museum grounds.

“The camp is done all by volunteers,” said Annette Rinesmith, a teacher and camp counselor. “We even have students who are past the age requirement to be a camper who came back as volunteers.”

Participation in the camp has grown each year since its start in 2015.

“The first year, we had 19 campers. This year, we had 44,” Rinesmith said.

This year’s camp sponsors were Absolute Zoo, Beck’s Seeds, Buckeye Ford, Kroger, and Nick’s Food Truck.

To learn more about Madison County Historical Society programs, call (740) 852-2977. The museum is located at 260 E. High St., London.

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