Historic Hanna's Town kicks off season with militia re-enactors, tea, tours

Joe Napsha
| Saturday, May 3, 2014, 9:33 p.m.

On a sun-drenched spring day at Hanna's Town, Tom Klingensmith of New Kensington listened to his captain, Scott Henry of Greensburg, explain the finer points of firing a smooth-bore musket to re-enactors of Proctor's Militia, the colonial-era citizen soldiers who protected the region's frontier from attacks by the British and Indians.

The sound of musket fire could be heard around Hanna's Town on Saturday as Klingensmith and about 10 colonial re-enactors fired their muskets for the crowds that toured the historical site during the opening day of the re-creation of Hanna's Town.

The village, in what now is Hempfield, was the first seat of Westmoreland County in 1773 and the first English court west of the Allegheny until it was burned in a British and Indian raid on July 13, 1782.

Klingensmith, who has been a member of Proctor's Militia since it was formed in 2007, said he has a special connection to those he is portraying because two of his ancestors traveled Forbes Road in the 1700s as scouts for Col. Henry Bouquet. It was Bouquet's victory in the Battle of Bushy Run in August 1763 that allowed the British to lift the siege of Fort Pitt during what has become known as Pontiac's War.

Henry, who said his ancestors fought with Proctor's Militia, became hooked on colonial-era history as a youngster when his grandfather took him to the site for a Civil War re-enactment. The militia, raised from settlers in what then was Westmoreland County, fought under Gen. George Washington in the American Revolution and persevered the bitter winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge, Henry said.

Re-enactor Michael Mongelli of Mt. Lebanon, who was dressed in the uniform of a sergeant in the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment, said he has been involved in re-enactments since 1986.

“I was interested in history from reading books, and the French and Indian War caught my attention,” said Mongelli, 77, who owned a service station in Mt. Lebanon for 21 years.

One of the newest members of Proctor's Militia is Louise Tilzey-Bates of Unity, who was wearing her colonial-period costume as a volunteer at Hanna's Town.

Tilzey-Bates, who is from Somerset County — the one in England, will portray a private fighting against those from her native England. But first, she said, she has to learn how to fire a musket.

The Westmoreland County Historical Society will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the reconstruction of Hanna's Town with a barbecue on June 28 during Colonial Court Days.

The historical society handles interpretation at Hanna's Town.

Volunteers from area fire departments and other organizations constructed Hanna's Tavern in one day in the summer of 1974, and Joanna Moyar, education coordinator for the historical society, said she is attempting to contact those volunteers to invite them to the celebration.

In addition to the militia re-enactors, visitors on Saturday toured the buildings and sat for a tea service in one of the reconstructed colonial-era structures.

Hanna's Town has a gift shop, the Klingensmith house, a pallisade-style fort and blockhouse, a jail and a wagon shed.

Archaeological digs have been conducted at the site since Westmoreland County acquired the property from the Sara Steel family in 1969, Moyar said. Among the first discoveries were the post molds for what was the fort built across the road from what now is Hanna's Tavern, Moyar said.

Several archaeological digs have been conducted in the years since. Students from Indiana University of Pennsylvania still conduct digs in the fields at the historical site in search of artifacts, Moyar said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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