Though it has been a few years since I’ve planned the Newton County Historical Society’s annual History Alley event, I do know this much: The number of people knowledgeable about what I call the “pioneer sciences” (or are they “practical arts”?) is dwindling.
History Alley will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, at the Newton County Historical Park and Museum, 121 N. Washington. In the past it has always featured things like blacksmithing, candlemaking, soapmaking, butter churning, weaving, spinning, log hewing, etc., along with representation by other area history organizations, as well as Civil War re-enactors and live music.
For the last five years or so, History Alley has been held in conjunction with the Neosho Fall Festival -- which this year I do have the honor of organizing, with the help of a great group of local volunteers. I might add that Neosho Fall Festival and History Alley are both free to attend.
However, I was recently informed that the list of known people who demonstrate the old daily tools of our Ozark heritage isn’t as extensive as it was just a few years ago. I personally know of some who have either left this world or who are no longer able to actively demonstrate their skills for one reason or another.
Therefore, I am asking that if you or anyone you know has first-hand knowledge of things like candlemaking, broommaking, soapmaking, etc., to please contact Katherine Arnall at the Newton County Museum at 451-4940. If you participated last year, please don’t wait to be contacted. Consider yourself invited. Just make a call to Katherine at the museum so she can put you on the list and plan the layout.
Meanwhile, losing the knowledge of these skills is a real concern. Your Newton County Historical Society board of directors has recently discussed the possibility of creating some sort of apprenticeship program to ensure the skills are passed on to the next generation. I hope you will be reading about more of that later.
On a different note, if you are reading this before 2 p.m., please come out today to our antique doll show and share held in the schoolhouse at the Newton County Historical Park, one block northeast of the Neosho Square. Our guest presenter, Lynn Tatum, will speak at 2 p.m. Bring an old doll or two or more and enjoy some time with friends.
Have a pleasant Sunday in our Ozarks.
Wes Franklin serves on the board of directors of the Newton County Historical Society. He is also public relations and events coordinator for the City of Neosho. He can be reached at 658-8443.