Traveler's Repose to host living history event
A group of B-F-D area residents is planning a living history event to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Civil War fighting that occurred in the area.
The event will take place at Traveler's Repose in Bartow on October 7-9. Travelers Repose is a former stagecoach stop and inn and the site of an 1861 Civil War battle.
Organizers are planning living history exhibits, walking tours with Civil War expert Hunter Lesser, a Civil War camp, square dances, a ladies' tea, buggy rides and a portrayal of an early American preacher.
Jessie Powell was born in a corner room at Traveler's Repose and has called the historic waypoint home for 96 years. Powell said a conversation with her neighbors inspired this year's event.
"The Bausermans - they came down one day and kind of threw out the idea," she said. "I said it would be nice to have something here - if somebody else did all the work."
Neighbors Jason and Julia Bauserman are members of the Upper Pocahontas County Cooperative and the group is helping to organize the affair. Jason will portray frontier preacher John Kline as part of the living history activities.
Powell remembered the hard work she did during a similar event in 2001 and said she would have to rely on others to run it this year. The owner said she will tell stories and talk to visitors at her leisure.
"I'll talk to you and I'll cooperate any way I can, but I can't carry the load I did 10 years ago," she said.
Powell said her property, which contains a Confederate cemetery and well-preserved rebel earthworks, can provide a valuable learning experience.
"I think it's important to remind people - and so many people want to know - about the cemetery and the trenches," she said. "You'd be surprised how many people call, come or just stop and knock on the door and want to know about Traveler's Repose. This was the halfway point between Staunton and Parkersburg."
Traveler's Repose was a peaceful place until the fall of 1861.
The quaint little coach stop and inn was a welcome respite for weary travelers making the journey from lowland Virginia across the mountains. Wayfarers could sit on the porch and enjoy the cool mountain air or soak their feet in the nearby Greenbrier River.
But the inn sat along the Staunton and Parkersburg Turnpike, which became an important avenue of approach for both Union and Confederate forces after the outbreak of war.
In July 1861, 150 years ago today, Confederate troops had started work on a defensive position on top of Allegheny Mountain, which became known as Camp Allegheny. Meanwhile, Union troops erected a fort on the summit of Cheat Mountain, 12 miles to the east.
Both positions guarded the turnpike. Union forces intended to block any Confederate advance toward Beverly and the rebels wanted to prevent the Union army from moving toward Staunton.
The two forces fought battles in northern Pocahontas and eastern Randolph counties that were small, on the scale of the Civil War, but strategically important. A three-month stalemate allowed residents of Virginia's pro-Union northwestern counties to feel secure from invasion and form their own government.
In August 1861, a rebel brigade established a forward defensive position at the base of the mountain, eight miles northwest of Camp Allegheny. They named their fort Camp Bartow, after a Confederate officer killed during the First Battle of Bull Run.
On his right flank, the Confederate commander placed infantry along the turnpike, looking across the Greenbrier River. On his left, across Green Bank Road, he placed more infantry looking across the river from a densely-wooded treeline.
In the center, on the slopes of a steep hill, rebels dug in artillery pieces and infantry. At the base of that hill sat Travelers Repose.
The terrain was well-suited to defense. The river provided a natural obstacle and the high ground provided commanding views of the Greenbrier River Valley.
On October 3, 1861, Union troops moved from their fortifications to attack Camp Bartow. The opposing forces pounded each other with artillery fire for four hours. The federals launched an assault on the rebel right flank, which was unsuccessful, and withdrew back to Cheat Mountain.
During the battle, Traveler's Repose was struck by cannon balls 28 times.
Anyone interested in participating or supporting the living history event on October 7-9 should contact Julia Bauserman at 304-456-4915 or Nancy Egan at 304-456-3142. The planning group has a meeting scheduled on August 9, 7 p.m. at the Durbin Library.
Powell invites all county residents to don a Civil War-era costume and come have some fun.