Forkland Festival is time to remember the old ways

October 10, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

FORKLAND - Jewell Deene Ellis spent her weekend stirring a pot of beans over a fire, reminiscing and answering questions about the way things used to be done.

It's the Forkland Heritage Festival theme - remembering the old way of life. Members, past and present, of the Forkland community came together this weekend to share crafts, tales, music, artifacts and skills that used to be commonplace in the country.

There were people caning chairs, carving figurines, selling handmade soaps and making sorghum with mule-power.

Families from the Fork own the Forkland Community Center, an old school that now comes alive once a year for the festival. All profits from the festival benefit the center building.

Ellis grew up on the fork, and she has returned every fall for 32 years to serve as docent at the 1790s cabin that sits on the Community Center grounds and talk to people about how a family would live in it.


She said occasionally she got questions from kids like, "Where's the microwave?" or "How come there is no TV?"

The best question she heard on Friday, when school groups visited the festival, was "What is in this cabin that we don't use in modern homes?"

Vegetation as decoration

There was one iron bed that would have been shared by several members of the family. A large braided rug on the floor, and a couple of chairs with hand-woven bottoms. Above the fireplace there were bittersweet, oregano and yarrow herbs drying. In every corner there was an arrangement of evergreens, miniature gourds and okra gathered from the wild. Ellis said that it was common-place for people to decorate with vegetation from their property or the woods.

These things could probably be found in today's home, but there were some things in the cabin that wouldn't.

The fireplace pothanger, for example, or a dipper gourd used to take a drink of water are items that have disappeared from modern life.

Like most of the exhibits at the festival, there was a written history nearby for people to read.

The cabin was built by the Weller family, early German immigrants, in the 1790s somewhere in Nelson County. Some Wellers still live in that area.

Originally the cabin was two-story, but the loft was taken out when it was reconstructed at the Forkland Community Center in the 1970s.

The hand-hewn shingles were made by Clarence Westerfield, and the shingles' wood was prepared by Darrell and Hubert Ellis. Some architectural material, logs and fireplace rocks, came from old farm buildings in the Forkland area.

The stone steps were originally the steps at the old science building on Centre College's campus. The cabin is made from poplar and the floor was stained with linseed oil and walnut. Jimmy Overstreet made the door hinges, latches and the fireplace pothanger.

Jewell Deene Ellis' father, Cecil, did a lot of work on the cabin.

"Everyone is so busy today, with such hectic lives," she said. "It's nice to take awhile and think about the past."

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