May 23, 2013

Re-enactment to celebrate Champlain anniversary


---- — CHAMPLAIN — This weekend, the Town of Champlain may look as though it’s the site of an experiment in time travel.

The town is celebrating its 225th anniversary, and commemorations will feature the Champlain Military Timeline, a weekend of living history presented by Northern New York Historical Impressions.

Re-enactors will don the uniforms of soldiers from various time periods, highlighting the historical changes over the Town of Champlain’s existence.

“It’s kind of unique to have people from different time periods get together,” Champlain resident Calvin Castine said of the event.

The Town of Champlain is hosting the event, with Councilor Dennis Roberts’s assistance. Castine has been helping to get the word out and will record the timeline for his Home Town Cable’s public-access programming and website.

“Typically, a re-enactment focuses on one event, and therefore, one time period. Usually it’s, ‘We’re re-enacting (a battle from) the Civil War,’ or ‘We’re re-enacting (a battle from) the War of 1812.’ 

“But this group uses multiple time periods.”


Champlain Town Historian Thomas Mandeville noted some of the advantages of the novel approach. 

“It’s a good way to involve a whole bunch of different people,” he said. “People can only afford equipment for so many wars.”

Mandeville has also observed a growing interest in this type of re-enactment, which is slated for its first appearance in the town. 

“It gets larger every year,” he said. “These are catching on around the country.”

While Mandeville himself has not been a re-enactor in the military timeline, some of his friends have, and, of course, the event piques his interest as a historian.

The timeline will take place on River Street in the Village of Champlain this Saturday and Sunday during the 46th-annual St. Mary’s Bazaar, held by St. Mary’s Parish with many events on the hill behind the church on Church Street and a parade on Sunday.

Previously, Historical Impressions, headed by Matthew Hewson and John Dodge, has performed in Plattsburgh and in Beekmantown.

“With the town celebrating its anniversary, it’s the ideal time to make the move (to have it here),” Castine said. 

However, he was quick to note, “this is the town’s project, not mine.”


Along with the re-enactment, a brochure will be handed out about events that occurred within the present-day boundaries of the Town of Champlain (the villages of Champlain and Rouses Point sit within the town). 

“We’ve produced a brochure about events going back to the French and Indian War,” said Mandeville.

During that war, the Battle of Point au Fer took place on that peninsula, now in the Town of Champlain off Route 9B. 

There, Rogers’ Rangers — a company of colonial scouts and fighters in service of the king of England — slogged through the swamps to drive the French into Canada and gained control of northern Lake Champlain.

During the American Revolution, Point au Fer was a camping spot for Benedict Arnold and his American troops. One of the men was a 17-year-old drummer boy named Pliny Moore. 

“That was when he first set eyes on Champlain, and he said he was going to return,” Mandeville said. 

There was no settlement there at the time, but Moore was apparently struck by the beauty and potential of the lake. Later, he kept his word and returned, becoming the founder of Champlain.

The re-enactment and the brochure will also highlight events from the War of 1812 and the 20th century, showing how national and international conflicts have intersected with local history — all in the area that Pliny Moore remembered and returned to 225 years ago.



Here's the schedule for the Champlain Timeline, set for this weekend at River Street Recreation Park in the Village of Champlain: