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Living history at Jacobsburg State Park

  • Jerry Heister shoots a Henry 58 caliber smooth bore flintlock percussion shotgun, made at the Henry factory.
    Jerry Heister shoots a Henry 58 caliber smooth bore flintlock percussion shotgun, made at the Henry factory.
Published June 12. 2012 05:01PM

This weekend, Boulton Gun Works at Jacobsburg State Park is commemorating two events that happened 200 years ago: the War of 1812 and the opening of the Boulton Gun Works by the Henry family of gunmakers.

The Market Faire & Rendezvous - A Living History Event, hosted by the Jacobsburg Historical Society, will take place on the Boulton historic site, formerly the Henry Gun Works and currently part of Jacobsburg State Park, on June 16 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and June 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

During the weekend, the Boulton site, which houses the Pennsylvania Longrifle Museum, the Henry Family Homestead, the 1832 John Joseph Henry House, and the Nicholas Hawk Gun Shop, hosts a fur trade rendezvous reenactment depicting 18th and 19th century life, and a marketplace offering period antiques and curios.

Historically accurate tents, lodges, and log cabins will detail the lifestyles of a bygone era. Buckskins, linsey-woolsey and homespun clothing will join with the more refined silks and cottons from the post-Civil War epoch.

There will be demonstrations of cannon firing, flint and steel fire-starting, open hearth cooking, musket firing, primitive archery, blacksmithing, tomahawk throwing, and displays of historic firearms and weaponry. The highlight of the rendezvous will be a black powder trap shoot with all contestants firing flintlock longrifles at clay pigeons.

At the encampment, reenactors will dress and live as they would have during the 1812 period. The museum will display a special exhibit, The Henry's and the War of 1812. There will be a variety of children's activities including a giant scavenger hunt.

The reenactors portray the fur trade period.

"The heart of the fur trade period was about 1820 to 1845," said Tim Lubenesky, past president of the Jacobsburg Historical Society. "That is when the American Fur Trade Company was really in to it. Originally, it was local to the East Coast, then it moved west as they kept annihilating the beaver. After 1845, Japanese silk became available, replacing beaver fur for men's hats."

Often glossed over in history books, the fur trade was a major factor in the creation and expansion of the United States. Beginning in the mid-1500s, Europeans developed the technology to make men's hats from felted beaver fur. The demand for pelts in Europe drove the European beaver to near-extinction and stimulated the French to begin trading with the native peoples in North America. Hence, the French name, rendezvous, became the name for the annual hunters' get-together.

By the end of the American Revolution, beaver were nearly extinct in the original colonies and the hunt for the beaver trade pressed the trappers ever westward.

"During the fur trade era, the trappers spent their winters in the mountains," noted Ed Radowitch, a re-enactor who specializes in tomahawk throwing. "They had an event where they gathered in the fall called the Rendezvous-a place to sell their furs and get their supplies for the next season of trapping."

At the Market Faire & Rendezvous Weekend, an expected 120 re-enactors will portray life at a rendezvous two centuries ago, where they displayed their furs and crafts, purchased supplies, and played games of skill and chance.

Blacksmithing will be demonstrated using a hand-cranked furnace, heating soft coal to make coke, and then heating a mild steel rod and hammering and twisting the rod into a variety of hooks. A master gunsmith will demonstrate how rifles were made at the Henry Gun Factory on the site at the Boulton Gun Works.

The War of 1812 (1812-1814) was the last of three wars (French & Indian, Revolutionary and War of 1812) involving France, Britain, Native America, and Colonial America/United States. William Henry II set up a gunsmithing shop in Nazareth, Pennsylvania in 1780. In 1812, William II and William III began construction of the Boulton Gun Works.

The Market Faire & Rendezvous will be at the Boulton Gun Works at Jacobsburg Historical Society, 402 Henry Road, Nazareth, PA. From PA-33, take exit toward Belfast onto Henry Road (turn west towards woods). Cross the bridge, drive up the hill just before the intersection of Schoeneck Road and Henry Road. For information, (610) 759-9029, or see:

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