The Baxter County Historical Society’s Sesqui-day Pioneer Celebration drew a healthy crowd to the Rapp’s Barren Settlement in Cooper Park this past Saturday.
Friends and families from all over Baxter County came out in their “pioneer” costumes to enjoy guided tours of the Rapp’s Barren Settlement and Shady Grove School, before heading over to the Historical Society’s stage for a round of music and square dancing by the Pioneer Square Dance Club.
Baxter County Historian Vincent Anderson, who served as the powder monkey for the celebration’s Civil War cannon firing, said understanding the history of Baxter County and the Ozarks is the first step to understanding how local residents form such a tight-knit community today.
“How in the world do you live in such a remote place of the Ozarks,” asked Anderson. “The only way you can do it, is if you have good family associations and a community. And community is actually the biggest highlight. All the way up to the dams, the only thing that held this thing together was a tight-knit community between the school and the churches. That kept everything stitched together. When you lose the fabric and stitching of community, you’re screwed.”
While standing outside of the historical log cabin of Pioneer “Rapp” Simeon Talbert, who founded the small city of Rapp’s Barren in the early 1830s, Anderson told the tale of how the citizens of what would become Baxter County looked out for their own during the Civil War.
Rapp’s Barren would eventually transition into Mountain Home in 1856.
“There were people here, who were abolitionists,” Anderson said. “When the Civil War kicked in, they went across the state line. When the Union guys were coming down here to raid, family members sent word ahead and said, hey, you need to watch yourself, you don’t want to get killed. They were still family. And when the war was over, they came down. They were still a community, no matter their political affiliations.”
Throughout the day, Pioneer Celebration goers were able to participate in a hand-sewn quilting demonstration by the Hill & Hollow Quilters Guild and various pioneer beard and pie-eating contests.
And while Subway and Nome’s 2 Bros Tacos may have been in attendance for lunch, nothing beat Mountain Home High School teacher David Rodriguez’s Dutch oven cooking display of Cobbler pie, potatoes and onions, and pork roast.
Rodriguez also displayed various Native American artifacts along with showing the public how to set up a traditional teepee. Rodriguez referred to the teepee as the original mobile home, allowing Native American tribes to pack up and move easily. Teepees are able to keep people warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. They are also waterproof.
Rodriguez said a teepee’s entrance should always face east since storms roll in from the west.
“You see a variation of the teepee all the way to both coasts,” Rodriguez said. “This teepee is a whole lot bigger than the one they used. This was made of canvas. They used buffalo hides to create the teepee. The teepee belonged to the women. The woman owned the teepee and the man helped build it. But the woman decided who would stay in the teepee. So, if the man would come home, and moccasins are outside, that means he’s not welcome.”
Rodriguez was joined by Baxter County trapper and tanner Wiley Harris, who recently took up hide tanning and leather work as a hobby. The young teenager traps local beavers, possums and raccoons before turning them into hand-stitched hats and clothing.
Harris said he uses leather working methods from the historical past, though he uses modern supplies for some things.
“I always hand stitch it,” Harris said. “Sometimes I use primitive tools and materials, sometimes I use not quite as primitive. But I like to know how to do it that way.”
For the main attraction, the Baxter County Historical Society was joined by the Dancing Eagles Native American Dance and Culture Show, who entertained and taught the crowd their Native American culture through song, dance and stories.
Dancing Eagles is headed by the family of Chief Mike Pahsetopah, a world-renowned champion of Native American dance, and his daughter, Heaven, of the Osage nation from Sapulpa, Oklahoma. A special guest and dancing performer, Tehi, attended the show with them.
Tehi means “Hunter or Fisher” in the Shawnee language.
Dancing Eagles started their program with a friend dance, which was a social dance around a drum on the stage. Chief Pahsetopah, Heaven, and Tehi invited the audience to come and join hands while learning the dance.
Next, Heaven and Tehi joined hands together and performed a beautiful social dance together across the stage. Chief Pahsetopah then performed a solo Fancy Dance before Heaven performed a Fancy Shawl Dance.
Both Tehi and Heaven invited children in the crowd to join them in creating a dance line through the audience for their Snake and Buffalo dances. Altogether around 175 guests and spectators joined in the dance.
After the dances, Chief Pahsetopah played various songs on his flute before singing and telling stories. He wrapped up his performance by demonstrating how dancing hoops were used in the creation story describing different native animals and birds.