Residents celebrate 'Salem's American Heritage Day'

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
Salem - posted Mon., Sep. 12, 2011
Andy Phillips (left) and Norbert Rieke clean the Civil War-era cannon after firing during 'Salem's American Heritage Day.' Photos by Kevin Hotary.
Andy Phillips (left) and Norbert Rieke clean the Civil War-era cannon after firing during 'Salem's American Heritage Day.' Photos by Kevin Hotary.

The attack of Fort Sumter in 1861 by forces of the Confederate states marked the beginning of the American Civil War, a four-year long conflict pitting neighbor against neighbor in the battle for basic human rights. To help mark the 150-year anniversary of this turning point in American history, a group comprised of members of several town organizations joined forces to host “Salem’s American Heritage Day,” which was held last Saturday, Sept. 10, on the grounds of the Salem Herb Farm.

“The citizens of Salem have a long and proud history of service,” said Ed Chmielewski, as he opened the day-long event, which he said was organized to bring the Salem community together “to celebrate our history.” A list of 62 Salem residents known to have served in the Civil War was included in the event program.

The highlight of the event was a Union Army campsite hosted by Civil War reenactors, who described the lives of Union soldiers and the workings of the various weapons and tools they used, including a deafening demonstration of a Civil War cannon. In addition, David Wordell displayed his antique doctor’s carriage, and Phillip Chetwynd strolled the grounds, interacting with visitors as President Abraham Lincoln, a role he has been playing since 1987.

“I’ve always been fascinated with Lincoln,” said Chetwynd, so the portrayal “just seemed like a natural thing,” he said. Chetwynd finished the event with a recitation of Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.”

According to Paul Robillard, the chair of the Salem American Heritage Day Committee, the event started as a desire to do something that involved Lincoln, “and it grew from that,” he said, into a more comprehensive look at the Civil War. “If you walk away from here with some sense of history, then we’ve done our job,” he said.

Bob Hauta brought his two sons, Bobby and Devin, to the event to give them that sense of history. “The history is interesting,” he said, adding, “They’re [his sons] home-schooled, so it’s perfect for them.”

Salem American Heritage Day has been in planning for nearly a year, said committee member Elbert Burr, “and it worked out perfectly,” he added, as visitors continued to stream into the Herb Farm.

“We’re going to try and do this every year,” said Burr, adding that they are looking for new theme ideas for future years.

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