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February 10, 2008

Ahhhh, Memories

This article from my hometown area paper brings back memories as, years ago, this was not only my first living history event - EVER - but it was where I first saw the man who would be my husband.

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Soldiers from the 111th Civil War regiment guarded the doors to the Cashier's House Saturday.

Inside, more re-enactors brought the Civil War era to life in a series of vignettes that showed what life was like in 1862, the year President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

In one room, a black man attempted to join the 111th but was turned away because of his race. He would have to travel from Erie to Philadelphia, the recruiter told him. That's where the nearest black regiment was based.

Upstairs, a newspaper publisher led an Abolitionist meeting.

And in another room, Elizabeth Waters -- mother of Harry T. Burleigh -- talked of her father's work with the Underground Railroad in Erie.

"This is part of our history, these are things that happened in Erie," said Cindy Kennedy, who came to watch the re-enactments. "You can read things in a book, but when you actually see someone act it out, it really brings it closer to home."

The event was held in celebration of Black History Month and President's Day, said Melinda Meyer, the Historical Society's director of education. Members of the Harry T. Burleigh Society and the 111th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry re-enactors participated in the re-enactments.

The Rev. Adrianne Rush, a member of the Burleigh Society, played the part of Elizabeth Waters, who would give birth in Erie to famed composer Harry T. Burleigh in 1866.

Rush talked of Waters' father's work with the Underground Railroad to the group of about 25 people who attended Saturday's event at the Cashier's House, 419 State St.

Erie served as a vital link in the Underground Railroad from the 1830s to the 1850s.

"It's important to key into the fact that free African-Americans in Erie helped those who were enslaved and became free," Rush said.

From the Erie Times-News

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