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The Union Leader

Monday, July 15, 2002
Manchester, New Hampshire
By Roger Amsden, Union Leader Correspondent

Rangers re-enactors put history on display


For a gallery of photos of the Militia Muster 2002 click here.
For the press release click here.

A contingent of Rogers Rangers, the Yankee frontiersmen whose legendary exploits helped British colonists prevail during the French and Indian War of the 1750s, paid a visit yesterday to the homestead of one of the original Rangers and engaged in a mock battle with members of the Chase Taylor Militia of Sanbornton.

Members of the Chase Taylor Militia of Sanbornton fire their muskets during a mock battle with
another Ranger company at a militia muster held in Franklin yesterday.
Photo by Roger Amsden.

For Matt Schlosser of Henniker, a senior history major at New England College and a member of the James Company pf Rogers Rangers re-enactors, the exercise makes history come alive.

"I've always loved history, especially military history. And to really understand it and have a feel for it, instead of just reading about it, getting involved in something like this is just great," says Schlosser.

The Muster was held at the Daniel Webster Birthplace, near Punch Brook, at the same site that Webster's father, Ebenezer, built a two-room house in 1779.

The piece of land on which he built the cabin where his famous son, Daniel, was born on January 18, 1782, was granted to him as a result of his service with the Rangers during the French and Indian War.

Donald Keleher of Methuen, Mass., another member of the James Company, said he always wanted to be a Ranger, having grown up in Robert Rogers' hometown where practically everything carried a reminder of the Rangers' exploits.

Matt Schlosser of Henniker and Donald Keleher of Methuen Mass., were dressed as members of the James Company of Rogers Rangers for a Militia Muster at the Daniel Webster birthplace in Franklin.
Photo by Roger Amsden.

A lieutenant with the Methuen Fire Department, Keleher says the Ranger group is international in scope, and has many members in Canada, because the time period in which it was active predates the American Revolution. "We have as many members in Canada as we do here and a lot of our events are held in Canada," says Keleher, noting that re-enactments of the War of 1812 are popular in Canada, where it is viewed as a victory over invading American armies in the early stages of war which resulted in a negotiated settlement.

He said that on August 1 of this year a large contingent of re-enactors will meet at Fort #4 in Charlestown and will make a march on foot, equipped just like 18th century Rangers, to Crown Point in New York, an eight-day hike.

Re-enactors like Andy and Sandy Cheney of Webster, who involve all four of their children in the historical re-creations, said that getting involved with other like-minded has been a great experience for them and their children. "It's like a big family," says Cheney, who along with his wife was presented a cake in recognition of their recent wedding anniversary.

The Cheneys like the historical re-creations so much that they often cook over an outside fire at home, making stews and even suspending a chicken by a string over the fire to cook it.

An ongoing effort at the Daniel Webster Birthplace helps keep alive the memory of what daily life was like in the late 18th century.

A group of volunteers led by Sharon Ann Burnston of Epsom conduct a living history program every weekend at the Webster birthplace, cooking, sinning wool, making candles, and even playing games that would have been popular at that time.

Gina Gerhard of Hill spins flax during Militia Muster Day at the Daniel Webster Birthplace in Franklin. She is one of the regular re enactors who takes part in demonstrations at the park throughout the summer.
Photo by Roger Amsden.

The Franklin Historical Society sponsors the program, which runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend. Burnston said the program proved so popular last year that the Daniel Webster State Park enjoyed the greatest percentage increase in attendance of any New Hampshire state park.