The lost is found

Seven Eagles Historical Education Center is beginning its fourth decade of educating people – youths, in particular – about how life was lived in earlier days.

The historical center is kicking off its celebration in May with two events – an Outdoor Skills Weekend May 2-3 and the annual Lost Arts Festival May 16-17.

During the Outdoor Skills Weekend, adults and youths can try their hand at shooting a muzzleloading rifle or primitive archery, and they can try to throw a tomahawk or start a fire using flint and steel.

Director Martin Nagy said families, youth groups, church groups or individuals are welcome to put up a modern or historical tent and stay the weekend, or visit for the day between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The Northwest Army Engineering and Civilian Corps, which portrays engineering equipment and other aspects of life in 1812, is to be on hand demonstrating their skills. Other demonstrations planned include candle dipping by former New Riegel resident Sarah (Hunker) Dunlap, and campfire cooking and blacksmithing demonstrations by other local re-enactors.

Nagy said the Lost Arts Festival started in 1984, so this year begins its fourth decade.

He invited everyone to plan a day May 16 or 17 to tour the site and see “lost arts” artisans and craftspeople demonstrating their skills.

Among the re-enactment groups attending the Lost Arts Festival are Colonel Crawford Company, which re-enacts life in 1782 and the latter part of the Revolutionary War years, and Seneca Muzzleloaders, based in Tiffin, which re-creates life in the early 1800s during the fur trade era, as well as re-enactors from other areas of northwest Ohio and Michigan.

Also expected to attend is a group that re-creates the 1700s life a longhunter, including some practice scouting for the kids to try.

“I know Martin is doing a lot to help with education,” said Peggy Dolinger, a re-enactor from the Carey area and Seven Eagles volunteer. “I think he’s working hard at it. A lot of people are working hard to make it the best education center we have in that area.

“It’s really nice there with all the historical buildings, the cabin and tavern and everything,” she said. “It’s really a great place to camp and share the knowledge that we know.”

The historical buildings are to be open during the two events.

As visitors enter the grounds, they can stop by the blacksmith shop and the trading post.

A highlight is to be tours of an authentic 1800 log cabin and homestead, a Native American longhouse, a trapper’s cabin built into the side of a hill and Scottish tavern.

Visitors can enjoy the pond by borrowing a cane pole and dropping a line or paddling canoes around the island in Cricket Frog Pond.

Near the buildings, adults and children can try their hand at throwing a tomahawk or try shooting a few arrows at the primitive archery area.

Beyond the pond, visitors can see the flash and hear the boom of black powder rifle demonstrations.

Other demonstrations by craftsmen and women in the plans are leather work and scrimshaw, bead work, moccasin-making, candle dipping, the making of canes and walking sticks, starting fires using flint and steel, soap making, flint knapping, campfire cooking, hand sewing and other glimpses into life in early America.

It was the desire to teach the people of today about the early days in American history that prompted founders Darrell and Judy Hartman to open the center in 1984.

“It was just a dream of ours,” Darrell said. “We had three boys and they were in Boy Scouts.”

Darrell, who was a Scoutmaster, said his troop camped for a weekend at what was to become the Seven Eagles site.

“There was a pond there and he let the kids use it for campouts,” he said. “I was struck by how beautiful the place was, way back off the road and surrounded by woods.”

When he left that weekend, he noticed the property was for sale.

At about the same time, a friend invited Darrell to join him for a weekend rendezvous, a re-enactment of history in the early 1800s.

“You could see the trail of smoke coming up through the woods, and some guy started to play ‘Amazing Grace’ on the bagpipes,” Darrell said.

“He was hooked,” Judy said.

After Judy joined her husband on his weekend excursions through history, they said, they began to think about how great it would be to buy the property and turn it into a historical area.

Through a friend of a friend, the Hartmans were introduced to Michael Stranahan, of the Toledo Stranahan family, who loved the idea. Stranahan bought the property, arranged to finance the project and form a nonprofit organization.

The Hartman family of two parents and five kids – hence, the name Seven Eagles – operated the historical center for several years while their children were growing up. In the 1980s and 90s, they hosted Scout troops, school field trips and historical reenactments.

“I always liked the camping at Seven Eagles,” said Barb Rumschlag, a re-enactor from Tiffin who participated in the Lost Arts Festival for several years. “They were always good to us. I can remember when there was hardly room between lodges because there were so many people there.

“They always had tons of vendors and food,” she said. “I remember one year when they had a large tent set up and Father, Son & Friends (a folk band) performed. They had all kinds of demonstrations going on and also black powder shoots, and hawk and knife.”

Eventually, the Hartmans decided to let other people take over the project.

In 2001, the board decided to sell Seven Eagles to Arts Council Lake Erie West, based in Toledo, and since then Nagy has carried on the tradition of hosting Scout troops and school field trips.

Nagy said the purchase came about when Steve Stranahan suggested the area might be of interest to the 577 Foundation of Perrysburg. Board members looked at the property and decided it didn’t fit into their mission, but board member Nagy decided historical arts fit into the mission of the Arts Council Lake Erie West.

Nagy said he and volunteers did some repairs and building maintenance, and closed the wooded area to hiking until an inventory could be done.

The inventory by naturalist Tammy Spillis and representatives from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources showed the woods contains several endangered plant species.

Nagy and volunteers did some repairs and building maintenance, and completed construction of the Catfish Inn, adding wheelchair access.

“Since then, we’ve been getting school tours and Scout troops back in,” he said.

April and May weekdays usually are busy with school field trips, and youth groups often can be found camping on weekends.

Nagy said the property requires lots of volunteers for upkeep and maintenance and any area people who are interested are welcome to help with mowing, wood cutting, gardening, building maintenance and similar tasks.

“The longhouse has been rebuilt three times since 2001,” he said.

Volunteers recently have assisted with maintenance projects such as putting new roofs on buildings, rebuilding the stonework on the fireplace of the historical cabin and building a new Native American longhouse.

This year, volunteers are planning to plant a “three sisters” garden in which corn plants, pole beans and squash co-exist in the same gardening area. The corn provides a “pole” for the beans. The beans provide nitrogen needed for growing corn, and the squash plant shade the ground and help with weed control.

In recent years, Eagle Scout candidates have completed projects such as two wooden docks on Cricket Frog Pond, and building and installing bat houses.