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fireside chats

The Fireside Chats 2013

Private William Greathouse

By Jim Cummings

See a Newsreel of
this performance


The Fort Boonesborough Foundation began the 2013 Fireside Chats on February 9th. The Fireside Chats are Saturday night dinner and performance evening’s with proceeds benefitting the Fort Boonesborough Foundation.

This Saturday’s Frontier Fare was green beans and potatoes served with a ham sandwich, homemade dessert with good hot coffee and hot chocolate. The green beans and potatoes were fixed in the large iron pot over the open hearth fire - thus the name Fireside Chats. Visitors could eat in one blockhouse and visit the tavern in Fort Boonesborough’s other corner blockhouse for refreshments and period games.

And then it was on with the show. In honor of the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812 the Fort Boonesborough Foundation expanded the usual time frame of the Fireside Chats to include the period of the early 1800’s. From the Kentucky Humanities Council’s roster of Chautauqua performers the Foundation chose 17 year old Harry Smith performing as Private William Greathouse a 17 year old militia soldier who wanted to fight for his country during the War of 1812.

Greathouse was an actual soldier from Bardstown, Kentucky and was wise beyond his years. He was strong willed and strong minded and mustered in with his friends from Kentucky and started the long trip north toward Canada to fight the British and their Indian allies who were lead by that most famous , Indian - Tecumseh.


Foundation members Denise and Matt Harrison serving hot cider in the tavern before the chats.


Park Manager Rob Minerich making the introductions.


The evening was warm enough to linger outside. Here a visiting family talks with Foundation member Larry Ginter.


A performance filled with emotion.

Greathouse joined the fight after The Battle of The River Raisin in which 500 Kentuckians met in battle with the British and Indians near Frenchtown. Over 100 were killed and most of the remainder were taken prisoner. Wounded prisoners were left behind at Frenchtown and later massacred by the Indians. It led to the cry “Remember the Raisin” and started the second wave of recruitments into Kentucky’s militia.

Greathouse begins telling his story with the account of coming upon the bones of the dead from The River Raisin. These were the reamins of the friends and fellow Kentuckians. It only rekindled the fire and the passion to fight the Indians and the British. His performance was sprinkled with humorous ancedotes as well, offseting the horrors of the stories of war.

After the perfromance Harry Smith answered questions from the audience about both himself and Private Greathouse.

See a Newsreel Clip of the Performance


Special thanks to the Kentucky Humanities Council. Pvt. Greathouse appears as part of their Chautauqua and speakers bureau and can be contacted through their website.

Harry Smith “waiting in the wings” before his perfromance.

If you missed this performance - you can see Private William Greathouse on April 11, 2013 when he appears as a guest of The Painted Stone Settlers of Shelbyville, KY at 7:00 PM at the Shelby County Library. Visit for more information.

More Stories on this Site About The War of 1812

tecumseh composite

Tecumseh and
The Prophet

February 16, 2013

By Kathy Cummings


See a newsreel of the performance.

The names and stories of Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa “The Prophet” are most often associated with The War of 1812. But Tecumseh first made his mark of the frontier borders of Kentucky and Ohio. His father Puckeshinwau and his older brother Cheeseekau were both Shawnee warriors who are documented to have fought and died in border warfare.

Although the details of his early life are incomplete, like all great leaders Tecumseh had to rise in the ranks of his people. Chiefs of the Shawnee - both war chiefs and peace chiefs were named by accomplishment rather than family ties.

By all accounts Tecumseh was a striking man, and a gracious one. One of the reasons his name has resounded through history is that he has been given many humanitarian traits by his biographers.


The classic portrait of Tecumseh, shows the turbaned look favored by the Shawnee Indians.

Tenskwatawa or The Prophet ("The Open Door") on the other hand arrived on the pages of history because of his well publicized transformation. Almost ten years younger than Tecumseh, he was born too late to be influenced by his father’s warring ways for his father had already been killed in the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774. Without a father’s guidance this younger son never learned the hunting and warring skills of the traditional Shawnee. He turned to alcohol and led a life of drink and deception. When he suddenly claimed to have had visions and changed his ways he became a spiritual leader of the Shawnee. These two brothers with their divergent stories and personalities united in the early 1800’s for the common good of their people. Tecumseh traveled from Indian village to Indian village to try and assemble a viable confederation to fight the white Americans who were taking over their land.


Tenskwatawa or The Prophet favored silver arm bands and is usually shown with his “bad eye” that he put out in a hunting accident

 Tenskwatawa preached to the Indians from his base at Prophetstown in Indiana. He encouraged his brothers to return to the old ways - since he saw dependancy on white settlers and white goods as their eventual downfall.

Saturday night at Fort Boonesborough State Park two longtime native interpreters brought these two historic figures to life. Michael Fields portrayed Tecumseh. It was a good fit. Fields is most of the time soft spoken and eloquent. But at other times (especially during a battle re-enactment) I have seen him focus his energies on being a warrior - and fighting to the death. He did a wonderful job of expressing Tecumseh’s feelings about loosing his homeland. He touched on the highlights of his early life - before his death at The Battle of the Thames in 1813. And it was a good partnership between he and Randy Bales. Randy has studied native traditions for many years and spoke knowledgeably about The Prophet. Even after their presentation, Bales explained his dress and the silver and trinkets that he carried. Not just for decoration, The Prophet was known to have carried a rattle with the colors of red and yellow on it. It was said to have looked like fire in certain lights and carried beads similar to Christian Rosary beads. Bales was equipped with both and used them as he spoke.

Like all historic figures there is both true and false information prevalent about Tecumseh and the Prophet. Both men did a good job of addressing the known facts about the Shawnee and avoiding some of the more controversial stories about them. The audience at the Fireside Chats is always a knowledgeable one. They enjoy the good food and good company and always ask intelligent questions of the presenters.

tecumseh 3a

Fields and Bales played off each other well - there different personalities reenforcing the differences between Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa.


Elizabeth Chalfant of the Fort Boonesborough Foundation made several announcements and invited visitors to join in the Boone Trace Tours being offered by the Foundation.

The Fireside Chats are held in the corner blockhouse of the replica fort and dinner is cooked over the open fireplace


Fields and Bales first appeared as Tecumseh and The Prophet at the 2011 Fair at New Boston and again in 2012.

 See a newsreel clip of them in Springfield, OH


Maggie Delaney - Indentured Servant

February 23, 2013

See a Newsreel Clip of this Performance


The third of February’s Fireside Chats at Fort Boonesborough State Park saw balmy weather and a full house for Maggie Delaney -Indentured Servant.


Even with the Tavern being open during this year’s Chats seating was constantly full as visitors ate and then moved outside or to the tavern where there was hot cider to drink, 18th century board games and live music. 


Visitors came early and there was a short line into the food area. Other families went to the tavern first and then came back as seating became available for their dinner of Kentucky Burgoo, corn bread and hot apple cobbler.


Foundation members serve the food and drinks and engage visitors in conversation about life at the fort in the 18th century.


Foundation president George Chalfant and vice-president Larry Disney sold raffle tickets and showed off the rifle that the Foundation is raffling in May. Proceeds will go toward more archaeological work at the original fort site.


Admiring the rifle built by Wayne Estes. Click here to learn more about the raffle rifle or to purchase tickets online.


More families (including children) seem to be coming to the 2013 Fireside Chats than in past years. Giving children a chance to learn about life in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

And just before 6:45 the tables are moved out of the way and the performance begins.


Click here for an interview with Carol Jarboe who portrays Maggie Delaney.


Click here to see a newsreel of this performance.

Purchase the DVD - Maggie Delaney - The Life of an Indentured Servant


Visit Newsreel Central to see other 1st person performances at The Fort Boonesborough Fireside Chats and other area venues.


The Final performance in the 2013 Fireside Chats concludes with Scott New portraying Daniel Boone on March 2, 2013. (This performance was rescheduled from earlier in the month due to inclimate weather.) Visit Fort Boonesborough Living History for more information on reservations.

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