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Festival recalls pivotal era

Profile image for By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer
By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer

Inaugural event to look back at county in Civil War, aftermath

The Denton County Historical Commission will have its first-ever Denton County Heritage Festival on Saturday to remember the area as it was from 1861 to 1877, during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

The event will feature re-enactors portraying county officials from the era and Union and Confederate soldiers, cowboys, who played a big role in the county’s history, and singers and musicians including the Denton Community Band, a cappella group Vocal Magic and the Montague County Volunteers, a bluegrass band, performing songs and music of the period.

“It’s going to be a fun day and I think we will honor our ancestors a great deal,” said Deborah Boone, co-chairwoman of the festival planning committee and secretary of the Denton County Historical Commission.

The event will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, with most of the events on the lawn of the Courthouse on the Square.

Event spokesman DJ Taylor said that in the last two years the historical commission has had a celebration for the formation of the county but decided more was needed.

“We decided to take it to the next level,” he said.

Although most of the events will be on the Square, a special “bearing away of the ancestor” will begin at 11:30 a.m. to honor all the men and women of the era. Singers and anyone else who wants to participate will walk in an old-fashioned funeral procession, singing a funeral hymn, winding down through the Square area and off toward Oakwood Cemetery.

Storytellers will recount tales from the past, and Union and Confederate campsites will be set up. The Denton Community Market and the Courthouse-on-the-Square Museum will be open to the public as well.

At 1 p.m., the action will move indoors to the Commissioners Courtroom with events that will include the singing of Stephen Foster songs by mezzo-soprano Jennifer Lane, accompanied by harpist Ellen Ritscher Sackett; a reading from Mark Twain’s account of his brief time in a Confederate militia, by attorney John P. Knouse; a reading of parts of Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address by Morris Martin, retired head of the music library at the University of North Texas and minister of music at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church; and a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by Denton resident Yul Shelton.

Officials encourage people to come out and further their interests in local history.

Period-themed clothing is suggested — “but not required,” Boone said. “We want everyone to feel they can come as they are and enjoy the day as they would like.”

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.