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Now browsing: Hometown News > News > Volusia County

Pioneer Settlement educates, entertains, preserves history
Rating: 3.23 / 5 (26 votes)  
Posted: 2013 Oct 18 - 06:14

By Erika Webb

At the first sign of fall there's a rustling in the woods just off State Road 40 in Barberville.

The Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts begins to bustle with activity and preparations for the annual Fall Country Jamboree are well underway.

This will be year 37 for the event -- one of the longest running heritage festivals in the state, according to Shiloh Thomas, the events coordinator for the settlement.

On Nov. 2-3, somewhere around 8,000 people will show up to go back in time.

The jamboree, sponsored in part by the Volusia County Cultural Council, TraveLynx and Gulf Atlantic Vehicles, will feature antique engines and tractors, historical demonstrations including spinning, weaving, blacksmithing, chair caning, model trains, palm weaving, carpentry, woodworking, pottery, pine needle basketry, quilting, yo-yos, cast net making, an arts and crafts show, a saw mill and storytelling.

More than 100 musical performers will set up on five stages and wheelwright Lester Hollenback will demonstrate setting tires on a wagon wheel.

There will be a children's art show featuring the works of students from Pierson and McInnis elementary schools.

In addition to the ever-popular corn boil, there will be an interactive cane boil to demonstrate the harvesting, grinding and boiling of sugar cane.

Hamburgers, hot dogs, pulled pork and smoked chicken, vegetable soup, bean soup and Tabouli will be available for purchase from the settlement, and two outside vendors will sell ice cream and kettle corn.

To drive down Lightfoot Lane is to truly discover Florida's past. Going deeper into the village, past the Astor Bridge House -- built in 1926, and the old Barberville Central School -- built in 1919, visitors encounter the 1900s H.L. Wynn Commissary Store, which once served the turpentine operation at Bakersburg, just north of Pierson. It was moved to the settlement in 1984 to become the country store.

Beyond sits the railroad depot, blacksmith shop, Tomoka Consolidated Turpentine Still, Huntington Post Office, the pottery shed, wood shop, wagon barn, firehouse, wheelwright shop and print shop.

Built in 1920, the Quarters House was moved from New Smyrna Beach in 1997. The shotgun style house was built to quarter workers in the naval stores industry.

The Lewis Log Cabin is the only building at the settlement not original to Florida, but represents Cracker Vernacular architecture.

Several gardens produce flowers, herbs, vegetables and cash crops -- usually corn or cotton.

The Midway United Methodist Church was constructed in 1890 and served the Barberville community until 1964 when it was donated to the settlement by the DeLand District of the United Methodist Church. Central air and heat were installed by Dale Barnhart in memory of his wife, Evelyn. Theirs was the first wedding performed in the church after its relocation, according to information provided by the Pioneer Settlement.

Ms. Thomas said the settlement is a popular venue for weddings and other private events.

"We've had weddings in the barn, too," she said. "We have room for receptions in the auditorium, the summer kitchen for food prep and the pavilion outside where people can eat. We can even set up tents for a bigger crowd."

Ms. Thomas volunteered for the settlement for five years before the board of directors contracted with her to coordinate events.

She was attracted to the history there, but also to the activities.

"I'm very interested in fiber," Ms. Thomas said, "knitting, weaving, crocheting and tatting."

Her older brother is a member of the Florida Artist Blacksmith Association, which meets regularly at the settlement.

Other groups that meet there regularly include the Pioneer Fiber Arts Guild, Rug Hookers and Black Bear Florida Scenic Byway.

"And every Friday night a group of square dancers rents the auditorium," Ms. Thomas said.

Office assistant Jennifer Larsen has been in the position for two months. She's learned a lot in a short time and her enthusiasm is catching.

Ms. Larsen said she'd like to participate in the educational tours and activities the settlement offers Volusia County students.

She said nearly 100 Volusia County schools schedule field trips to the Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts, which also serves schools in 15 other counties.

Students learn about spinning, weaving, candle and butter making, woodworking, blacksmithing, tools and farming.

"Come October there is a field trip almost every single day," Ms. Thomas said.

During the holidays, children are treated to "Old Holiday Traditions," including candle dipping, card facing, popcorn stringing, the history of the poinsettia and, of course, Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

"The Pioneer Art Settlement is an approved field trip for our elementary students and most of our schools take part in sending students each year," Volusia County Schools Director of Community Information Nancy Wait explained. "The experience is connected to our social studies curriculum and many teachers engage students in cross curricular activities leading up to and following the field trip, such as writing assignments, research and vocabulary development."

The settlement is on the grounds of former Volusia County Schools surplus property housing The Central School of Barberville. The Pioneer Settlement, which incorporated in 1976, originally leased the land from the school board.

"Public programs began in 1982 and have steadily developed into those enjoyed by thousands today. The rapid growth of the children's education program influenced the School Board's decision to place a teacher on site to coordinate the programs with mandated curriculums, meeting Sunshine State Standards," according to pioneersettlement.org.

"Additionally, over the years, the program has adapted to meet the growing need for FCAT-based learning benchmarks."

Field trip programs include Pioneer survival skills, Seminole and Miccosukee culture and legends, Florida history, the (Timucuan-Myaccan) early Floridians and Rites of Spring.

Ms. Thomas said programs can be tailored to enhance specific curricula.

The Lassie Cake Program teaches pre-kindergarten through third grade students about the tending of bees for honey and turn-of-the-century kitchen tools. Students make and eat a "from scratch cake" along with dousing for water, making butter and learning where eggs originate.

"Almost everything that goes into our Lassie Cake can be produced on the farm," according to the field trip brochure.

The farm contains chickens, goats, a donkey, a mule and "one temperamental goose," Ms. Thomas said.

There also are four cats: Salem, Martini, Jazz and Mini, who do whatever they want, including rolling around on the desk in the Astor Bridge house while Ms. Larsen tries to work. She doesn't mind a bit.

But peacocks?

"The English had peacocks when they came here to show they had money," Ms. Larsen said.

The Astor Bridge House is the main office for the settlement. It also houses pottery, clothing, paintings, metal work, books and other art created by Florida writers, artists and craftspeople.

At the jamboree there will be a silent auction to raise funds for the building's restoration.

Another building undergoing restoration is the Joseph Underhill house built in 1879.

"We've restored one room and it will be open to the public for viewing during the jamboree," Ms. Thomas said. "The house was built with bricks from clay dug locally from Deep Creek. It's Volusia County's oldest brick house and at the jamboree we'll have a tent for donations to restore the rest of it."

The Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts is at 1776 Lightfoot Lane (one block west of the intersection of State Road 40 and Highway 17).

Jamboree hours will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children 6-12; settlement members, half price. For more information visit: pioneersettlement.org or call (386) 749-2959.

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