This Sunday, the Madison County Historical Society will hold its annual Jonathan Alder Day, a festival which allows a look back through time into the history of the county and its founder. The event will include its traditional activities and demonstrations but will also allow the Historical Society a time to highlight two particular areas.
There will be a tribute to the very first director of the society, Eleanor Phillips, who was instrumental in getting the organization established in the 1960s. Phillips was a member of a number of historical organizations such as the National Society Daughters of American Colonists and the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.
She also volunteered at the Historical Society for many years. Additionally, there will be a showing off a new restoration of the buildings on the grounds, courtesy of community donations and the Madison County Commissioners.
Nancy Griffith Dever, the current director of the Historical Society, said the day is a time to celebrate the area’s rich history but also be able to connect it to such a central figure.
“The event is always close to (Alder’s) birthday, this year it is right on Sept. 17,” Dever said. The event will mark his 244th birthday. “It’s a family-friendly day. We do have children’s games. They’ll be playing Cornhole and other things.”
Dever is a Madison County native and has been the director for two years. She had previously worked at Mount Vernon, the historical home of George Washington located in Mount Vernon, Virginia.
“We moved away, had been away for 30 years and came back home,” she said. “Being away made me enthralled with history.” Her interest led to her to be a volunteer at the Historical Society and she says she is very impressed by what Madison County has done for its history and Alder.
Alder, born in Gloucester, New Jersey in 1773, was the first settler in Madison County and made his living as a farmer. His storied life of being taken by natives as a young boy and being raised among them has made him a well-known historical figure.
Alder himself will also be at the event, being portrayed by Dever’s husband, Larry, and will show the Madison County pioneer’s cabin which can be seen on the six-acre Historical Society grounds, where the festival will be held. Visitors can celebrate by watching a number of historical demonstrations throughout the day.
Presentations such as blacksmithing, butter churning and cider making will be available to view as well as tours through the museum, Alder cabin, original schoolhouse and Kitchen house. The demonstrations will show how the pioneers performed day-to-day tasks during the end of the 18th century and beginning of the early 19th century.
There will also be a picnic with food complimentary of the Bluebird Retirement Community and a quilt raffle.
“The ladies of Summerford and London, in 1901, got together and made this beautiful quilt,” Dever said. “Tickets will be available for purchase and we’ll raffle off the quilt.” There will also be music at the event from the South Charleston Dulcimers and other turn-of-the-century activities.
“At the Historical Society, we are having 100 Jonathan Alder school kids come by,” said Dever. “This event is the perfect time to get children more interested in history. It’s the perfect event for all.”
Jonathan Alder Day will be held Sunday, Sept. 17 at the Madison County Historical Society, 260 E. High St. in London, from noon to 5 p.m. The event is free but donations are always welcome.
Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.