Gazette Staff Writer
Jul. 23, 2012
Hatmaker Ted Filer, of West Jefferson, works on a felt cocked hat while talking with visitors to the War of 1812 bicentennial commemoration on Saturday at the Adena Mansion & Gardens / Photos by Frank Robertson/Gazette
CHILLICOTHE — Joining the soldier reenactors at this past weekend’s War of 1812 bicentennial encampment at Adena Mansion & Gardens were the craftsmen and merchants who would have helped outfit them for battle 200 years ago.
As the military and militia members marched in formation, and visitors leisurely toured the estate’s grounds, these men were hard at work making and selling their wares.
Keith Crager, of Enon, works as a Time Warner cable installer, but in his free time, he takes part in reenactments as a sutler selling items he’s made by hand, mostly from leather. Sutlers were general merchants who followed the army and sold provisions to soldiers.
“A soldier in any time period would want to march as light as possible,” Crager said.
Crager is a longtime reenactor who started making items by hand only about five years ago.
“What I can’t make myself, I’ll buy or barter,” he said.
Crager is more than willing to haggle with his customers on prices. More often than not, he ends up dropping the price.
“I do this to help my fellow soldiers,” he said. “It’s like a family. We’re in this for the same reasons.”
Not far from Crager and his wares fanned out across a blanket was another sutler, Paul Ailing, of Whitehall.
Ailing is no stranger to reenactments. He worked as a blacksmith for 14 years at Ohio Village, the Civil War-era town recreated on the grounds of the Ohio History Center in Columbus, “until my body just gave out,” he said.
On Saturday at Adena, Ailing was cutting and engraving brass crosses, which he said would have been coveted by Native Americans in a trade.
“At that time, they weren’t working with a lot of metals and they didn’t have refined tools,” he said.
An 1812-era blacksmith and jewelry maker such as Ailing would have been hard at work on tools, hardware and possibly engraving regiment numbers onto rifles, he said.
Adena volunteer Charlie Collins was in the estate’s barn demonstrating woodworking tools such as the shaving horses and the spring pole lathe. He said a woodworker of that era might have fashioned poles for tents, ramrods and rough stocks for muskets.
Ted Filer, of Galloway, who works as an emergency response planner for the State of Ohio, was taking special orders for his hats. He said he buys the hat bodies, then dresses them out depending on any number of factors.
“A lot of hat work is like tailoring,” Filer said. “I look at you, your station in society and how much you’re looking to spend.”
Filer said hats had the practical purpose of protecting a soldier from the elements, but by the time of the War of 1812, “they were getting to be more abstract and overcame any practicality.