Festival near Benton to commemorate War of 1812 bicentennial


Goshen News, Goshen, IN


October 15, 2012


BENTON — More than 100 historical reenactors will help visitors travel back in time at the fourth annual Gathering at Five Medals, a living history festival portraying life in the Midwest from the 1660s to 1815.

This year’s event commemorates the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. The event will take place Saturday and Sunday at River Preserve County Park, next to Benton Elementary School along C.R. 31. Gates will be open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Around 150 reenactors will be traveling from four Midwestern states to participate in the event. These costumed interpreters include historic craft demonstrators, French settlers, Woodland Indians, voyageurs, Revolutionary War and War of 1812 soldiers, traders, river pirates, mounted cavalry and more. The reenactors have been selected for their authenticity, interpretation skills and knowledge of the time period, according to organizers.

“The event has a particular emphasis on the history of Elkhart County, Northern Indiana and Michiana,” said Matthew Schuld, director of the Elkhart County Historical Museum. “Many of the reenactors portray individuals who would have travelled through or lived in this area at some point in the past. This year is especially important in the event’s history as it commemorates the War of 1812, a war that had significant consequences for what is known today as the upper-Midwest.”

The reenactment location is near the site of where Chief Five Medals Village would have existed from the 1760s to 1828. The Elkhart River Potawatomi first settled in the area before the American Revolution during the 1760s.

The town, named after their community leader Chief Five Medals, was active in the fur trade and was frequently visited by European and American fur traders. During the War of 1812, young warriors from the town allied with Tecumseh and the British. Soldiers from Ohio and Kentucky destroyed the town twice during the conflict.

Historic records indicate that Five Medals town contained some twenty homes situated along an extensive prairie and was surrounded by approximately seventy acres of corn. By 1828, as Americans settled the prairie, the town was vacated and its residents forced west where they merged with different tribal groups.

Five Medals was a prominent figure in negotiations between the Elkhart River Band of the Potawatomi and U.S. government. He signed the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 after the defeat of the Western Confederacy of Indian Nations in the Ohio Indian Wars.

The village was destroyed in 1812 and 1813 by U.S. military during the War of 1812, but the community was abandoned during both campaigns. Remnants of the Five Medals Band lived in Elkhart County until 1828.

The Woodland Indian village at the reenactment will pay tribute to the Elkhart River Band by showing examples of clothing, food, housing, and crafts practiced by the Potawatomi. Additionally, Chief Five Medals will be a part of the encampment.

Food vendors will be on-site for visitors to refuel. Parking is available at Benton Elementary School with an easily accessible gate along the school property into the event. Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for children. The reenactment covers several acres along hiking trails, so visitors are encouraged to wear walking shoes. Also, organizers also discourage people from taking pets.

Friday is reserved for elementary school students to experience the reenactment. Teachers should contact Matthew Schuld at 574-848-4322 or matt@elkhartcountyparks.org to discuss field trip opportunities and lesson planning to correlate with State Standards. The event will emphasize curriculum covered in third, fourth and fifth grade.

Classes should pack a lunch because food vendors will not be available on Friday. School officials should expect to spend a minimum of two hours at the reenactment due to the event size and scheduled activities. Each class will be able to journey through the reenactment and interact with costumed interpreters.

The Gathering at Five Medals is sponsored in part by Pheasants Forever chapter 826, Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Goshen Home Medical, Interra Credit Union and WNIT Public Television.

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