The annual Sassafras Tea Festival and Civil War Living History offers people a glimpse of history, but the 52nd version of the Vernon event has added significance. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
The free event, hosted by the Jennings County Historical Society, is Saturday and April 26 on Vernon town square.
Re-enactors portraying Union and Confederate soldiers, President Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, conspirators and civilians will speak and answer questions about the Civil War era.
“These re-enactors spend a great deal of time and effort to learn about the Civil War and how things were done back then,” Jennings County Historical Society volunteer Wanda Wright said.
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Women and children in period clothing will tend the cooking fires and tents of an encampment area. Nearby, vendors will sell Civil War-era items such as clothing and cooking utensils. Visitors also can visit a working blacksmith shop.
Jan Furgason and her husband, Terry, are among those who will help visitors understand the past. She portrays a woman tending the home while he is part of the Vernon Greys, a re-enactment group that represents the actual Jennings County militia group that served in the Civil War.
“I do it mostly for the fun. I love acting, and this is great theater. Also, I do it to keep the role that women played in the Civil War alive. They were spies and nurses and also kept everything going at home. They played an important part, too,” Jan Furgason said.
The Jennings County Historical Society will give serve sassafras tea and cookies to visitors at the North American House, across from the courthouse. The house was built in 1838 and served as an inn for stage coaches. Now the building is a museum and the headquarters for the historical society.
As a fundraiser to maintain the North American House, food will be sold on its patio and second floor. Made-from-scratch ham and beans, cornbread, vegetable soup and chicken and noodles will be on sale. Homemade pies and sweet breads also will be available for purchase.
A tour of Vernon homes that were involved in the Underground Railroad is at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Information will be available at the North American House.
A Peace Parade in honor of all soldiers of both sides who served in the Civil War is at 3 p.m. Saturday. Descendants of Civil War soldiers will be invited to be in the parade. Descendants are asked to register at the North American House prior to the parade. No proof of Civil War service is required, but a $5 fee is requested for a blue or gray armband to be worn in honor of the soldiers.
The Blue and Grey Ball is at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Vernon Gym. Period dress or current attire can be worn to the ball.
A battle re-enactment is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Saturday and April 26 at Muscatatuck Park, at the edge of Vernon.
A series of re-enactments depicting events surrounding Lincoln’s assassination will be performed starting at 7 a.m. April 26, including a vigil, a manhunt for the perpetrators, Andrew Johnson’s swearing in as president, a funeral procession and a funeral train.
What: Sassafras Tea Festival and Civil War Living History
When: 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday; 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 26.
Where: Vernon town square (mock battles at nearby Muscatatuck Park)
Cost: All events are free. The only cost is the optional purchase of food, vendor booth items or parking at Muscatatuck Park.
For additional information, pick up an event schedule at the Jennings County Historical Society, 134 E. Brown St., or call 812-346-8989.