Manassas Journal Messenger | Re-enactor brings history to life

The term “fund-raising” is as old as the nation.

Living history interpreter Mary Wiseman (as Martha Washington speaking in the first-person narrative) told of coining the phrase after the Revolutionary War when she raised money for veterans.

Wiseman portrayed the nation’s original first lady on Thursday evening at the Old Manassas Courthouse.

“I enjoin you all to see to the needs of our noble veterans,” she said.

Wiseman told an audience of about 25 how women sewed clothes and knitted for the troops during the war and the soldiers were short on everything from shoes to ammunition.

“All through the war the government never gave the men what they needed to fight,” she said.

Those present also learned that Martha Washington called George Washington “The General,” once rode her pony up the front steps of her uncle’s house and was raised on the banks of the Pomonkey River in New Kent County.

George Washington preferred being a farmer to waging war, but was industrious at both, said Wiseman now retired as artistic director for character interpretation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

“He can make a good accounting of every dutiful hour of the day,” Wiseman said.

Wiseman’s presentation was one in an ongoing series sponsored by the the Prince William Office of Historic Preservation, said spokeswoman Delain Clark-Fink.

“We have special events throughout the year,” Fink said.

Future events include “hard hat” tours of Rippon Lodge, in Woodbridge and the Brentsville Courthouse in Brentsville, both in early stages of renovation.

“Typically the public doesn’t get to see a building in that stage of the restoration process,” Fink said.

Rippon Lodge, listed in the National Register of Historical Properties, was built in 1725 by Richard Blackburn, an Englishman who named it after the town of Ripon in Yorkshire.

It is the oldest house in Northern Virginia.

The Brentsville District Courthouse, once the county seat, was built 180 years ago.

Dates for the tours have yet to be set, but anyone who is interested can call Fink at (703) 792-5546.

“We want to get out more knowledge of the sites we have in the community,” she said.

The next scheduled event will be a Victorian Tea on Saturday, Feb. 19, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Old Manassas Courthouse, 9248 Lee Ave., Manassas, Clark said.

The tea will feature period music, parlor games, readings and entertainment, Fink said.

A full English tea will be served complete with finger sandwiches, dessert selection and an assortment of teas.

Tickets are $25 per person and advance purchase is recommended, Fink said.

For more information or to make a reservation, contact the Prince William County Department of Public Works, Office of Historic Preservation at (703) 792-5546.

Mina Jeffery came to the presentation to get pointers to help her in her job at the Manassas Museum.

Part of her job includes acting as a living interpreter.

She wanted to see how living history was meant to be done.

“I’m trying to learn the trade,” the 30-year-old volunteer coordinator said.

Jeffery hasn’t developed a character yet. She said its a work in progress.

Staff writer Keith Walker can be reached at (703) 878-8063.

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