Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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July 5, 2014

Crab Orchard continues July 4th tradition

TAZEWELL, Va. — Click here to see the video

The annual Crab Orchard/Pisgah Independence Day celebration got off with a bang on Friday morning as nine muskets fired into the cloudy sky above the Historic Crab Orchard Museum, and a detail from VFW Post 7136 raised the American flag to officially open the day’s activities.

Charlotte Whitted, executive director of the museum and Pioneer Park, sang a stirring rendition of the “Star-spangled Banner.”

“People have been celebrating Independence Day at the museum for as long as we have been here,” Whitted said of the museum that opened in 1982. “Before that, the Independence Day celebration used to be at Pisgah. I’ve seen photos of the celebrations there with old Model T Fords and other cars in the parking lot.

“We have one of the most varied group of veterans represented here today,” Whitted said. “We have Colonial Militia, Continental Army, Civil War, Korean War, Desert Storm and others, I’m sure. It is a diverse group.”

Barbara Neely watched as her husband, Robert L. “Bob” Neely, participated in the musket salute. “We are both in the Colonial reenactment later this afternoon,” she said. “The attackers kill my baby and scalp one of my girls. My role is Mrs. Wells.” Bob was dressed in a Continental Army uniform while Barbara was dressed in late 18th Century frontier fashions.

After the brief opening service, several militia men went to cabins to demonstrate various frontier skills. Ellis Cole built a fire and was heating lead so he could mold it into spherical projectiles to fire from the muskets.

“You got to get the fire up to about 1,000 degrees in order to melt the lead,” Cole said. “I use lead like the lead they use in windows to make this shot.” Cole was conducting his demonstration at the Major David Perry cabin, a cabin that was built circa 1805.

Buford and Pearlie Duncan of Tazewell said they both try to visit the museum and pioneer park as much as they can.

“I really like the museum,” Pearlie Duncan said.

“This is just beautiful scenery,” Rod Curry, a member of the Crab Orchard Museum board of directors said. “It’s a beautiful setting for this event.”

“We travel to reenactments all over the place, but this is home,” Phil Bevins of Tazewell said. Bevins was in Colonial Militia uniform on Friday, but is also a Civil War reenactor. Along with participating in the Colonial Reenactment, he and his band, the Tower Street String Band, performed at the celebration. “Joe and I both enjoy volunteering here at the museum. It’s a great resource for our community.” Phil’s son, Joe Bevins, plays banjo and guitar with the band.

Rachel Patterson and her sister, Leah (Patterson) Johnson, both of Tazewell, toured Pioneer Park, and also spent time looking at the exhibits inside the museum.

“I enjoy coming here every year,” Rachel said. “We have been coming here since we were little.”

“I think it’s a great place and an important historic resource for our community,” Leah said.

Youngsters participated in a “Kids’ Craft Trail” during the celebration along with ice cream and watermelon eating contests, bubble gum blowing, seed spitting, stick horse and sack races.

The state’s Civil War 150 HistoryMobile was at the museum to provide guests with an interactive exhibit commemorating the American Civil War.

— Contact Bill Archer at

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