By STEPHEN HUBA
NEW MANCHESTER - Brian Jurosko remembers the first time he got introduced to the pre-1840 way of life. It was at a muzzleloading event in Salineville where he met Monte Pearson and a group of guys who looked like they had just time-traveled from the 18th century.
Monte Pearson, 64, of New Manchester, shows off one of his hand-made flintlock rifles, currently on display at the annual pre-1840 Rendezvous Encampment at Tomlinson Run State Park. The encampment opens today and runs through Sunday in the park’s Mineral Springs area. (Photo by Stephen Huba)
"I thought, 'These guys are dressed funny.' By fall," Jurosko said, "I was dressed just like them."
Jurosko, 39, of Jewett, Ohio, is now in his 10th year participating in the annual pre-1840 Rendezvous Encampment at Tomlinson Run State Park in Hancock County. A wastewater treatment plant operator in Weirton, Jurosko takes the week off every year so that he can go back in time and live the way people did two centuries ago.
"It's nice to get away," he said. "You don't have the telephone or the TV or any other distractions. You just relax and hang out with friends."
Jurosko brings his 11-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son, who participate in games such as knife-throwing and tomahawk-throwing. "They've both been throwing since they were 2 or 3 years old. They're fairly safe," he said. "They really like it."
Jurosko's is one of about 22 campsites that will fill the state park's Mineral Springs area during the rendezvous event, which gets under way today and continues through Sunday. Encampments such as the one at Tomlinson Run are held throughout the United States as a way to sample a simpler way of life, said Monte Pearson, chief organizer of the Hancock County event.
Rendezvous encampments used to be held as a practical way for people living in the American frontier to sell their goods and trade for necessary supplies, Pearson said.
"People would gather and camp, and trade and get supplies so they could stay in the wild longer," he said.
Why 1840? "That was the last of what you would call the rendezvous for the Western mountain man," Pearson said. It was around that time that the fur trade began to decline, leading to a concomitant decline in the rendezvous encampments that supported it, he said.
Modern-day encampments like the one at Tomlinson Run are still practical, but mostly they celebrate the spirit of the American West, Native American cultures, and primitive self-reliance, Pearson said.
"We do just like they did in the 1700s. Everything has to be primitive," he said.
It's also meant to be fun. There are games for adults and children throughout the week, including tomahawk throwing, knife throwing and fire starting, plus prizes.
Pearson, who serves on the Tomlinson Run State Park Foundation's board of directors, started the Rendezvous Encampment in 1991 as a fundraiser for the foundation. While there is no set fee, a $10 donation is recommended.
Participants come prepared to live off the land for a week. All food is cooked over campfires, which are started without any modern conveniences. A piece of flint and steel, plus some char cloth, is all that's needed. Campers wear clothing and footwear that hark back to the 18th and early 19th centuries.
Pearson, 64, a retired iron worker from New Manchester, makes his own cooking utensils, along with knives, powder horns and flintlock rifles. He and his brother, Larry K. Pearson, 70, of New Cumberland, participate as a way to celebrate their Mohawk, Shawnee and Welsh family heritage.
"We used to have a lot more young people participating. Hopefully, we can get young people coming again," Pearson said.
Attendance at the Rendezvous Encampment has dropped off over the years, partly because the rising cost of gas keeps people from traveling to out-of-state events, he said.
But not Pearson. "We just travel all over," he said.
A lunch of bean soup, corn bread and sassafras tea will be served at noon Saturday. The public is invited, and cost is $1.
An auction will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday. All proceeds will benefit the Tomlinson Run State Park Foundation.