Carroll County Times

Manchester Elementary students jump back to colonial times

MANCHESTER — The blacksmith was sweating only slightly as he stood over the forge filled with hot coals, waiting and watching for the piece of cold, black iron he held in his tongs to begin to glow orange.

“How hot is the fire?” he asked the dozen or so children who sat — safely back — in front of his portable smithy. “That’s right, 3,000 degrees.”

The blacksmith was Ken Strosnider, a living history re-enactor demonstrating the art of the blacksmith as it was in 1764, and the schoolchildren were the third-graders of Manchester Elementary School, who were participating in their first Colonial Fair on May 30. Strosnider would continue working the piece of metal, asking the children to guess what it was until the final shape — a fish — appeared.

“I try to stress that the blacksmith was a very important person for any small town because he could fix things,” Ken said. “I ask them, ‘What happens if your stereo breaks?’ They throw it away. If your fork breaks, you don’t throw it away, you take it back to the blacksmith and he fixes it … It was so expensive to buy new compared with having it repaired.”

Ken teams with his wife, Lora, who wore an elaborate baby blue period dress, to put on living history events, and while he sweats over the fire, she teaches crafts, games and history to the students.

“I’m doing 1764 because that is when William Winchester actually formed Westminster,” Lora said. “Of course Carroll County wasn’t until I think, 1837, when it actually became incorporated, but I thought it would be really interesting to instead of doing current Carroll County, let’s go back and see how Carroll County actually came to be.”

The idea for the Colonial Fair originated with third grade teacher Terri Pittinger, who worked with Lora to put on similar events for fifth grade students in the past, an age group that normally studies the colonial period. While the third-graders were studying Carroll County history, the two women wanted to emphasize the county’s colonial roots and decided a Colonial Fair for her younger students could help make local history seem more real to them.

“This is a culminating event for us,” Pittinger said. “By participating in games, dancing, making crafts and hearing stories of this time period during the early development of Carroll County, my students were able to experience firsthand what a third-grader might have done during the development of their county.”

Evyn Bass is one of Pittinger’s students who got to discover what she liked — and did not like — about colonial times. She said she very much liked the games played by children in that era, rolling a large wooden hoop along the ground with a stick and a ball and stick game similar to baseball, but she thought the dress code and recreations for girls were not so fun.

“Dancing was a lot different and that girls weren’t allowed to show their ankles and knees,” she said.

Jack Schreyer said he enjoyed learning to make rope and to write with a quill pen, though he found it a little harder than he expected, but he liked the blacksmith the best.

“I think that was the coolest part of the fair,” he said. “I really liked how he showed us how to make a fish made out of metal ... and he showed us all the other things he made.”

Neither Bass nor Schreyer said they would accept an offer to go back in time to live in the 18th century, but they certainly enjoyed a day trip. According to Pittinger, all her students gave the Colonial Fair an A.

“The students thoroughly enjoyed the day and gave it a big thumbs up,” she said. “They have advised me to do it again next year with the new third-graders.”

Reach staff writer Jon Kelvey at 410-857-3317 or