The Darwin R. Barker Museum in Fredonia reopens on Saturday after its COVID hiatus, and it is planning a full day of events.
Events include living history reenactments, such as a portrayal of Civil War hero and Medal of Honor recipient Alonzo Cushing by Pomfret city historian Todd Langworthy from 9 a.m. to noon. There will also be a re-enactment of Civil War-era drum and fife corps, with authentic historical marching music, from 11 a.m. to noon.
At 2 p.m., the museum will host a screening of the documentary on the history of Fredonia “Among the hemlocks,” with its director, Roslin Smith. Two tours showcasing the architecture of the Barker Museum building will be led by curator Maxwell Walters at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and at 5 p.m. a concert featuring music spanning the 19th century will close the events of the day.
The museum will also present a new exhibition dedicated to the life of one of the most famous inhabitants of the village, Commander William Cushing (1842-1874), the younger brother of Alonzo. William Cushing gained an international reputation during the Civil War for leading a night raid in which he destroyed a Confederate armored warship, the CSS Albemarle, using an innovative strategy in which he personally detonated a first torpedo. at close range. William Cushing undertook this almost suicidal mission after vowing revenge for Alonzo’s death during Pickett’s charge at the Battle of Gettysburg.
The exhibition, “Sweet Village Home, farewell”, takes its title from a poem Cushing wrote at the age of 14 when he graduated from Fredonia Academy, with plans to attend the United States Naval Academy and dreams of adventures while sailing around the world.
“All of this would come true for William, except that he never said goodbye to Fredonia permanently, as he married the prominent local family of Katherine Forbes,” Walters writes in his press release announcing the exhibition. “His frequent letters to his wife, brothers and mother in Fredonia all provide insight into the village in William’s time and help elucidate his unique position in the civil war-era Fredonia social landscape as than youngest boy from a well-connected but working-class household, downward mobile, fatherless.
The Barker Museum, which collects and interprets artefacts related to local history, is located at the corner of Main and Day streets in Fredonia. Visitors are encouraged to enter through the Main Street gate. Admission is free and the museum is open Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, visit Barkermuseum.org.
This year marks the bicentenary of the museum house, the historic Barker House, the first brick house in Fredonia. Built from over 100,000 bricks made beside Canadaway Creek, the house was erected by Leverett Barker in 1821. In 1884, it became the village’s first permanent public library, and later the museum, thanks to the son de Leverett, Darwin R. Aboyeur. Programs and exhibits featuring the bicentennial will continue until the end of 2021.