Students Take a ‘Hike Through History’

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By Ralph Morang May 25. 2016

In photos:  Students on the central School Hike Through History in South Berwick, Maine, on Wednesday wore T-shirts to support their fellow student, Ethan Fahey, who has T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Ralph Morang photo

On the bank of the Salmon Falls River in South Berwick, eighth-grade students Jacob Blackwyn (in hat), Cullen Casey (with fish) and Ryan Schoff (with dip net) show younger students how people on the 1600s just scooped salmon from the river during the annual Hike Through History Wednesday. The canoe is made of birch bark. Ralph Morang photo

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine – A walk through town became a walk through time Wednesday with Central School’s annual Hike Through History.

In its 22nd year, the theme was “Journeys,” one of three rotating themes. This year’s hike was dedicated to second-grader Ethan Fahey, who has T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Hikers and teachers wore bright orange Hike Through History T-shirts emblazoned on the back with “Ethan Strong.”

Two loops north and south of Central School took students to 20 historical town sites. The “Journeys” theme is based on travel by birch bark canoe, gundalow, stagecoach, train, trolley and automobile.

Students from the Seacoast Christian School, and for the first time, students from Rollinsford joined.

At the site of the Cummings railroad station on Railroad Avenue, the Downeaster flew by as students learned about the railroad in South Berwick in 1910. As at each site, eighth-graders portrayed historic figures, assisted by third-graders. Noel Parker portrayed flagman James Thompson and led a game of “Red Light, Green Light” using railroad flags.

Down the street, Charlie McCann as William Cummings greeted hikers. Cummings owned the shoe factory and had one of the first automobiles in town. In the driveway of the Cummings house, now owned by Brian McNulty, Dan Smith had parked his restored 1931 Ford Model A Tudor. Smith allowed the kids to pile into the car. “I should have brought just the horn,” Smith said, as each child hit the button.

Travel by boat was featured at Quamphegan Landing on the Salmon Falls River. Transporting cargo by gundalow, which depended on winds and tides, became another game as teams carried cardboard “gundalows” up and down the “river.” Across the street, Isaac Moore’s store was again open at its former location, now a green lawn.

Eighth-graders set up a seasonal Native American encampment in Joy Park, and on display was a genuine birch bark canoe owned by Peter Lamb and built by Henri Vaillancourt of Greenville, New Hampshire.

“It’s kind of cool how they made this stuff, made of sticks,” Rollinsford fourth-grader Colin Phipps said of the display on how canoes were built.

Nearby, Cullen Casey, Ryan Schoff and Jacob Blackwyn showed how in the 1600s, people scooped salmon right out of the Salmon Falls River. They displayed a freshly-caught fish, gutted and ready for smoking.

It was the Civil War era again on the grounds of the Sarah Orne Jewett House. Dr. Theodore Herman Jewett (Sam Convery), father of Sarah, performed an amputation. “I’ll ask you to look away,” he told the witnesses.

Perhaps no exhibit tied together the past and future better than the “Welcome General Lafayette” site in front of the Seacoast Christian School. Mykel Druart was resplendent in the uniform of Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the Revolutionary War. Lafayette stayed in South Berwick during his 1825 tour of the United States. The building where he stayed, the Christian school, will soon become the Lafayette Hotel.

The Olde Berwick Historical Society works with the school system creating the hikes by providing scripts, artifacts and mentors. Consultant Nicole St. Pierre works with the 200 eighth-grade role-players and their teaches. “It’s the culminating activity as they leave middle school,” she said.

“It’s great for the third- and eighth-grade students to work together, to collaborate,” added second-grade teacher Gina Brackett. “The second-graders enjoyed picking up facts and information. It was very hands-on.”

During the opening assembly for the Hike Through History, Sammie Haynes always sings her song, “The River in Your Town.”

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