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Revolutionary War reenactors will bring history to life at Compass Inn Museum

Living History Weekend (Compass Inn Museum/Released)

The sounds of flintlock rifles firing in unison and hammering on a blacksmith’s anvil will greet visitors to the Compass Inn Museum on Saturday and Sunday.

Reenactors from Proctor’s Independent Battalion of Westmoreland County and blacksmithing demonstrations will be featured at the historic Laughlintown site during its final Living History Weekend of the summer, set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

Members of the reenactment group bring back to life the same-named unit that was active locally during the Revolutionary War and the decade that followed. Named for John Proctor, the sheriff of Westmoreland County during the mid-1700s, the unit was charged with protecting the eastern border of Westmoreland County and the western border of the Laurel Highlands from attacks by Native American and British forces.

The reenactors will be camped on the Compass Inn grounds both days and will conduct mid-morning and mid-afternoon military demonstrations.

“By interacting with the reenactors, visitors will understand the importance of what Proctor’s Battalion was doing in Westmoreland as well as the many roles that went into making the group function,” said Theresa Gay Rohall, executive director of Ligonier Valley Historical Society, which operates Compass Inn Museum. “Without groups like the historic battalion, settlement of communities west of the Allegheny Mountains such as Laughlintown would have been a much more difficult and dangerous venture.”

The reenactors are equipped with working reproductions of period rifles and smooth-bore muskets.

“For us, it was primarily rifles going into the Revolutionary War, but rifles weren’t as common in this area,” said Scott Henry of Greensburg, the group’s captain.

Henry traces his roots back to Joahan Jakob Galitin, an early settler in a part of Westmoreland County that is now the village of Normalville in Fayette County. Galitin had two sons, who both served in Proctor’s Battalion.

Other Proctor’s reenactors whose ancestors were active in the area during the 18th century include Tom Klingensmith of New Kensington, the current second in command, and Michael Doucette of Ligonier, who portrays a private and is a member of the historical society board.

As part of the encampment, the battalion members and the women accompanying them will demonstrate various essential skills of the period. Henry’s wife, Louise, makes candles from tallow while another of the ladies of the camp tells visitors how herbs were used for medicinal purposes.

“Some of the guys will talk about leather-working, and I’ll be making a couple of pistols in the gun shop,” said Henry. “It’s a nice snapshot of daily life and the things it took to survive and prosper in this area at the time.”

In addition to blacksmithing, period cooking techniques will be demonstrated by Compass Inn volunteers.

Hands-on activities for kids will include dipping candles, sealing envelopes with wax and writing with ink and quills.

Tours of the historic Compass Inn, dating from as early as 1799, and its outbuildings are included in the site admission fee: $14 for adults, $12 for age 62 or older, $10 for ages 6-17. There is no charge for younger kids, historical society members or active members of the military. Tickets may be purchased on the premises.

Tying in with the county’s 250th anniversary, the museum is featuring the exhibit “Uncovering 250 Years of History” through October. On display are some of the more than 1,600 artifacts discovered during a 2019 archaeological exploration of the grounds.

“One of the most exciting finds was a piece of woven wool from the late 1700s,” said Rohall. “It shows that people were here at that time.”

Other items that were uncovered include pieces of clay pipes, ceramics, glassware and ladies clothing pins.

The Compass Inn served as a stopover for stagecoach travelers and drovers during its 1830s heyday. Its more recent claim to fame occurred in late 2021, when it provided a period setting for filming of the 2022 historical Netflix drama “The Pale Blue Eye,” starring actor Christian Bale.

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