The first president of the United States and his wife made a trip through time - and across multiple states - to celebrate Independence Day at historic Fort Roberdeau in Sinking Valley.
President George and Martha Washington - portrayed by Bill and Cara Elder - greeted guests in the Philadelphia house next to the nearby fort.
The Elders, former high school teachers, made the trip to Blair County from their home in DeLand, Fla., to share their knowledge and portrayal of "living history" with visitors.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
President George Washington, portrayed by Bill Elder, shows off 18th century toys and hats during Fort Roberdeau’s Fourth at the Fort event on Wednesday. Checking out the items are (from left) Joe Whiteford, 7, Martha Washington, portrayed by Cara Elder, Brenin Abbott, 10, and Johanna Whiteford, 11. The Whitefords and Abbott all are from Bellwood.
"I said, 'we should do someone not so well known,'" Bill Elder said, laughing.
The couple originally joined the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment of the Continental Line and 43rd Regiment of Foot in His Majesty's Army, a re-enactment group known for portraying American and British Revolutionary War soldiers.
But their love of history drove the Elders to embrace their characters of George and Martha Washington - and now the couple travel and give presentations on the first family's lives before, during and after the Revolution.
"We read everything we can get our hands on about the couple or individuals," Cara said.
The two are routinely quizzed on their knowledge of the president and his wife, Bill said. But on Wednesday, families gathered in the small house beside the fort were much more content to learn about life colonial life in the 1700s.
Joe Whiteford of Bellwood watched as Gen. Washington showed Whiteford's two children and their friend a variety of colonial children's toys, hats and clothing.
"Just to preserve a piece of this history, it's a great thing," Whiteford said.
Fort Roberdeau Executive Director Peggy Goodman hopes preservation of the reconstructed fort continues for a long time.
With more than 230 acres of property owned by the Fort Roberdeau Association, the fort continues to make improvements and educate children and families throughout the year, Goodman said.
The importance of the fort - which was constructed in 1777 to protect area lead mines vital for munitions manufacturing during the Revolutionary War, also extended to protecting some of the earliest settlers in the Allegheny region.
"It was truly the wild frontier," Goodman said. "The Allegheny Front was really the edge of civilization" for the colonists.
British Rangers and their Native American allies would often raid nearby farms, setting crops ablaze and disrupting supplies of food and material vital to the war effort, Goodman said.
The fort, constructed by Gen. Daniel Roberdeau, came under attack twice during the war, she said.
The fort commemorates the attacks with the Revolutionary War Weekend, scheduled for July 21 and 22. The weekend features music, colonial fashion shows, food and historic lectures, Goodman said.
And while the real George and Martha Washington never visited the fort, the Elders - now in their third year of visiting the area, said the best part of re-enacting is sharing their knowledge with others.
"It's constantly challenging," Bill said.
"You can never know too much," about the Washingtons, Cara added.