GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — Notable figures Mad Anne Bailey, George Armstrong Custer and Woody Hayes will be making an appearance at Living History Night via scholar performances.
The three significant figures will be portrayed by three scholars — Suzanne Thomson, Rick Williams and Jim Stoner — who will take visitors back to a significant time in history through monologues, time-appropriate apparel, items and more.
The event is sponsored by the Gallipolis Chautauqua Committee. Previously known as Chautaqua, the event has been re-branded as Living History Nights.
“Our local committee decided to do our own version of a Chautauqua style event,” said Debbie Saunders, Bossard Memorial Library director. “We’ve re-branded that as Living History Nights, so it’s much like what our community members experienced in the [past]. We felt like this better defined what this local event was going to be about.”
This year visitors will get to experience three different times in history from three different historical figures.
The first night, Thursday, June 9, will be George Armstrong Custer played by Williams.
According to information from the Chautauqua Committee, Custer was dubbed, “Boy General” and played a key role in the Battle of Gettysburg. The major general was known for his “bravery, brashness and love of publicity.
Williams has been performing reenactments since 1999. He has been cast as Custer in a number of films and has been the “official General Custer for Custer’s hometown of New Runley, Ohio through the Custer Memorial Association for 15 years,” according to the information packet.
The second night, Friday, June 10, will host Woody Hayes played by Stoner.
Woody Hayes is known for his time coaching Ohio State University football from 1951 to 1978, “winning five national championships, capturing 13 Big Ten Conference Championships and collecting a record of 205 wins, 61 losses and 10 ties,” according to the information given to Ohio Valley Publishing (OVP). Hayes is one of the most popular figures of Ohio State football history.
Stoner has presented Hayes several times, “captur[ing] the essence of Wayne Woodrow Hayes in his formative years, experience in life, WWII, clear through his iconic career at the Ohio State University.”
Stoner has been performing for most of his life, channeling iconic characters on stage for the last decade. After researching the character, Stoner designs his own performances, showcasing them across the midwest.
The final night will welcome Mad Anne Bailey performed by Suzanne Thomson.
Anne Hennis was born in Liverpool, England coming to Virginia to marry Richard Trotter, who was killed in Dunmore’s War in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Hennis was unable to care for her son, “driven from madness in her grief,” and became a “renowned spy, scout and huntress during the American Revolution and Indian Wars.” Remarrying in 1785, Anne Bailey “became the heroine of the Kanawha Valley,” becoming known as Mad Anne Bailey.
Thomson has researched and portrayed Bailey for more than a decade. She has been painted by several artists depicting Bailey. “Thomson tells Anne’s amazing story of frontier devastation, madness and daring triumph,” according to the information packet.
Saunders said there are still local ties and connections to Bailey in Gallipolis. A memorial to Bailey can be found at Tu-Endie-Wei State Park in Point Pleasant and depictions of Bailey can also be found in Point’s Riverfront Park on a flood wall mural and as a stainless steel statue along the Ohio River.
The event will be hosted at the Bossard Memorial Library in the Riverside Room for the first time this year.
Hosting the event at the library allows plenty of parking, closer restrooms and no longer needing a location for inclement weather.
“We really enjoyed the feel of having it under the big red tent,” Saunders said. “We want to try an indoor event here at the library, and to see what the response is from the community to that.”
Each evening there will be musical entertainment, light refreshments, a Q&A with the character and possible meet and greet.
During the night, the scholars stay in character.
“It’s not like a lesson or anything, they are in character doing a monologue,” said Kaitlynn Halley, Gallia County Convention and Visitors Bureau assistant director. “They are in costume and everything.”
“They don’t break character,” Saunders said. “It’s very believable that you’re seeing what that character would have portrayed back at that time.”
Halley said the scholars are beyond prepared for the portrayal.
“They spend years researching and knowing the character,” Halley said. “Knowing details, and years past, these scholars know so many details that the audience comes up with some specific questions. And they are very professional in how they go about answering them.”
Halley said there has always been great community participation, with audience members sometimes trying to stump the scholars with their questions.
“It just brings history to life, it really does,” said Saunders.
The library will have books on each of the characters available for check-out leading up to and after the event.
“This is a great way to experience Ohio History,” Halley said. “And Gallia County itself has so much history. I think we’re very fortunate to have this group of community members from different aspects of Gallia County and care about putting on a good performance.”
The event is hosted by the Gallipolis Chautauqua Committee, made up of “local community members who are passionate about bringing history alive for Gallia County residents and visitors.”
Halley said the event is sponsored by local individuals and businesses.
The event is free and open to the public, and is geared for all ages. While not necessary, the committee said donations are welcome and go right back into the committee fund for events.
Those wishing to donate can contact Halley at the Gallia County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 740-446-6882.
The event is set for June 9, 10 and 11 from with music starting at 6:15 p.m. and the performance starting at 7 p.m.
For updates, follow the Gallipolis Chautauqua Committee’s Facebook page.
© 2022, Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.
Brittany Hively is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @britthively; reach her at (740) 446-2342 ext 2555.