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The Way We Were: Local historians bring past to life for bicentennial

“You’ve got to preserve history every way you can, and you’ve got to tell it. That’s why we do what we do.”

Chris Ozbirn is chairperson of the Russellville Bicentennial Committee, whose members share her passion for preserving the past. They conceived The Way We Were, a monthly series of history demonstrations, exhibits and portrayals designed to inspire people interest in the history of Russellville and Franklin County. Saturday will be the second in the series, with additional programs scheduled throughout the summer: July 13, Aug. 10 and Sept. 14.

“Each event is different; we have different people and different time periods,” Ozbirn explained. “And we’re working our way up to the big grand finale, Nov. 21. We’re wanting to show how people lived during this time, and not only how they lived – how they worked, entertained, every aspect of history that we can get out there.

Saturday’s featured presenters will include Civil War historians Jerry Smith and Tim Kent, along with Alabama State President of the Order of the Confederate Rose Lisa Green who is also president of the Jenny Brooks Johnston Chapter No. 18, OCR’s Carla Waldrop and author Butch Walker.

For June 8 Green will be dressed as Rose O’Neal Greenhow, a Washington socialite and Confederate spy. “I will detail the life of Rose O’Neal Greenhow, who was a leader in Washington society, a passionate secessionist and one of the most renowned spies in the War Between the States,” said Green. “I have several members of the Order of Confederate Rose that will be dressed in period as well during this presentation, and we will give some insight of how life was back in the 1800s, from washing clothes to cooking. We will discuss how women kept the home fires burning while hoping to see the faces of their loved ones again and how some played an important role during the war as soldiers, spies and nurses.”

Kent and Smith will also be in period dress, sporting Civil War military uniforms.

“We get to tell the true story,” said Smith. “Wherever we go, we do our research and make it special to the area.”

Ozbirn said this year’s monthly series hearkens back to an event the bicentennial committee organized in 2018.

“Last year we did the Pioneer Day, which was fabulous,” Ozbirn said. “But trying to get that many people together at one time – that’s really a big job. So we decided we could show more and celebrate more aspects of it if we had it broken up into a series. Hopefully more people will come and see what we’re offering and learn how this area was way back then.

“To me, history is something everybody has to know,” Ozbirn added. “You’ve got to know where you came from to get where you’re going.”

Saturday’s presentations and exhibits will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Russellville Canteen, 217 Washington Ave.