Make History While Experiencing It at Fifth, Final Year of Civil War Days

Five years ago to the day, the members of the Dexter Area Historical Society lived hour-to-hour in anticipation of the first ever Civil War Days at Gordon Hall. It was the most ambitious event that the group had ever set about putting on, and at that point the society had a long way to go paying off the mortgage created to purchase Judge Samuel Dexter’s home from the University of Michigan.

Lead event organizer and DASH&M member Donna Fisher recalled the anxieties that she and fellow event co-founder Jennifer Colby, as well as the rest of the society felt during the final days and hours before that fateful Friday in June of 2011 when the first year of Civil War Days was to kick off as it will this afternoon for the fifth and final time.

“We didn’t know who was going to show up or how everything was going to go — Jennifer and I had no idea what we were doing,” Fisher said. “I was in Bay City, I was in Ohio, and any time there was a place I could see how somebody else handled a reenactment site, I would go there.”

Gradually Fisher and her ragtag group impressed more and more people from the Civil War reenactment and historical communities with their vision and the story of Gordon Hall.

“We worked very hard and were very successful that year, and here we are with the mortgage fully paid off and in the event’s fifth year,” Fisher said. “We’ve developed such good working relationships with everybody, and I got to work with my daughter (Abigail Fisher) closely on this project.

“This has given me a whole lot more than I’ve given it.” (editor’s note: Donna is being way too modest here. I’ve called her in years past during the last week before the event and it’s always been obvious that she’s giving it everything she’s got, and then some.)

Although it’s the last year of the Civil War Days at Gordon Hall, which is tied to the sesquicentennial (150 year anniversary) of the American Civil War, Fisher said that there’s a strong possibility for a Gordon Hall Days or some such similar event that continues the yearly tradition of filling the grounds of Judge Dexter’s home with those who love history so much that they devote themselves to it such that it is a part of their very identity.

“I think that this event has incredible potential for the future,” Fisher said. “I think it’s something that brings the community together. We have a lot of fun doing it, and I think we all enjoy seeing the kids immersed in history here. What better way to teach children about their local history (than this event)?”

Ultimately the DASH&M Board of Directors will make the call, but Fisher stands at the ready to lead the way on continuing to provide this event for the community to enjoy. It would also make sense to keep it going, as it has spawned other events at Gordon Hall, like Christmas at the Mansion, which is another successful ongoing yearly event.

With the need for more than $2 million to drive restoration work on the house, the society definitely needs events like Civil War Days to not just directly raise money for that effort, but also as a means of connecting both young and old generations of Dexter area residents and visitors to the cause of Gordon Hall.

“Now that Judge Dexter’s home is back in the hands of the people, it needs to be put in order so that it can be used,” Fisher said. So far there are several weddings planned with Gordon Hall as the venue, a baby shower was held there and it’s been used by an architect’s trade group as a picnic site. She added that there’s “no end” to the ways that the public can enjoy Gordon Hall as it continues to be restored to its 19th century glory.

As far as the re-enactors and other historical performers returning for Gordon Hall Days, Fisher believes that the bonds that have been forged between the DASH&M volunteers and the various people who come from all over to bring Civil War Days to life would return again and again for subsequent events.

“The two people who take care of the civilian camp and the military end of it have become very good friends,” Fisher said. “These friendships have grown over five years. Each year I go to the 4th Michigan (Infantry) Christmas party and give them financial reports and updates on how far along we are with Gordon Hall.”

For the full listing of events, their date and time, as well as the location on the grounds of Gordon Hall see the below embedded excel document for all of the information pertaining to the scheduled events of Civil War Days at Gordon Hall, which begins this Friday at 5:30 p.m. and runs through to 4 p.m. Sunday.

[embeddoc url=”” viewer=”microsoft”]

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  • Nice interview Donna. Am sad that so many events are going on in Dexter at the same time, hopefully people will come out as it’s the Last Civil War weekend. You’ve done an outstanding job organizations this and sad many many citizens of our great CITY don’t care about it.

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