NEW RUMLEY - Gen. George Armstrong Custer, born in a small log house in New Rumley on Dec. 5, 1839, was celebrated as a noted figure in Harrison County and honored at the 173rd birthday party sponsored by the Custer Memorial Association held Saturday at the New Rumley Methodist Church.
Custer was represented by Rick Williams, who started as a Civil War re-enactor in 1999, when he joined a cavalry unit near his home in Middletown. As a living historian, he first appeared as Custer at Cridersville in 2003. Today, he often speaks as the general at Civil War Roundtables.
He is the published author of "The Beginninger's Guide to Civil War Re-enacting" and has made appearances in New York, Montana, Kansas and West Virginia.
DINNER HELD — The 173rd birthday of Gen. George Custer was celebrated at a dinner held Saturday at the New Rumley Methodist Church fellowship hall, followed by a program at the Custer Museum across the street. Some of those taking part were, from left, Dave Rose, Custer Memorial Association program coordinator; Don Allison, Bryan Times editor and Williams County Historical Society historian, speaker; Marlene Rice, portraying Libby Custer; and Rick Williams, Custer re-enactor.
Dave Rose, dressed in a Civil War uniform as well, gave the welcome and invocation. He told Custer followers that Leroy VanHorne, recording secretary, usually gave the welcome but was at home recovering from back surgery.
The birthday cake, frosted with yellow as one of the cavalry colors and blue for the Civil War, had the Custer drawing that is on billboard signs and those at the museum imprinted in the icing. Williams held up his sword to depict cutting the cake, as is the usual procedure at the parties.
Williams was joined by his new fiancee Marlene Rice, who is now playing the part of Libby Custer. She was dressed in a gown of the mid-1800s.
Don Allison, Bryan Times editor and historian for the Williams County Historical Society, was the speaker when the group moved to the museum located across the street. A wooden trunk that belonged to Boston Custer is part of the memorabilia there, along with a scale model of the Custer homestead that was made by Tom Cunningham.
Allison told of the hardships, suffering, freezing weather, near starvation and, often times, death endured by the prisoners at Belle Isle, near Richmond, reading letters from a captured soldier with the 38th Ohio Regiment, Sgt. Jacob Osborn of the 6th Michigan Cavalry. This was a unit in the Michigan Cavalry Brigade of Custer.
Osborn entered the war in 1863 and was sent to the Shanadoah Valley where 434 Yankee troops were captured, some shot and four ran away.
The meal consisted of one and one-half loaves of a rough cornmeal bread with crust so hard it was almost impossible to chew. Sometimes there was a bean soup so clear that one could almost count all the beans in the serving. "It did little to nourish them but warmed them up," Allison said.
The memorial association held an auction of Custer items, including books about the general: "The Last Stand," "The Story of Custer," "The Beginners Guide to Civil War Re-enacting" and "Custer's Last Stand."
The association presented golden sponsors plaques to Bill Host, auctioneer and county commissioner; Clark- Kirtland Funeral Home; Cadiz Animal Clinic; Mark Beetham, attorney; Carroll Electric; Ward and Associates Appraisals; and Eldon Furbay.
Herman Neimayer played the keyboard for dinner music, and Velma Gross was in charge of the tickets.