Annual Wheeler Birthday Celebration happening this Saturday

A Gen. Joe Wheeler impersonator plans to attend the 2021 Wheeler Birthday Celebration at Pond Spring this Saturday. “General Joe Wheeler telegraphed yesterday from Washington D.C. that he would be arriving by rail at Wheeler Station for his Birthday Celebration and the Great North Alabama Chatauqua at his home,” event organizers teased last Wednesday. “His message said he eagerly anticipates greeting his fellow Alabamians and all guests that plan to make a day of the events.” 

An annual birthday celebration for historic figure General Joe Wheeler is happening at Pond Spring in Hillsboro on Saturday. 

The celebration, hosted by the Alabama Historical Commission and the Friends of the General Joe Wheeler Home Foundation, will begin on the grounds of the Wheeler Home at 10 a.m.

The 2021 birthday celebration will feature live music from the band Un-Reconstructed. 

Un-Reconstructed, which formed out of Gadsden, performs at Civil War re-enactments and other era-based activities throughout the Southern and Eastern United States, according to organizers. 

The band won an Emmy award in 2008 after its music was used in the Civil War documentary “The Last Ditch,” which covers the Battle of Columbus. Un-Reconstructed is also known for its performance of Scottish and Irish folk music.

Also performing Saturday, the band Kyote Creek will be set up on the back porch of the historic Wheeler Home. The band covers country and “oldies” hit music.

The grounds to Pond Spring will open to vendors and exhibitors at 7:30 a.m. Gates will open to the public at 9:30 a.m. Events, including live entertainment and carriage rides are free to attendants.

Those who make a day of the Pond Spring festivities will step back in time as though it is 1899—the year Wheeler turned 63 years old, according to Leland Free, a member of the Friends of the Joe Wheeler Home. 

More than 20 exhibits will be on display on the front lawn at Pond Spring, including a “Big Top” Chautauqua tent reminiscent of the 19th century social movement that brought cultural entertainment, live music and dramatizations to rural areas across the U.S. at the time.

The Winston County Grays—confederate reenactors—are among exhibitionists for the celebration. Free said the organization will fire a working Civil War cannon every hour, and with enough participants, the Winston County Grays will perform living history reenactments. 

Concessions vendors like the Pink Pig food truck will be set up on the grounds, he added. Pepsi will be available, as well as freshly fried pork rinds from the American Legion Post 25. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tours of the General Joe Wheeler Home will not be available this year, though visitors will have access to the grounds of the historic home.

Admission to the event is $10 per vehicle. Free said proceeds from the event will go to the Friends of the Joe Wheeler Home Foundation to assist the Alabama Historical Commission in keeping Pond Spring open to the public.

Pond Spring is located at 12280 Alabama 20 in Hillsboro. 

Born on Sept. 10, 1836 near Augusta, Georgia, Joseph Wheeler moved to his wife’s home, Pond Spring, in Lawrence County after the Civil War where they had seven children. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1880 and again in 1885. 

Pond Spring was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. In 1993, the home was donated to the Alabama Historical Commission by Wheeler’s relatives. 

The Museum now holds approximately 10,000 items such as furnishings and clothing that were associated with the family. 

For more information, call 256-637-8513, or visit the Pond Spring website at https://ahc.alabama.gov/properties/pondspring/pondspring.aspx. For more information about the 2021 Joe Wheeler Birthday Celebration, contact Leland Free at 256-606-1057. 

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