Burtner House hosts annual harvest of history

October 13, 2018

Vicki Kleber believes in preserving a bit of history, and keeping it accessible for future generations.

“The easy to reach location of Burtner House in Natrona Heights does both,” says the owner of Russellton Bee Works, a regular presence at the historic homestead’s June Strawberry and fall Harvest festivals.

She loves to put a real buzz in her history lessons, returning there Oct. 13 for the fall fun where she shares her love for beekeeping and educating the public about bees.

“My mission is to provide quality local honey, and to educate the public about bees,” Kleber explains. “I bring a small observation hive that allows people to see actual bees in a safe, not scary, close up way.”

She is not sure if any bees were ever kept on the property.

“However, many fruit growers traditionally kept hives of bees. Honey bees were brought here during Colonial days from Europe to attend the fruit trees imported here also,” says Kleber.

A history teacher by training, she remains a history buff.

Love of history

“Though I ultimately worked in retail and banking instead of teaching, I never lost my love of history, and especially old historical buildings like the Burtner House.

“I love to travel and no trip for me is complete without exploring old cities or homesteads. I think people are happier and more grateful when they can see how tough life was for their ancestors. It makes us really appreciate our modern lives.”

Her message: “People should come and visit the Burtner House to experience how people used to live, right in this area. The volunteers and re-enactors will give you a fun history lesson and you’ll get some terrific food.”

On the festival agenda

The harvest fest includes tours of the home, crafters, a teepee with wilderness guide and, new this year, a bouncy house for the children.

“As usual we have our homemade soups and this year homemade sauerkraut to sell. What would the festival be without hot apple dumplings with ice cream, homemade baked goods which have been a staple for years and fan friendly food in the summer kitchen,” says Sandra Jack of the Burtner Restoration Society.

Honest Abe returns

Rick Miller, portraying Abraham Lincoln, returns to interact with visitors.

Strolling banjoist Mark Kinan of the Voices of the Confederacy will entertain with Civil War-era tunes until about noon.

“A couple of folks will be talking Indian lore and pioneer ways. There will be hand-made knives, axes and jewelry for sale,” says Jeff Jones, society president.

Alle-Kiski authors William Davis and George Guido will talk with their readers and sign books.

“Folks are also welcome to stroll through the Burtner Cemetery that is at least 200 years old and located across Burtner Road from the house,” says Jones.

Major anniversary

Planning is under way for the 200th- anniversary celebration of the house in 2021.

“We hope to have activities to involve the community in our celebration and really need volunteers to carry this out,” Jack adds. Suggestions are always welcome!”

The Burtner Society currently is raising funds to replace the roof on the main house and front porch at a cost of about $25,000. “We replaced the out building roofs this year. Community support is needed to maintain this local treasure,” Jack says.

Volunteers always welcome

Jones adds that volunteers are always needed and monetary donations from individuals or businesses are appreciated. “We would like to keep this house open and available to the public to tour and use for their meetings, campouts, weddings, photos etc.,” he explains.

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