Elk Creeks’ Ap­ple But­ter Fes­ti­val cel­e­brates 40 years

Cecil Whig - - H I S TORY - By VERON­ICA NAUJOKAS Spe­cial to the Whig

FAIR HILL — There is now a no­tice­able chill in the air, carved pump­kins are start­ing to make their ap­pear­ances on front porches, leaves are be­gin­ning to change col­ors, and the har­vest moon has just graced us with its pres­ence. Sum­mer has of­fi­cially come to an end, the sea­son has once again changed, and au­tumn is here. For The Elk Creeks Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety, this time of year sig­ni­fies some­thing very spe­cial — ap­ple but­ter mak­ing.

Ap­ple but­ter mak­ing has ex­isted for more than a thou­sand years across nu­mer­ous coun­tries, but it has es­pe­cially found quite a fol­low­ing in the United States over the last few cen­turies, and in more re­cent years as an an­nual com­mu­nity event. Ap­ple but­ter was once a sta­ple of life dur­ing Colo­nial Amer­ica, as it could be pro­duced in large quan­ti­ties at the end of the ap­ple har­vests every fall and would eas­ily keep for months. Its deep brown color, rich taste, and smooth­ness make it the per­fect ac­com­pa­ni­ment for a va­ri­ety of foods, but in par­tic­u­lar breads and cheeses are fa­vored. Ap­ple but­ter is quite di­verse though, and can also be used as pie fill­ing or lay­er­ing in cakes, as well as an al­ter­na­tive to short­en­ing or but­ter in many bak­ing recipes. Ad­di­tion­ally, it can be used as a mari­nade for such meats as pork or turkey and is of­ten en­joyed with a va­ri­ety of break­fast meats like sausage and scrap­ple, the lat­ter of course be­ing a par­tic­u­lar fa­vorite in this re­gion amongst many lo­cals.

Like many other com­mu­ni­ties through­out the United States, we gather every fall for our very own Ap­ple But­ter Fes­ti­val, a tra­di­tion that has been passed down through the gen­er­a­tions of the Colo­nial Scots-Ir­ish im­mi­grants that once set­tled upon this land we call Fair Hill. Every year in the wee hours be­fore dawn of a chilly Oc­to­ber morn­ing, The Elk Creeks Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety gath­ers at The Bee Hive to light the fires un­der the large cop­per ket­tles that will pro­duce hundreds of jars of ap­ple but­ter for which the event is so fit­tingly named.

The story of the Elk Creeks Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety be­gan in 1976, the year of our na­tion’s bi­cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tion. The orig­i­nal found­ing mem­bers of the so­ci­ety came to­gether, not only as a re­sult of their her­itage, but also from a mu­tual love of their lo­cal his­tory. The so­ci­ety is named for the sis­ter creeks of the Big Elk and Lit­tle Elk that flow through the area and were at one time the heart­beat of this part of the county. Com­mu­ni­ties thrived and flour­ished as a re­sult of the many mills that were built upon the banks of these two creeks. The Bee Hive, the name given to the col­lec­tion of his­toric struc­tures that serves as the lo­ca­tion of the fes­ti­val every year was it­self at one time, a busy lit­tle com­mu­nity (hence the name) with its own mill that the Lit­tle Elk Creek once flowed through.

Josey Po­teet, vice pres­i­dent of the cur­rent board of di­rec­tors, said that the so­ci­ety’s pur­pose is to share their love of lo­cal his­tory and to pre­serve, re­store and main­tain the prop­er­ties and his­toric struc­tures of the Elk Creeks’ wa­ter­shed. Ge­orge Reynolds and the late Richard “Tucker” Mackie, two of the so­ci­ety’s found­ing mem­bers, were in­stru­men­tal in start­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion and sub­se­quently the Ap­ple But­ter Fes­ti­val, which fol­lowed a year later in 1977. It is Mackie’s fam­ily recipe, handed down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion that has been used every year since that very first fes­ti­val.

This year will be es­pe­cially mean­ing­ful though, as it will mark the Ap­ple But­ter Fes­ti­val’s 40th an­niver­sary. Held every Oc­to­ber since 1977, the so­ci­ety and the sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties come to­gether at the ru­ins of The Bee Hive to once again carry out the tra­di­tion of ap­ple but­ter mak­ing just as the gen­er­a­tions be­fore them have.

Reynolds is still a mem­ber of the so­ci­ety af­ter 40 years and will surely be in at­ten­dance this year as he has been every year pre­vi­ously. His pas­sion for lo­cal his­tory and ar­chae­ol­ogy has served our com­mu­nity in count­less ways over the years and is truly some­thing to ad­mire. Sadly, Mackie passed away in 2013, but his love and dedication to the preser­va­tion of our lo­cal his­tory has re­mained strong even in his ab­sence. Mackie’s fam­ily recipe will hope­fully con­tinue to be passed down through his rel­a­tives and re­main an in­te­gral part of the fes­ti­val for years to come.

This year’s 40th an­niver­sary Ap­ple But­ter Fes­ti­val will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Satur­day, Oct. 14. This is a fam­ily-friendly event with free ad­mis­sion for ev­ery­one. There will be tra­di­tional Scot­tish and Ir­ish mu­sic and foods, hayrides, demon­stra­tions by crafts­peo­ple, lo­cal ar­ti­sans, ac­tiv­i­ties for chil­dren, and of course, ap­ple but­ter mak­ing! All pro­ceeds from the ap­ple but­ter and other foods sold will go di­rectly to the main­te­nance and preser­va­tion of The Bee Hive. The Bee Hive is lo­cated in Fair Hill at Tele­graph Road where it in­ter­sects with Lit­tle Elk Creek Road, next to Rock Pres­by­te­rian Church. For more in­for­ma­tion, please visit the Elk Creeks Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety’s web­site at www.elkcreek­sp­reser­va­tionso­ci­ety.com.


With the help of scores of vol­un­teers along the way, the Elk Creeks Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety’s Ap­ple But­ter Fes­ti­val cel­e­brates 40 years this week­end.

Vol­un­teers be­gin stir­ring large caul­drons of ap­ple but­ter at the 1988 Elk Creeks Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety’s Ap­ple But­ter Fes­ti­val.

Anne Co­p­ley and Libby Gates pick ap­ples at Chatham Or­chard for the 1980 Elk Creeks Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety’s Ap­ple But­ter Fes­ti­val.

The Bee Hive near Lit­tle Elk Creek Road is the rem­nants of a once-thriv­ing vil­lage along the banks of the Lit­tler Elk Creek, and the home of the an­nual Elk Creeks Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety Ap­ple But­ter Fes­ti­val.

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