Colonial reenactor brings new life to Bushy Run Battlfield museum

·3 min read

May 24鈥擜 Pittsburgh man with a lifetime passion for history has taken a job at a pivotal battlefield in the region's colonial history.

"My hope is that people will come back to the Bushy Run. We want people to experience this, to come into this building (museum) who had never been inside," to see the exhibits and learn about what happened here, said Shawn MacIntyre, 49, the new museum facilitator at the Bushy Run Battlefield along Route 993 in Penn Township.

MacIntyre, who lives in Pittsburgh's Summer Hill neighborhood, succeeds Michael Tusay, who left Bushy Run in December after two years to become executive director of the Latrobe Art Center.

For now, the position is part-time, with the museum open from Friday through Sunday, MacIntyre said. As state restrictions loosen, they hope to keep the museum open from Wednesday through Sunday, he said.

MacIntyre, who grew up in Pittsburgh's Shadyside section, comes to Bushy Run with experience at some of the region's important historic sites and institutions. He was a history buff as a youngster, opting to watch documentaries on WQED when friends were watching cartoons.

As an adult, his passion for history was reignited in 2015 by a tour of the Civil War battlefield of Gettysburg, where he observed guides who focused on the strategies of the turning point of the Civil War. It came at a time when he was considering a career change after some 25 years as an emergency medical technician.

During the past two years, he has been a historical interpretation and tour guide at Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village near Avella in Washington County. The cultural village of the Monongahela Indians is from the 1570's and an archaeological digs at a rock shelter has produce evidence of remains between 16,000 and 19,000 years old. He worked on developing programs for children who visit an 18th century trading post at Meadowcroft.

Three years ago, he was a living history coordinator and education coordinator as an intern at the Fort Pitt Museum in Pittsburgh, where he said he learned how to use 18th century weapons, fire the cannon and learn about the clothing they wore, the tools they used and their cooking utensils.

People need to understand the history that is here, in their own backyard, MacIntyre said.

"The first world war (the French and Indian War) started here," MacIntyre said, referring to the war between the British and French that was ignited by George Washington in what is now southern Fayette County in the summer of 1754.

MacIntyre has the right background and interest for the position, said Bonnie Ramus, president of the Bushy Run Battlefield Heritage Society Inc., which operates the state-owned battlefield museum.

"He familiar with all of the history. He's doing an excellent job," Ramus said.

MacIntyre's hiring coincided with the state permitting its museums to reopen in April, after having closed the facilities in March 2020 because of the pandemic. That forced the cancellation of the annual Bushy Run battle reenactment last August. With the uncertainty surrounding the reopening of the museum and lifting of state sanctions limiting outdoor gatherings, Ramus said they had to cancel this year's reenactment as well.

But, MacIntyre is hoping that they will be able to mount a demonstration by a small group of reenactors.

"It's a way to attract more people and get more people interested," in the battle at Bushy Run, Ramus said.

One of those reenactors could be MacIntyre, who portrays a soldier in the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment, known as the Black Watch. That regiment fought in the French and Indian War and was part of Capt. William Trent's unit that constructed a building at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers that the French destroyed before building Fort Duquesne, said MacIntyre, whose grandfather fought in the Canadian Black Watch regiment in the trench warfare of World War I.

"I feel I have a connection to them," MacIntyre said.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, or via Twitter .

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