Event marks town’s 250th anniversary

August 26, 2017 GMT

REDDING — In the latest celebration of the town’s 250th anniversary, dozens of residents gathered in Putnam Park Saturday for an afternoon of historical fun.

Some visitors to the “Family Day at Putnam Memorial State Park” event wandered the grounds independently, completing a historical scavenger hunt of the 183-acre state park. But most joined park expert T.G. Henderson on a tour, where he explained the park’s history as an encampment for soldiers during the Revolutionary War.

The event was co-sponsored by the Mark Twain Library and Friends and Neighbors of Putnam Park as part of the year-long “Redding Reads” program, which encourages all residents in town to read the same book. This year’s book, “My Brother Sam is Dead,” a novel that explores the town’s history during the Revolutionary War, was chosen to help celebrate the town’s 250th anniversary.

“I’ve read the book and my (three daughters) have all read the book and had a wonderful experience,” said Hilda Rhodes, a resident joining Henderson on the tour Saturday.

Rhodes said she became interested in the history of the town when she moved to Redding from Oregon more than 50 years ago. She discovered when she arrived that her family had actually originated from Redding in the 1700s.

She said the Redding Reads program has helped get more residents interested in the town’s history. She and her husband, Stan, have been to all of the year’s anniversary events so far.

“I relate it to my family, which is really fun,” Rhodes said. “I don’t think they teach the history as much as they used to, so (the program) has brought that back and I’m really delighted.”

Henderson said the book, although it is fiction, is historically accurate.

He said he became a volunteer at the park 11 years ago after a friend who knew Henderson didn’t like history dared him to take the job. After about a year into the job, he became fascinated with the park’s history and started doing his own research.

Residents and out-of-towners have been visiting the park more and more thanks to the Redding Reads program, he added.

About 300 books were available at the start of the program at the library, Town Hall, and other locations around town. Readers are asked to sign their name in the cover and return the book to one of the spots when they are finished.

The remaining events for the anniversary celebration include a program on how patriotism is remembered on Sept. 11, a birthday party for Redding in October, a twilight graveyard tour around Halloween, a discussion about religion and patriotism in November and a trivia contest in November.