Fair Hill – Every year, on a chilly October morning, in the early hours before dawn, The Elk Creeks Preservation Society members and volunteers gather at The Bee Hive to light the fires under the large copper kettles that will produce the hundreds of jars of apple butter for which the event is named.
For 44 years now, the society has faithfully and diligently carried out the tradition of apple butter making. Even in 2020, despite COVID, ECPS still came together to provide the community with apple butter and provided pick up service.
Their purpose was not only to preserve the buildings that we refer to as The Bee Hive, but also to preserve the history of the Colonial Scotch-Irish immigrants that settled upon the banks of the Elk Creeks some three hundred years ago.
ECPS’s faithful members and volunteers have done an outstanding job of holding true to the original purpose and mission, which was to share their love of local history and to preserve, restore, and maintain the properties and historic structures of the Elk Creeks’ watershed.
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 because of the many mills that were built upon the banks of these two creeks. The Bee Hive was once a busy little community with its own mill that the Little Elk Creek once flowed through.
The story of the Elk Creeks Preservation Society began in 1976, the year of our nation’s bicentennial celebration Richard “Tucker” Mackie and George Reynolds, 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 the Mackie’s secret family recipe, handed down from generation to generation, that has been used every year since that very first festival.
This is an extra special year for ECPS and the Apple Butter Festival because George Reynolds just celebrated his 99th birthday on September 10th! Reynold’s passion for local history and archaeology has served our community in countless ways over the years and is truly something to admire.
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, including breads, cheese, sausage, and scrapple. Apple butter is quite diverse, and lasts forever – much like the history that our beautiful little county is founded in.
This year’s Apple Butter Festival will be held on Saturday, October 9th. 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.
For more information, please visit the Elk Creeks Preservation Society’s website at www.elkcreekspreservationsociety.com.