Maysville Kentucky Blog

The Maysville Kentucky Blog is your guide to the beautiful and historic small town of Maysville Kentucky, snuggled into the rolling hills along the Ohio River. Though this blog has been discontinued, you can get your Maysville Kentucky fix over at Ken Downing's Mason County Kentucky Blog @

Friday, September 15, 2006

Mel Hankla As Simon Kenton

Mel Hankla has played the character of Simon Kenton for over nine years and will be appearing in character at this weekend's Simon Kenton Festival in Old Washington. "I average about 35 performances (of Kenton) a year," Hankla said in a recent interview with Lexington's Herald-Leader. "I tell stories from Kenton's childhood, as an 80-year-old man." Everything Hankla uses as props and clothing are historically correct, down to the smallest details of materials used and methods of manufacture.

Although lesser known than Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton was a very important figure in Kentucky history. "I can make a good argument that Simon Kenton did as much for Kentucky as Daniel Boone," Hankla said. "Kenton didn't have John Filson as a press agent. That's why Boone became famous while he was still alive."

Hankla is not just as expert on Simon Kenton, but also an expert on flintlock rifles as well:

In 1984, Hankla was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts folk art apprenticeship to study 600 hours under legendary longrifle maker Hershel House of Woodbury. House builds iron-mounted Southern longrifles that are recognized as unique interpretations, based on what early explorers carried into Kentucky around 1760. "It was a life-changing experience, and I have to give Hershel credit for encouraging my interest," Hankla said.

As a member of the Contemporary Longrifle Association, artisans who study and re-create the rifles and accouterments of the 18th century, Hankla continues to build longrifles in a style reminiscent of North Carolina and Virginia. He said he sells what he builds but doesn't take orders.

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