Monday, July 25, 2016

Charlton Park 2016: The Return of Mr. Bagley (and Other Tales From the 1860s)

~Welcome~
Who shall I say is calling?
Finding people - the right people - is of utmost importance when trying to bring the past to life. And that can be a difficult thing to do, especially if you take the 1st person/immersion path. Like-minded reenactors who share the same passion and have enough knowledge of the era in which you depict - those who can speak comfortably, as if they actually were from another time - will make all the difference in the world. That means research, research, and more research.
This can be a difficult task. Many reenactors want nothing to do with this form of reenacting. I would venture to say most stay away from it. So finding the right people can sometimes be like searching for a hat in a haystack - not as difficult as finding a needle in that same pile of hay, but you do have to do some searching. And once you find those you connect with, who have the same mindset as you (especially if your surroundings are historically accurate) consider yourself blessed, for it can open up an entire new/old world.
History come to life.
Guess what?
I found living historians with that very same mindset! Or, rather, we found each other.
The time?
Time to begin our journey to the past!
I have been very fortunate in that I've been 'working' with most of the same people in this capacity for a number of years now, and we just all seem to fit together like pieces of a historical puzzle. We know each others personalities,  roles, and styles well enough to come off natural and be comfortable with each other, and that, too, can make all the difference.
Yes, it takes time - lots of time - but the end result is so well worth it.
This style of living history is, to me, one of the major highlights during our reenacting season. And I appreciate very much that the good folks at Charlton Park has enough trust to allow us the use of their historic home year after year. And it's because of this allowance that we continue to try to make it better and more realistic each time.
Charlton Park, in case you are unaware, is a wonderful mini-open-air museum located in rural Hastings, Michigan. "Charlton Park depicts more clearly than conventional museums the day to day life of the early inhabitants of Barry County. The variety of old objects collector Irving Charlton amassed over years during the mid-20th century enabled the creation (or recreation) of a typical mid-Michigan village of the late 1800s to early 1900s."
And now there are twenty five historic residences, businesses and community buildings that were moved from throughout Barry County to create the village.
Because of Charlton's collection, preservation for future generations of a rich heritage will ensure future generations opportunities to witness the past in ways books cannot do.
And we, as living historians, get to bring it to life!
Please understand, we are by no means 'perfect' in this venture; we do make our mistakes, sometimes burst out in laughter in ways our Victorian ancestors would have been horrified, take photographs here and there (as 'stealthily' as I can and not in front of the visiting public), and well, let's face it, we're only 21st century people emulating the past the best we can. But we make a valiant effort that, for the most part, comes off in a realistic manner.
And that's what counts - the conscious effort made by all to do it right. 
So, to give you an idea of our day at Charlton Park - -
It's July of 1861. We are a Maryland family who, since the election of Lincoln as President, have decided to align ourselves with the south - the Confederate cause.
Here is my 'immediate' reenacting family:
Once again, Larissa and I were husband and wife, but this year we had a "new" daughter. As Kristen & Jillian had previous commitments, Amanda filled in and did a fine job for this, her first time out, especially considering she was thrown into the wolves den (meaning she hadn't done anything like this to this extent before).
Bravo Amanda!

As the story goes, my sister and mother-in-law were coming in by train and then by stage from Michigan to our local stagecoach stop, the Bristol Inn. The ladies of the 24th Michigan have taken to bringing this old beautiful building to life in much the same manner as we have with the Sixberry House.
Here is the 1848 Bristol Inn
photo of Bristol Inn courtesy of the Charlton Park web site
 And...
...here is "our" home - the 1858 Sixberry House

Our day began with preparations to venture to the Bristol Inn to pick up my sister and mother-in-law.
Mother and daughter prepare to head to the Bristol Inn stagecoach stop to pick up grandmother and aunt.
But wait----what's this?
Uh oh - Larissa noticed dust on our hall tree. It looks like our servant girl will be spoken to.

As we entered town, a stop to get some sugar from the general store allowed us time to visit with the local townsfolk.
Charlton Park has done a fine job in portraying the realism of a small 19th century village.

The local sheriff had arrested the man settin' on the steps of the barber shop. Not sure what the poor man did to warrant being put in chains, but, rest assured, he will be put in a hot cell until the circuit-riding lawyer comes to town next month!
In the meantime...
As we made our way back to the house with our newly arrived relatives, the military presence throughout the area was disconcerting. My sister Jacqueline (in yellow) was quite concerned at the sight of this.
(photo courtesy of Mr. Steve Hainstock)

As a typical family of the early 1860s, we enjoy gathering together to tell stories about youthful events of long ago. Usually these narratives are quite humorous, for, since we are not actual relations in our 21st century lives, the stories are made up and can go in any believable direction the author chooses. For instance, Jacqueline told Larissa of a story about me as a very young lad and how I fell through millpond ice one winter's day because on our walk to school I pulled away from her hand and ran from her. Oh yeah, she also told of how our father tanned my hide afterward.
Another time she spoke of when I was older, shortly before she married, and how I had a little bit too much 'spirits' one evening while at a local tavern. As I stumbled out of the bar I jumped on my horse, then galloped through town shouting "To arms! The British Regulars are on the march!" as if I were Paul Revere.
Oh yes, we all had a good laugh at her stories.
But I responded with a story of my own:
It was when Jacqueline was of courting age that a Mr. Bagley showed an interest in her. But our father would have nothing to do with this young man and forbid my sister from seeing him. Well, late one evening, Mr. Bagley showed up at our home and threw tiny pebbles at Jacqueline's bedroom window in hopes of getting her attention without a-waking anyone. Only it wasn't my sister's window he was hitting with those pebbles...it our father's!
Why, father came bursting out of the door, gun in hand, aiming and firing that old flint lock in the direction of Mr. Bagley, who was a-flyin' out of there like he had wings on his feet!
And that was the last we heard of ol' Pete Bagley.
Well, that was my tale from two years ago, and ever since Jacqueline has come up with numerous other youthful anecdotes about me, though I have not been able to find in my mind to think of another for her.
So this year I tried a different route: I came up with the idea to have, without Jacqueline's knowledge, Mr. Bagley show up at our door!  And, yes, I did find someone willing to play the role in such a way that would be realistic and, more importantly, kept it a total surprise - Mr. Dan Conklin.
Imagine the surprise on Jacqueline's face when our servant announced, "There is a Mr. Bagley here to see Miss Jacqueline."
Jacqueline was, in every sense of the word, dumbfounded that Mr. Bagley had showed up at our door!
She was seriously speechless.
She became as flushed as a red rose, exclaiming, "I feel I have the vapors!"
Larissa and I were the only two 'originals' from when the story was first told, so we could not stop laughing for crying!
And neither could Jacqueline, by the way.
Through all of this, Mr. Bagley continued to speak and re-tell the pebble story as it happened from his point of view, all in a serious tone.
Folks, I can't recall laughing so hard in quite a while. We could not contain ourselves. This is one for the books, that's for certain!
Ahhh...victory was mine that day...!

Would you like to meet Mr. Bagley?
Well, here he is!
After father chased Mr. Bagley off the property, he ran out of town and eventually became a surveyor.
Hearing his stories of far off places as a surveyor allowed our imaginations to wander. I must admit, I have not been more than a few miles from this home so hearing of lands and people in the north and west stirred quite an interest.
As Mr. Bagley regaled us with his own tales of life as a surveyor, we found he made it up to Michigan, within twenty miles of my dear sister's home! 
This day will be spoken of for years to come.
But Mr. Bagley wasn't our only visitor that day.
Our domestic servant announced that there was a Mr. Ira Kaufmann, a taylor, who would like to speak to us on matters that was of great concern.
Folks, one of the greatest parts about living history is learning from other historians - learning about historical details rarely mentioned in most other places and pretty much never brought up in school history classes.
On this day, my reenacting family found out quite a bit about the plight of the Jews who lived in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.
We learned of General Order No. 11, which was the title of an order issued by Major-General Ulysses S. Grant on December 17, 1862 to order the "expulsion of all Jews in his military district, comprising areas of the aforementioned Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky." It was issued as part of a Union campaign against a black market in Southern cotton, which Grant thought was being run "mostly by Jews and other unprincipled traders."
Mr. Kaufmann, the gentleman on the right, told us of the extremity of the situation he and his fellow Jewish citizens were experiencing.
Union military commanders in the South were responsible for administering the trade licenses and trying to control the black market in Southern cotton, as well as for conducting the war. Grant issued the order in an effort to reduce corruption.
Following protests from Jewish community leaders and an outcry by members of Congress and the press, at President Abraham Lincoln’s insistence, Grant revoked the General Order on January 17, 1863.
During his campaign for the presidency in 1868, Grant claimed that he had issued the order without prejudice against Jews, but simply as a way to address a problem that certain Jews had caused.
~(Yes, I realize we were portraying 1861, but we included this situation for historical purposes as well as for a teaching moment for all who were within earshot)~
The stories we heard confirmed for us that our alignment with the southern cause was a just one.

Later in the afternoon, upon looking out our back window, we were surprised to find a regiment of Union soldiers camped out in our back yard!
The sea of growing blue directly outside our back door
As I was just one man, I chose not to stir the pot so I let them be. Fortunately, they did not stay long and left shortly after.

Yankee soldiers continued to swarm throughout our area, however, and had set up tents and guard posts across the road from our side fence.
After Mr. Kaufmann had left, we decided to take a stroll into town. We found our local citizens doing their best to not allow the soldier's presence to conflict with enjoying their activities.
Here you can see a few of the ladies who run the Bristol Inn enjoying a game of croquet:
Miss Jones tries her hand...and did very well.

Miss Mansfield seems to be enjoying herself immensely!

Why...look who it is! It's Mr. Kaufmann! He certainly is enjoying a much needed respite!

The weather on this day, though normally in an extreme heat, was very pleasant at 75 degrees and sunny.
That is the Bristol Inn in the background.

But the sounds of the fife and drums with marching feet broke the pleasantry of the game - -
Through our little "Maryland" town, the Yankees marched on.

Do you see the young lady marching with the infantry in the picture below?
Why, that's Michigan's own Annie Etheridge (portrayed by the 21st Michigan's own Jillian)!
Lorinda Anna "Annie" Blair was born into a wealthy family on May 3, 1844, in Detroit, Michigan. She was an only child, and her mother died when she was quite young. Soon thereafter, Annie moved with her father to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The greater part of her childhood was spent there.

Mrs. Etheridge acted as what today would be called a combat 
medic, providing immediate medical care to wounded soldiers, 
often under fire during battle. In addition to nursing, 
she served the regiment as cook and laundress.


At the age of sixteen, Annie married James Etheridge. When her father lost nearly all of his wealth, he returned to Michigan. Annie remained in Wisconsin with her husband, but her marriage failed. She returned to Detroit in 1861.
Annie had already been a nurse at a Michigan hospital, and the Civil War provided her the perfect opportunity to continue in that profession. Annie enlisted as a Daughter of the Regiment in the 2nd Michigan Infantry.  Daughters of the Regiment were women who followed the army in a quasi-military capacity, did chores in camp, and usually served as nurses.






Jillian as "Gentle Annie"
She wore a long sidesaddle skirt with two pistols on her belt, and stayed just behind the lines. When she saw a man fall, she dashed into the midst of the battle to lift the wounded soldier onto her horse and get him to safety. Twice her horse was shot out from under her.
Once the fighting had ended, she would scour the area to retrieve the soldiers who had been left on the battlefield, and bound the wounds of those who had not yet been seen by a surgeon, making them as comfortable as possible.
After the Battle of Antietam, the 2nd Michigan was transferred to Tennessee, but Annie elected to stay with the Army of the Potomac and joined the 3rd Michigan Infantry Regiment, in which she had many friends. With this unit, she cared for the wounded at the Battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.
In the summer of 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant ordered all women to leave the Union camps. Annie was forced to leave her regiment, but she did not go home. She joined the hospital service at City Point, Virginia.
For her bravery under fire, Annie was one of only two women awarded the Kearny Cross
She returned to Detroit with her regiment after the war ended, and remained with them until they were mustered out in July 1865.
Annie had received no pay for her four years of service to the Union Army during the Civil War. In 1886 she requested a pension of $50 a month. In 1887 Congress approved a pension of $25 a month.
Annie Blair Etheridge died in 1913 and received a veteran's burial in the Arlington National Cemetery.
This was Jillian's second time portraying a person in history. A couple years ago she was Ginnie Wade during our Gettysburg reenactment up in Port Sanilac. Jillian has also portrays my daughter in some of our living history excursions.
(information about Annie Etheridge came from HERE

As mentioned earlier, we had a little 'extra' added in our scenario this year: the fine ladies of the 24th Michigan, of whom you just seen playing croquet, "ran" the local tavern, and although we were not able to get it together for both of our interpretations in such a way as we would have liked, for there was so much going on, we were still able to visit the Inn for a short time.
Welcome to the Bristol Inn. Would you like a piece of pie?.
(photo courtesy of Samantha Mansfield)

While running the inn, the ladies have found various ways to amuse themselves and their visitors, including book readings and parlor games.
(photo courtesy of Samantha Mansfield)
The good ladies of the 24th Michigan and those of us in the 21st Michigan "play" well together and enjoy helping each other out to make the past come alive. We've worked with them in previous years including a fun Jackson scenario from a few years ago (click HERE). I hope this venture continues and grows ever larger in its scope.

With our afternoon dinner meal over it was time to enjoy that popular summer treat, ice cream!
Making homemade ice cream has become an annual delight for us at the Sixberry House. One of the best things my wife and I purchased for reenacting - my actual 21st century wife - was a replica 19th century ice cream maker, including all of the necessary parts of an original: the bucket, canister, dasher, and hand crank.
A taste of days gone by.
This year we added raspberries! Was it good!!

We each took a churn...er...turn at cranking the handle to mix the ingredients.
Yep, the past was actually in color, as this picture shows, and not sepia...
...but this is how the folks of the future will see us. We were lucky enough to have a circuit-riding photographer happen our way at the right time, and he took a carte de visite (cdv) of our summertime pleasantry.
~If I could churn back time...~

There was time for one more photograph, which we had expertly tinted into color - it's very realistic looking, wouldn't you say?
Our "daughter" did not return in time for our annual extended family photograph, so we had to take it without her.
And there you have an account of the occurrences of our day at the Sixberry House in Charlton Park.
It takes quite a bit of effort to breathe life into the research that comes from history books.
But bringing the past alive in such a way is as gratifying as anything a living historian can do, and I so very much appreciate the time and effort that everyone here puts forth in the changing up of our lives in such a way as to create a new family. Imagine for a time having a different spouse, a different daughter, a different sister, a different mother-in-law - - a different life. To make it all seem 'real,' it takes a unique combination of a totally different mindset, which is no easy task, and can be, at first, a little awkward. But the end result can be most pleasing in every way.
I sincerely thank everyone who continuously time-travels with me in such an immersion/1st person manner: Larissa, Jackie, Candy, Carrie, Amanda - - and, during other excursions: Carolyn, Kristen, Violet, Jillian, and Dave.
And then a few who add the extra flavor as 1st person visitors: Sandy, Guy, Brian, Dan, Vickie, and countless others over the years.
You all are the best.


And now for a few "extra" pictures that I think you might enjoy:
This photo of Mrs. Root is actually one of my favorites that I took on this day. For some reason, however, I could not think of how to fit it into my story. 
No matter, it's here now for you all to enjoy as well.


Mrs. Hansen is one of the top spinners I know of and includes antique spinning wheels in her presentations.
There is plenty enough wool to spin to keep her busy from now until 1862!

Dirty dishes done dirt cheap!
The 21st Michigan's own Mrs. St. John keeps her area bright and tidy.

I cannot even caption this photograph! Can you?

"Hey Ken!"
I was called over to the bank by photographer Mr. Hainstock.
"I'd like to photograph a bank robbery, and was hoping you would be the banker."
Well, I didn't want to be some weak-spined office man so I added a little extra to the photo-shoot by taking the robber by surprise and grabbing his gun.
Yeah...turned out pretty good, eh?

Won't you come in?
Ha! I should have replaced the picture at the very top of today's 
posting with the one here.
Hmmm...now what would you have thought had Agnes answered 
the door in this way...?
Have a nice...day...heh heh heh

Charlton Park is one of the gems in our state that very few history nerds from out of the general area visit.
"It's too far!" they cry.
Really? It's only a little more than two hours from metro-Detroit.
"It's not very big - - not like Greenfield Village! It's not worth the drive for something that would only take an hour to see," they say.
Yeah, you're right...it isn't very big. But what should that matter? As a student of history, you should visit as many local (and national) museums as possible, no matter the size. And seriously...an hour to visit 25 historic structures? If that's the way you think, then you are not a student of history! Here's your chance to visit structures mainly from the 19th century - all from rural Michigan: a barber shop, a blacksmith shop, a general store, a hardware store, two homes (including our own Sixberry House), a school, a printing shop, an inn, a saw mill, a church...and more from over a hundred years ago.
Doesn't sound very small, does it?
And they have numerous events throughout the year. Aside from our Civil War Muster they also have long-bow shooting weekends, antique car and boat motor show, and weekends celebrating the Fall Harvest, Hallowe'en, and Christmas. 
Yeah...you would do well to visit Charlton Park.
And, for out of towners, look in your own area.
I don't think you'll be disappointed.
 Click HERE to visit the Charlton Park web site

Until next time, see you in time.














.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Visiting Colonial Williamsburg (part 2)

~This is the 2nd installment in a multi-part series of postings on historic Colonial Williamsburg (click HERE to visit part one). After years of talking, researching, planning, and saving, I finally made it - with my wife and two youngest children, we ecstatically found ourselves in Colonial Williamsburg!
I took over 1100 pictures during our four and a half days there, and I am using my Passion for the Past blog as a sort of photographic journal (with text).
I hope you enjoy it~
Visiting Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia has been a dream of mine since I first became aware of the open-air museum back in the 1970s during the celebration of the Bicentennial, and it's been my focus to go ever since: no, I was not ever interested in Disney World, Vegas, camping, or a cruise.
Ever.
It was always someplace historical that I wanted to visit. Heck! My favorite part of Cedar Point was Frontier Town! And I have previously been to Nashville and Gettysburg, both of which were very cool.
But unfortunately I never made it to that oh-so-historic city in Virginia...until this year. Yes, in June of 2016 my wife and I, along with our two youngest, finally made it to Colonial Williamsburg!
After my 1st post of our adventures there I had multiple people ask me, "Did you really wear period clothing the entire time you were there? Even in the Virginia heat? Yeah...it sounds like something you'd do!"
You betcha! I'm a living historian, and the chorus of "Aren't you hot in all those clothes" rings out like an old familiar song. Plus, I must say, I felt sort of...naked...during the rare occurrence when I walked around historic Williamsburg in modern clothing. It's hard for me to be in a historic place and dress modern...
In fact, aside from being a living historian, I also frequently dress in period attire to visit historic Greenfield Village, an open air museum that is located up here in Michigan, so wearing the fashions of the past is nothing new to me. And so it goes that Williamsburg should be no different - - and they encourage it!
I was warned, by the way, from the period-dressed workers that I would be asked questions and have many photos taken of me.
No problem! By the end of the second day I was pretty well versed on where most things were located, and as for the pictures...well, kinda goes with the territory, doesn't it?
With that being said, please allow me to take you on the second of a multi-part time-travel journey to the Revolutionary past at Colonial Williamsburg.
I hope you enjoy:
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

To get to the Revolutionary City, one can choose to ride the shuttle bus or...
...take the much more beautiful and very picturesque pathway to the past walk instead, which is what I normally did. And sometimes my wife did as well. In the earlier part of the morning (8:00), with the sun up and the heat still at bay, this was the perfect way to begin our day.
And then the world of the past opens up before you...the tranquil outskirts of the old city transports visitors, who quickly forget the modern day, back in time to the 1770s...
My wife Patty, a long-time historical reenactor, spins wool into yarn, dyes it naturally, and then knits or crochets scarves, mittens, sontags, etc., out of the completed work. Yes, she's a sheep-to-shawl type of girl and does the entire process of cleaning and carding before spinning.
Needless to say, she has an insatiable love for where the wool has come: sheep! 
(if you look real close, you can see a sheep laying in the shade near the back fence)

I am also a long-time reenactor, and will, at times, portray a farmer from the past. Speaking to modern folk about how the everyday farming families lived in the old days helps them to understand the hardships their ancestors did just to survive.

This farm, on the edge of the city, was a welcoming scene upon moving from present to past.

As we found our way closer to the busier part of town, I was in awe at the restoration of this colonial city, not only of the very active "downtown" portion on Duke of Gloucester street (where the majority of the crowds tend to go) - which is about as historically perfect as any city can be - but given that the structures along the side street "neighborhoods" also were historically accurate just gave it that final touch of authenticity that any historian looks for. It fully made me realize how much time, effort, dedication, and, yes, money was spent to restore such an important and vital part of our nation's past - a gift for all future Americans to enjoy and, more importantly, learn.
Thank God for all involved past & present!

I am not sure the name of the house in the next couple of pictures, but it certainly did set up a perfect background for my next photographic encounter.
I very much appreciate the kindness of Williamsburg employees, and of their willingness to "play" - that is, pose 'naturally' for photographs. 
I saw this young lady walking along the road and struck up a conversation, asking her what it was like to work in such a wonderful place. Like many others who are employed here, she gave a big smile and told me that it was an amazing experience and that she enjoyed it very much.
I can only imagine...
My daughter, who knows exactly what I like and look for in taking photographs, captured the encounter like a champ!
I also mentioned to the young colonial a little about Michigan's own Greenfield Village, which is another fine place to visit if you are a history buff, for Williamsburg and Greenfield are like sister open-air museums - the roots (restoration) are similar in that both began roughly around the same time and each has saved, restored, & reconstructed historic structures, and even though the outcome is different, both are excellent in their own right.
It's always good to promote the rich history America has to offer.

After a very nice visit, I continued on my way, enjoying and taking in as much of the 1770s as I could.
Even though I did have a carriage ride (see my first Williamsburg post), I did most of my traveling the way the majority of the populace did in the 18th century: by foot!
Strollinging the streets of Williamsburg early in the morning while wearing my period clothing was one of my most favorite things to do. It just felt...right...like I belonged...
Anyone who knows me personally will tell you that I like to talk. Oh, there is no question there! I'm a talker! It drives my wife crazy to walk our own modern neighborhood with me because I speak to anyone I see outside working on their lawns or sitting on their porch. I mean anyone.
"Who was that?" she'll ask me after I've struck up a conversation with someone standing at their gate a few blocks from our home.
"I don't know," comes my reply.
"Then why were you talking to him (or her)?"
"They were standing there," I reply, "I said 'hi' to them, they said responded back and, well, we just started talking!"
"How can you do that?!?"
"I don't know. Just natural for me, I guess."
Yep - that's just about it, too.
Hey look! People!

One can learn so much if they only weren't too shy to speak with others. 
It was during a conversation I had with the good folks here that I found out why there were ladders on the roofs of many of the houses - - they were there in case of roof or chimney fires. Yes, it's what I guessed it to be, but it was good to hear the answer from one of their historians (and not whip out an i-phone right there in public) so I knew for sure.
See what conversations can do?

I found, as I meandered throughout Williamsburg, the workers here were very friendly and happy to talk with me, which I appreciated greatly.
Questions always seemed to be happily answered.

At Greenfield Village, which I mentioned earlier, Model T automobiles are constantly riding throughout its streets, effectively giving off a strong turn-of-the-20th-century feel for the visitors watching them put-put past the many Victorian buildings.
That's what the 18th century style carriages being pulled by the clip-clopping horses do for Colonial Williamsburg: effectively helping to create the sights and sounds of the common transportation atmosphere of the 1770s/80s.
On any ol' street in Williamsburg you may see a driver with his team of horses attached to a carriage parked 'neath a shade tree for a rest from the summer's beating sun.
This is a scene from over 240 years ago brought back to life like no other place but Colonial Williamsburg can.

Sometimes moving off of Duke of Gloucester Street will give the visitor a momentary peaceful easy feeling, which adds so much to the realism. 
It's like a perfect summer picture.

Even as we walked down Duke of Gloucester Street, the horses with carriages would pop out of a side street or moving across the field...it was quite a sight to see
Just as common in days of old, we also find carts being hauled by oxen.
I love this place!
As we strolled about town, taking in the beauty of colonial America, we could feel the pangs of hunger engulfing us. Yes, it was time to find another place to dine.
And with multiple taverns to choose from, we thought to give Shields a try.
Built in the first part of the 18th century by his father-in-law, James Shields took over the business in the early 1740s, attracting the "lower gentry and successful middling customers."
The line up to have lunch at the 1745 Shields Tavern

This is, perhaps, my favorite sign in all Williamsburg.
The sign from another perspective...

I suppose I could be considered a "successful middling customer."
My family chose to dress in their period attire for morning and early afternoon, but as the heat of the day rose they had changed into modern clothing, so, by the time we dined in the mid-day, I was the 'lone wolf' who remained 1770s.
Yep - - I'm that kind of guy.
Here I am with my son Miles.

And here is my wife and daughter.

The line of candles made for an interesting sight.

Since Mr. Shields died in 1750, I do not believe that's who our host was representing. But he spoke kindly to us all as his customers and gave what was, to me, a beautiful Irish toast of good health and long life:
"We drink to your coffin. May it be built from the wood of a hundred year old oak tree from a seed that I shall plant tomorrow."
Shields is another reasonably priced place to go for the mid-day meal. However, should you feel the need to enjoy a very different period ambience, the tavern, like the others in town, opens up at night to a step-into-the-past atmosphere that cannot be replicated during the day. Yes, it's a bit pricier (which is why we didn't partake), but, I hear, it's a wonderful experience.
In the evening of the day - - maybe for our next visit here...

Our bellies filled with fine food, it was off to explore another historic house.
Peyton Randolph was quite a man, and one of the true unsung Founding Fathers who deserves much more recognition than the little he has gotten outside of Williamsburg.
I took the liberty of including here a bit of what the Colonial Williamsburg website has written on this patriot:
One of the oldest and most original houses in Colonial Williamsburg, the Peyton Randolph house was built in 1715 by William Robertson. Sir John Randolph purchased the home in 1721, and later purchased the land next to it and built a second home on the east lot in 1724.
Sir John Randolph, the only Virginia Colonial to be knighted by the English Crown, was highly respected and very wealthy. When he died in 1737, the house was under the care of his wife, Susannah, until his second of three sons, Peyton, turned 24 years of age. The first son, Beverley, inherited property in Gloucester County and the third son received land in the city’s southern edge. Susannah remained in the house until her death in 1754.
The beautiful front hall staircase
Peyton Randolph was on the black list of patriots the British proposed to arrest and hang after he presided over the Continental Congress in 1775.  Upon his return to Williamsburg, the volunteer company of militia of the city offered him its protection in an address that concluded:
"May heaven grant you long to live the father of your country
and the friend to freedom and humanity!"

Dining room
If his friend George Washington succeeded him as America’s patriarch, Randolph nevertheless did as much as any Virginian to bring the new nation into the world. He presided over every important Virginia assembly in the years leading to the Revolution, was among the first of the colony's great men to oppose the Stamp Act, chaired the first meeting of the delegates of 13 colonies at Philadelphia in 1774, and chaired the second in 1775.

Dining room
Dining room in background
Lindsey *tried* to teach me the proper way a gentleman should stand, but I don't believe I have it down just yet. 
But I will get it, mark me!
Word of Parliament's intended Stamp Act brought Virginians and their burgesses into conflict with the Crown itself in 1764. Peyton Randolph was appointed chairman of a committee to draft protests to the king, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons maintaining the colony's exclusive right of self-taxation.

Guest bedchamber
This responsibility put Peyton Randolph at odds with Patrick Henry, the Virginian most noted for opposition to the tax. At the end of the legislative session in 1765, Henry, a freshman, introduced seven resolutions against the act. Peyton Randolph, George Wythe, and others thought that Henry's resolutions added nothing to the colony's case and that their consideration was improper until the colony had a reply to its earlier protests.  

Bed chamber for niece Elizabeth
Bed chamber for niece Elizabeth
In the final days of the session, after many opponents had left the city, Patrick Henry introduced his measures and made the famous speech in which he said “Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First had his Cromwell, and George the Third...” prompting cries of treason from the remaining burgesses present. Peyton Randolph, though not yet Speaker, was presiding. When Speaker John Robinson resumed the chair the following day (May 30), Henry carried five of his resolves by a single ballot. A tie would have allowed Robinson to cast the deciding "nay." Jefferson, standing at the chamber door, said Peyton Randolph emerged saying, "By God, I would have given one hundred guineas for a single vote."

Hall stairway window - simply beautiful!
Peyton Randolph is considered to be the first President of the United States, as he was the President of the First and Second Continental Congresses and played an important role leading up to the American Revolution. He chaired the meeting during Patrick Henry’s fiery “Give me liberty or give me death” speech, negotiated the return of the gunpowder to the Colonial Magazine from Governor Dunmore, and his home served as a meeting place for other revolutionaries like George Wythe and Thomas Jefferson, who was also his cousin.
Peyton & Betty Randolph's bedchamber
Following Peyton’s death in Philadelphia in 1775, his body was pickled in a barrel and sent back to Williamsburg. Today, he is one of few buried under William and Mary’s Wren Chapel, in the Wren Crypt, with his father Sir Randolph, and brother John Randolph, a Tory. The books willed to Peyton from his father were given to his cousin Thomas Jefferson, who added the large collection to his own library. These books would later become the first in founding the Library of Congress. After Peyton’s death, his wife, Elizabeth “Betty” Harrison, resided in the home until her death in 1782.

Peyton & Betty Randolph's bedchamber
Peyton & Betty Randolph's bedchamber
The Peyton Randolph House is featured on every ghost tour in Williamsburg and boasts title of most infamous structure, next to the Public Gaol and Wythe House, as the most haunted houses in Williamsburg. Since its construction in 1715, about 30 people have died in the house, from children to adults, due to freak accidents, murders, war, to mysterious natural illnesses.
Looking below stairs 
Presenter/interpreter Lindsey & I:
This young lady did a remarkable job in her presentation/tour of the Peyton Randolph house. Through her words and expressions, she brought those who once lived here alive again.
Thank you for such a wonderful tour!

As I mentioned in my first installment, one of the daily events I made a point to see were the interpreters presenting as our Founding Fathers & Mothers. Now, there are over a dozen of these "Nation Builders" (as Williamsburg calls them), so considering that my stay there was for less than a week, I could not be in the audience to see each one - I was at the mercy of their schedule.
But those who I did see were remarkable in that their knowledge of who they were portraying was mind-boggling - they became the Founder through 1st person interpretation and were able to easily answer whatever question came their way with comfortable and accuracy. I believe what impressed me the most was their willingness to even take questions from the audience.
My friend Larissa and I as Paul Revere & Sybil 
Ludington presenting at a local middle school.
I know this as a personal fear, for I, just this year, began presenting as Paul Revere at reenactments, and being new to this sort of thing scares the daylights out of me.
So, now that I've taken the steps in my own historic interpretation, my admiration for folks who 'become' an actual historical person goes without saying. And this admiration I have is not only for the interpreters in Williamsburg, but to the folks I know here in Michigan who's knowledge and sincerity in their accurate portrayals are every bit as strong: Fred Priebe as Abraham Lincoln, Bob Stark as Benjamin Franklin, Dave Tennies as Senator Jacob Howard (1860s), and, more recently, Larissa Fleishman as Sybil Ludington (considered to be the female Paul Revere).
You may recall in my previous Williamsburg post of my encounter with the 'elder' Thomas Jefferson.
Today's meeting happens to be with Patrick Henry, which was a perfect segue after visiting the Peyton Randolph House.
Patrick Henry was a lawyer, patriot, orator, and willing participant in virtually every aspect of the founding of America.
In 1760, he appeared in Williamsburg to take his attorney's examination before Robert Carter Nicholas, Edmund Pendleton, John and Peyton Randolph, and George Wythe.
Henry’s words were considered by many to be to the point of treason in defending his resolutions against the Stamp Act in the House of Burgesses May 30, 1765.
As mentioned earlier (and I repeat it here due to its importance), Henry was so carried away by the fervor of his own argument, the plainly dressed burgess from Louisa County exclaimed that "Caesar had his Brutus —Charles the First, his Cromwell — and George the Third — " At this point, cries of treason rose from all sides, but with hardly a pause, Henry neatly "baffled the charge vociferated" and won the burgesses for his cause. Five of his resolutions approved, the new leader in Virginia politics saddled his lean horse and took the westward road out of Williamsburg. (After his departure, one of the resolutions was overturned.) Henceforth, Patrick Henry was a leader in every protest against British tyranny and in every movement for colonial rights.

Richard Schumann interprets the character of Patrick Henry for The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

In March 1775, Patrick Henry urged his fellow Virginians to arm in self-defense, closing his appeal (uttered at St. John's Church in Richmond, where the legislature was meeting) with the immortal words: "I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death."
Henry's call to arms was carried over the protests of more conservative patriots and was one of the causes of the order for Lord Dunmore, the royal governor, to remove some gunpowder from the Magazine. Henry, "a Quaker in religion but the very devil in politics," mobilized the militia to force restitution of the powder. Since Henry's action followed the British march on Concord by only a few hours, it is said to mark the beginning of the American Revolution in Virginia.
Mr. Patrick Henry and I.
It was an honor to meet another of our Founding Fathers.
Henry played a prominent role in the fifth Virginia convention, which convened on May 6, 1776, and on June 29 was elected the first governor of the Commonwealth under its new constitution, adopted the same day. Patrick Henry served five terms as the first and sixth governor of Virginia.
He died in 1799 at his home on Red Hill Plantation in Campbell County.

Amazing...first Thomas Jefferson and now Patrick Henry.
Which of our Founding Fathers will I meet next? 
I suppose you'll have to wait until the third installment of my Williamburg adventure to find out... 


Another tour we took was at the "R. Charlton Coffee House," located in the prime area very close to the Capitol Building on the east end of Duke of Gloucester Street.
A sign of the times~
In the early 1760s Richard Charlton was a local wigmaker and barber, and included Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and George Wythe among his clients. It was around this time that he also became proprietor of a newly converted coffeehouse near the Capitol.
(photo by Mike Karp)

I enjoyed the hospitality shown to me inside Mr. Charlton's Coffee House.
During our tour, visitors were offered coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.
I chose...
...hot chocolate - - real colonial hot chocolate. Thick and rich and v-e-r-y chocolate-y.
And very good, I might add.
When chocolate arrived in English North America, it was available as chocolate nuts, as shells, and in processed “chocolate cakes,” lumps of grated powder and sugar ready to be stirred into boiling water, mixed with whatever ingredients one preferred, and frothed with the little hand mill. In pre-Revolutionary Williamsburg, unsweetened chocolate went for about two shillings sixpence per pound, slightly more than a free unskilled laborer or sailor earned in a day. Obviously, few of those men drank chocolate.
Ben Franklin, in 1785, wrote in a letter to John Adams: “The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain.”
During the ten years the coffeehouse was open, many important political figures frequented its rooms, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Lieutenant-Governor Francis Fauquier, as well as many merchants and gentry.
Richard Charlton’s Coffeehouse is also significant because of the role that it played in the town’s history. Beyond its list of famous patrons, the Coffeehouse served as an important center of social, political, and business activity within the town, due in part to its proximity to the Capitol.
A gentry establishment that permitted no women, its sequestered rooms provided a place to conduct confidential business, or to host exclusive gatherings.
I was happy to be/play a part!
Perhaps more important to history than these private salons was the front porch, a simple shelter spanning the building's face. Here, Williamsburg's objection to England’s Stamp Act of 1765 manifested as a vicious mob.
The story goes that George Mercer, a stamp agent just sent from England, was chased down Duke of Gloucester Street by an angry crowd which protested the tax. It was on the porch of R. Charlton's Coffeehouse where Mercer took refuge, protected by no less a person than Governor Fauquier.
Okay, so we have no angry mob, just a man and woman conversing.
But back in 1765...
...it was mainly the force of Fauquier’s personality that saved the day for both men on this porch confrontation:
"It was growing dark and I did not think it safe to leave Mr. Mercer behind me, so I again advanced to the Edge of the Steps, and said aloud I believed no man there would do me any harm, and turned to Mr. Mercer and told him if he would walk with me through the people I believed I could conduct him safe to my house, and we accordingly walked side by side through the thickest of the people who did not molest us."
The next day, Mercer resigned his Stamp Act commission and announced he was returning to Great Britain.

Charlton's wife, Jane Hunter, with her sister Margaret operated a millinery shop known as...
...Margaret Hunter's Millinery.
Go ahead and laugh if you wanna, but I had nearly my/our every move documented. Hey! I don't know when and if I'll ever be back to Williamsburg, you know? This just may be a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
In the 18th century, millinery shops were almost always owned by women, and upon walking in, we were greeted by Mrs. Hunter herself!
Today at Colonial Williamsburg's Margaret Hunter Shop, interpreters portray the millinery business as the Hunters and include the ever-changing 18th-century fashions, their importance in colonial society, and the economics of importing.
From fabric sold in the shop, milliners would make items such as:
  • shirts
  • shifts
  • aprons
  • neckerchiefs
  • caps
  • cloaks
  • hoods
  • hats
  • muffs
  • ruffles
  • trim for gowns
"In a word, (Millinery shops) furnish everything to the Ladies that can contribute to set off their Beauty, increase their Vanity, or render them ridiculous."
 In addition, interpreters practice using the accurate trade methods and technologies appropriate to the various trades of millinery, mantua making, tailoring, and stay making.
Milliners sewed and sold – among other things – cloaks, mantles, hats, hoods, caps, gloves, petticoats, hoops, riding costumes, and dresses for masquerades – all in the latest fashion.
By offering many goods, the 18th Century millinery shop attracted a wide range of customers. A Colonial Williamsburg milliner probably served every class from the plantation owner to his slaves, who needed pins, needles and thread.
The best customers, though, were people with money. That meant the upper class and the middle class – planters, tradesmen and shopkeepers. Modern Americans frequently are surprised to learn that these groups had clothes made for them by others.
“An impression we often encounter is that people in this period commonly made their own cloth and clothing,” an interpreter said. “The truth is that very little of this was done at home. There simply wasn't enough time for one family to make its own cloth and clothing.”
In addition, clothing producers knew then -- as they do now -- that one way to keep sales humming was to keep styles changing. The whirl of fashion during the 1700s was endless and often contradictory.
Consider these facts: during the 18th Century, ladies' skirt styles changed five times. It was not unheard of for hat styles to change 17 times during a 2-year period.
Do you see the color sketch of the bonnet in the photo above this one? Well, the Margaret Hunter Shop milliners replicated it.
Here's the front - - 
 - - back - -
 - - and side.
Mr. James Slate, was a tailor from trained in London. He catered to gentlemen customers in need of new fashions. Tailors constructed men's clothing from the measure of the man. He adjusted a basic paper pattern to fit the measurements. In the early 1770s there were more tailors than any other trade in Williamsburg.
No, I am not standing next to Mr. James Slate. This here is Mr. McCarty, one of the resident tailors who work at Mrs. Hunter's shop. I've known Mike and his wife for a number of years now, from back in the days when they lived in Michigan while reenacting the Civil War.

All of the clothing trades are practiced and preserved in Mrs. Hunter's store, including tailors who "cut to measure and construct clothing for citizens of every station; the gentleman's fine suit, the lady's practical riding habit, the slave's utilitarian jacket and trousers were all made bespoke (or custom."

Here is a waistcoat Mr. McCarty pointed out to me.
The size of the button holes were more for fashion than practicality.
Clothing was viewed as an outward sign of prosperity, and they did admit that a person might be judged by their clothes in a place where they were not known, but one truly and accurately could not be judged by his or her clothes alone. A lady who was dressed as a poor person and a poor person who dressed as a wealthy one never really became the station that they were appearing to be dressed. A lady would always be a lady no matter how she was dressed; because it was her deportment, manner, civility, fine bearing and speech that would betray her station. Only by looking at the appearance and the manner could one really see who was wearing what.
For one who has so little 21st century fashion sense, I found this fascinating.

Well, from the Margaret Hunter Shop we decided to head in the direction of our hotel...
Tomorrow we will visit even more shops on Duke of Gloucester Street...and maybe even visit a few more trades...

Taking the pathway-through-time in reverse - - back to the future...til part three of our visit to Colonial Williamsburg!
Just light enough to find our way....
I have enough material and good photos for a few more postings, so if you are enjoying what I have so far, there's plenty more to come.
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The historical text written here comes from mainly two sources: the web site of Colonial Williamsburg, and from their Official Guide Book, which is available through any of their stores (and can be found on the link above).
Where else would I go to get the correct information, right?

If you would like to read part one of this series, click HERE
If you would like to know more about colonial life in general, click HERE

Until next time, see you in time.























           










.