Monday, October 10, 2011

Wolcott Mill 2011

This past weekend was bitter-sweet. Sweet because one of the best Civil War reenactments of the year had taken place. Bitter because it was the last of the big reenactments in these parts til next May. From here on out it's smaller - but still wonderful - living history events.

Wolcott Mill is a beautifully restored grist and feed mill built back in 1847 and is located in the northern rural portion of Macomb County here in Michigan. With plenty of trees and land surrounding it, it is a fine spot for a reenactment, especially during the autumn time of year; the leaves on the trees were spectacular - I love the early fall because there are still green leaves mixed in with the golds and reds making for a more colorful display. This year the daytime temperatures reached 80 degrees while the nighttime lows went down to the 40's with no rain in sight.
 And it's this fall spectacle that makes the Wolcott Mill event that much more special.
It also helped that members of both units I belong to - the 21st Michigan and the Michigan Soldiers Aid Society - all camped together in the same, street. Both groups are top notch at living history but we also enjoy playing a little as well. Just like our ancestors, we like to have some fun, too!
For instance, Mrs. Root put together a puppet show for the evening lantern walk of a play that was written in the 1850's. She had the young ones in our group as the puppeteers and allowed them to provide the voices as well. The lantern walk crowd loved it, and I have to admit (maybe because one of the puppeteers was my daughter) that they were very good!

I mention quite frequently how proud I am of the two groups I belong to for they take living history a step further than most other groups. This year we had a tinsmith and a gunsmith showing the visitors their talents in their crafts. Our tinsmith spent the better part of Saturday making a new lantern while the gunsmith was meticulously carving intricate patterns into the wood of the rifle, not unlike the gunsmiths of long ago.

  The tinsmith and gunsmith explain to their respective crowds how they work their crafts

We also had our own surgeon return after a year's hiatus, and he explained - in his 1860's style live 'power point' presentation of which included period tools of the trade - what surgery was like during the 1860's. It helps that he's a doctor in his modern day profession!

I've been expanding my presentation as a postmaster. Yes, I still speak of the importance of the mail during the time of the Civil War and show folks replica 1860's stationary, but I have taken it into another level. For instance, there are times when I will look up from reading my Harper's Weekly (yes, I do read them!) and there will be a large group of visitors standing before me, gawking at my 'post office' set up.
"Oh my," I exclaim as I see the crowd, "did the stage arrive earlier than expected? How was  your journey?" And then off I go speaking of stage coach traveling and tavern adventures, using real history to accent my delivery. If there are children within the group I like to speak to them about the chores they would have had if they were living "back then," such as emptying the chamber pots and trimming oil lamp wicks & adding more oil to them, as well as other chores the under ten crowd would have had.

 A few of us went out for a stroll on a beautiful autumn day

 And then I'll ask if anyone was expecting a letter, which will then lead into the importance of mail for the boys fighting the rebellion and for those of us on the home front to hear how that our sons are okay. This time of year, of course, I'll question the folks on how well their harvest was this season. The people tend to enjoy being included in such a way and hearing of their lives 150 years ago.
Yeah, and we can act a bit goofy sometimes, too. It's been brought up how the Wicked Witch of the East wore the same kind of socks that our Civil War ladies wear; remember when the house fell on her and her legs literally curled up and disappeared? Here's a photo (no, I didn't take this one!) to rekindle your memory, just in case:
Well, guess what we did...but only with a tent? We've talked about it for years but seemingly always forgot to actually recreate this scene.
Here, check out the photos I took shortly before tear down of the tent falling upon the Wicked Witch of the East:

Like I said, we tend to go off the deep end sometimes (and you folks thought I was such a serious bloke!).
So now the main part of the reenacting season has ended. But I still have an 1860's ball, a period dress meeting, multiple Christmas living history scenarios, the 21st Michigan period Christmas gathering, and performing with Simply Dickens to carry me through the rest of 2011.
The time-traveling continues...



Betsy said...

Do you ever get awkward or rude questions from guests at these events, and if so, how do you handle them? I would hope the types of people that enjoy going to these events are mature enough to not bring that element into it, but one should never assume.

Historical Ken said...

Most of the visitors that come to our tent are really wonderful. Seriously. They ask very thoughtful and intelligent questions, especially after I draw them into "my 1860's world."
But yes there are those that are borderline fools, such as the guy who asked my wife during a warm Memorial Day event at Greenfield Village if she "had air-conditioning under there (her hooped dress)."
How does one respond to that? We chose to ignore the question and turned out attention to the other visitors.
I wrote a posting a while back on this sort of thing -
I think you might enjoy it.
I appreciate you writing and asking.

Christine said...

Bah, ha, ha! I love the witch legs!I might have to find some ruby slippers for our next event. :)