Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Public is Here to See You - Please Be Kind

As the reenacting season begins, it's important for us to remember the reason why we do what we do. Okay, so there's more than one reason. But, besides our own love of bringing history to life, we need to make sure that the visitors who come to see us feel welcome.
Please allow me to explain:
I remember years ago when I was a plain old everyday visitor at a reenactment (rather than a participant). My wife and kids and I would admire all of the folks that would show life as it was a over a hundred years earlier. We would visit the military area first; they were always very willing to speak with us, show their muskets and accouterments, and happy to answer any questions we had. My pre-teen sons were especially interested in this.
We would then make our way over to the civilian side of life. We observed as they would prepare the food they were going to cook for their evening meal, hardly looking up to notice us. We watched as they would huddle in their circle, many times with their backs to us. We were keenly aware of the look on their faces when we would 'interrupt' their gathering by asking questions pertaining to a historical nature.
And, we usually left thinking how rude these (mostly) ladies were by snubbing us.
And this happened at more than one encampment. In fact, numerous camps treated us in the same manner.
No, this is not something I am making up to show an example of what not to do, but what actually used to happen to us nearly every time we went to a reenactment.
Me, being the one who was most interested in social rather than military history, would always leave somewhat disappointed. Thinking back, I believe that was part of the reason why we didn't get involved in this hobby years sooner than what we did (click here to learn how we became involved in reenacting).
And, we only continued to return to these reenactments, usually at my insistence, because I really enjoyed speaking to those few who did acknowledge us. Plus, I loved being around so many people who were wearing period clothing, no matter how rude. Heck! I would just ignore them...(or maybe purposely pester them just to tick them off!).
Eventually, through a series of circumstances (click the link above to find out how), we joined a reenacting group - the 21st Michigan.
Since we joined as civilians we had the opportunity to observe a bit more closely the situation at hand - the situation that nearly prevented us from partaking in this wonderful hobby. I noticed it wasn't just us that were ignored by so many as visiting patrons - it was nearly every visitor to the reenactment.

This man is not afraid to speak to the visiting public - and they'll remember this!

Now, if I may, I'd like to regale you with another true story:
Carrie was a student teacher at the school where I worked. During a conversation I was having with the head teacher, Carrie over-heard that I was a Civil War reenactor. The look on her face upon hearing of my hobby was priceless: her mouth dropped in a cartoonish way - seriously - and she stuttered as she made the attempt to speak to me about it. Of course, I was always on the look out for possible new members and I felt young Miss Carrie was a strong candidate.
I was right! She turned out to be an awesome living historian and, like me, strives for authenticity as best as her finances will take her.
A conversation she and I had, however, that nearly prevented her from joining told me I was quite correct in my observance. "I thought you had to belong to an exclusive club!" she stated. "No one ever approached me where I could find out how to become a reenactor."



This couple enjoys speaking to a group of visitors about 19th century farming life!

This brings me to my sermon of the day:
Once I became a Civil War reenactor/living historian, I vowed to myself that I would do my best to make every visitor feel as welcome as I could. I didn't want anyone to leave feeling the way I did all those years ago. Sometimes even a smile or a nod of the head can be enough. But, no one should be ignored, if at all possible.
I am very proud to say that I have kept that vow the best I could, and the other members of my unit do the same (for the most part. There are some that still need work, but they're coming along).
As this year's reenacting season gets under way, I ask you to please remember - if you choose to participate at a reenactment where the public is invited, do not ignore them. Do not turn your back on them. Answer their questions as kindly as you can (here is a blog I wrote on questions reenactors receive). Call the visitor over to visit your campsite - make them feel welcome. And if you happen to be having a meeting of some sort, please designate a member of your group to be the one to speak to the public should some walk up. It certainly is much better than ignoring them.
After all, they did come to see you.




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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Just What Constitutes an Antique Anyway (part 2)

Monday nights are my TV watching night. I love to watch Antiques Roadshow, American Pickers, and Pawn Stars, though Antiques Roadshow is my favorite. I have learned quite a bit about Americana and antiques on these shows.
Ken's Parlor

The burning question for me is, can someone tell me what an antique is? Does it have to be a certain age? And if so, who decides what is antiquated and why?
The reason I ask is, well, I collect antiques. Understand, I have always had an affinity for (mainly) American everyday antiquities...you know, the objects folks used on a daily basis and never thought twice about. Not unlike Henry Ford, I collect everyday objects that most people today would probably never think twice about collecting but a hundred or more years ago were used daily. Collecting the high brow all-expensive and highly sought after items that so many go after never interested me. Oh no, not great works of art or anything like that. Not even "fine" pieces of furniture. In fact, I would be nervous to own such rarities that cost big bucks. I mean, "Don't Touch!" is not in our vocabulary. We encourage our friends and guests to sit upon our 19th century furniture, spin on the great wheel, write letters on the secretary desk. And we put our plates and bowls in the corner cabinet.
In other words, we use our items, no matter how old.
Why buy something if you aren't going to use it, right?
What's kind of neat is I have had a number of friends tell me coming to our home is like visiting one of the homes in Greenfield Village, only they're allowed to take part in rather than just look.
Anyhow, recently I came across a posting I wrote three years ago and thought I would revisit and update what I wrote then:

I am interested in hearing what you all think about antiques.
What do you collect and why?
Most important, how do you know it's an antique?
For example, I own a walking (or 'great') spinning wheel. Two of 'em, in fact. As near as I can figure, both wheels are from the early 1800's - probably the 1820's or '30's. And, they are pretty big - almost as high as me. The one pictured here was purchased on Ebay at a very low price ("people have no room for these larger wheels," was the reason given for its low tag). It is definitely an original and, because of the information given at the time of purchase, I was able to research its history and found that everything fell into place, so, yes, I am quite certain of its age.

The item next to the wheel is a yarn winder from the 1850's, which was purchased through the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village during one of their antique sales they used to have a number of years back.
Again, it's not worth much at all ( I bought it for $35!), but it was an important piece that many homes had 150 + years ago.

Another item I own is a corner cabinet. A couple of friends visited recently and both called it a "primitive." What excited me initially were the squared nails used in the making of this piece, meaning almost certainly it is from before the Civil War.

Mid-19th century corner cabinet
I also have a dresser that, from what I can tell is from the 1850's, and, yes, our clothing is tucked in the drawers, as has probably been done for a century and a half. To be honest, I enjoy waking up every morning and seeing this dresser - it kind of sets the mood for me for the rest of the day...usually.

There are a few other antiques we have - a 'what-not-shelf' circa 1860's, a settee from the 1890's, a couch from the 1850's...
My wife and I allow ourselves one antique a year - maybe two, depending on the cost - and have done so for the past several years. It's quite fun, actually, to search out and actually own something that has been around for so long. One cannot help but wonder where these objects were kept all this time: was the great wheel displayed proudly because great great great grandma once spun on it? Or was it hidden away in an attic, forgotten about until the old homestead was to be sold and it had lost its meaning?
Did a proud farmer build the corner cabinet for his wife because, during the depression of the late 1830's and early 1840's, they could not afford to purchase one? (Yes, 1830's & 1840's - there was a depression a hundred years before the "Great Depression" of the 20th century). Or did he build it because that's what folks did back then?

How about the circa 1860 secretary desk I recently purchased? I'm sure it once sat proudly in someone's parlor and then probably eventually was moved out to the garage where it held tools, screws and nails, and other garage-type items.
It now, once again, sits proudly, only now it's in our gathering room (or parlor, if you prefer). And I was lucky enough to locate an 1887 chair to go with it.

Do you see this next item to the left? Do you know what it is? A number of years ago neither did I, but I noticed that nearly every home inside Greenfield Village had one - at least the homes of the 19th century. It's called a wall pocket, and this was to hold mail, newspapers, and magazines. What a neat idea! I have only seen one of this type anywhere. Guess what? I bought it without question. The funny thing is, I paid very little because it's something that few people today are aware of and yet most homes a hundred and fifty years ago had them. But, because few know about them they're not worth very much.
But I'm glad I got one...

Now, this brings me to my original question - what constitutes an antique? Some folks will call virtually anything old an antique. I still have the complete Detroit News and Free Press newspapers from when John Lennon died. They are over 30 years old. Antiques? How about my original (and real) Schafer 'Supremes' Bread wrapper (with the caricatures of Motown's "Diana Ross and the Supremes" upon it) from 1966? This is 45 years old. Is this an antique?

I have a WKNR (Keener 13 radio) "Think Summer" button from the 'Summer of Love' - 1967. I wonder if that's old enough...Or, if you want to see even older pop culture, I also have a Lucky Strikes tin from World War II - how about this? Or my Life magazines from the 1930's and '40's?

According to the 'professionals,' an antique is
"an item which is at least 100 years old and is collected or desirable due to rarity, condition, utility, or some other unique feature. Motor vehicles, tools and other items subject to vigorous use in contrast, may be considered antiques in the U.S. if older than 25 years, and some electronic gadgets of more recent vintage may be considered antiques."

Makes sense, especially when one considers how old objects in Europe are in comparison. But, are we making exceptions, maybe, for monetary purposes? Consider the Beany Babies - those little stuffed animals that kids and adults went nuts for around a decade ago. The companies that produced them purposely put out a lesser amount of certain titles (the purple princess one comes to mind) for the sole purpose of collectibility - to make them "rare." Would these be considered antiques today? How about the first Santa Bears from the 1980's (or was it the late 1970's)? Are those considered antiques?

Here's another definition: an antique is an old collectible item. It is an object that represents a previous era in human society.
Ah...now I am beginning to see some light. "Collectibles." People - especially dealers out to make money, are intertwining something that is considered a collectible with an actual antique. Walk into any antique shop or watch American Pickers on the history channel and chances are you will more than likely see more things of a collectible nature rather than authentic antiques.
Unfortunately, it seems to me that in today's society an antique is whatever someone declares to be one, even though it could be just a collectible.
Well, I guess in my opinion it looks like my John Lennon newspapers, Supremes bread wrapper, and Lucky Strikes tin have a few years to go before they can be considered bonafide antiques.
But, my spinning wheel, corner cabinet, settee, and other objects that are from the 19th century and before are truly and legitimately antiques.
I would love to hear others' thoughts on the subject.
There are stories of past times behind everything I see...once these cast-off relics were important and had meaning. Don't they still? Yes...a new life!




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Friday, April 8, 2011

Michigan Taverns of the 19th Century - Updated

A while back I wrote a posting about Greenfield Village's Eagle Tavern, which originally stood in Clinton, Michigan. A few months later, I wrote about the next stop along the old U.S. 12 road - Brooklyn, Michigan's Walker Tavern. Since then I have found quite a bit more information about what it was like to visit a tavern during the 19th century - specifically mid-western taverns, with very strong southeastern Michigan connections.
I'm not sure why, but I am very fascinated with the old taverns of long ago. It's the same feeling, I'm sure, that a car buff gets when researching the Model T or '57 Chevy or another piece of motorized Americana.
And, because of this infatuation, I have, over the last year or so, acquired numerous books on the subject (see the end of this post for a listing with links).
So, I do hope you enjoy the updated versions of the two older postings (I kind of put them together in this posting as sort of a "double album set"), plus a third one on a tavern I hadn't written about yet, a fourth from Genessee County near Flint, Michigan, and even a fifth stage stop in Northville, Michigan. There has been much added to the previous information, and I believe what's here will bring the past to life for you.
It certainly has for me!
The 1831 Eagle Tavern
Early in the 19th century, a stage line was operated between Detroit and Tecumseh on what was originally an Indian trail. With the coming of the early settlers from the east, however, it became the settler's route as well. As traveling increased and roads were made possible for stagecoach travel, taverns were built along this route. The first stage stop that comes our way on our journey west was originally known as Parks Tavern when it was built in Clinton, Michigan, around 1831. Parks Tavern was renamed the Eagle Tavern in 1849 and that name remained until the Civil War. It was one of the first of the taverns built on this road, which eventually extended to Niles, Michigan in 1832, and then, by 1833, the road made it to Chicago, when it became known as the Chicago Turnpike, and finally the Chicago Road/US 12 (http://www.us12heritagetrail.org/).
Semi-weekly stages were tried first, but daily coaches soon followed and, before long, there was double daily service, with extra coaches often necessary.

Eagle Tavern entrance way

Welcome to the Eagle Tavern. Today is May 1, 1850
This Inn offered food and drink for the weary travelers back during a time when stagecoaches and horses were the main mode of travel. The travelers could find a place to sleep in one of the upstairs bedrooms. Rooms contained several beds, with two or three people - who were often strangers - sharing beds. Along the major travel routes, these bedrooms, at times, could be filled frequently to overflowing so that not only were the beds filled, but floor space was taken as well. In fact, a traveler in southeastern Michigan even slept on a table!
Depending on availability, men and women were usually put in separate rooms, even if they were married; unlike today's motels, there wasn't a large capacity of rooms to let, and to force three or four people to sleep elsewhere - perhaps upon the dreaded chair or table - just so a man and a woman could sleep together in one room would hardly be worth anyone's while.
However, since most of the travelers were men, it wasn't often a huge problem.
The year the Eagle Tavern replicates as it now stands restored in historic Greenfield Village is 1850, when Calvin C. Wood, a farmer, and his wife, Harriet, were the proprietors.
Since there were no bathrooms in 1850, bedrooms would be provided with a washstand, pitcher or jug of water, drinking cup, towel, chamber pots (how'd you like to empty those!?!), looking glass, and possibly clothing closets.
The Eagle Tavern's bedrooms were upstairs to the left of the stairway (the back of the building is not part of the original tavern and was added by Henry Ford).

I should like to present here a description of what it was like traveling by stage on this Chicago trail. This first one is in the words of Levi Bishop from 1835: "I started west from Detroit in a stagecoach. I had to secure my seat three days in advance. This was when the land speculation fever began to rage somewhat extensively. When the time came, I started west on the old Ann Arbor Road. We broke down once on the way, but there happened to be a wagon maker on board and he repaired the damage in about 15 minutes. We made nine miles the first half day."

Advertisement for stage travel
Part of the road was corduroy and vehicles broke down, and sometimes stagecoach passengers had to get out and walk. A corduroy road (or log road) was made by placing sand-covered logs perpendicular to the direction of the road, usually over a low or swampy area. The result is an improvement over impassable mud or dirt roads, yet is a very bumpy ride in the best of conditions and a hazard to horses due to loose logs that could roll and shift.
Eating at a common table at Eagle Tavern
People of all types and classes mixed together in taverns. Tavern patrons ate at a common table, slept in common bedrooms, and socialized in common rooms. There was little privacy.
Local patrons from the village would use the tavern for relaxing, socializing, and gossiping, as well as for hearing news from the outside world.

The dining area of the Eagle Tavern was not originally this large. Henry Ford added the addition when he moved and restored it to Greenfield Village.
The travelers that stayed at the Eagle Tavern never left for want of food. As stated, in part, from a Village hand out:
"The foods that tavern keepers offered came from local farms and grew wild in the countryside, and tavern menus varied tremendously with the seasons. Fresh fruits and vegetables were available only at harvest time, and winter meals relied heavily on foods preserved by salting or drying. Since Calvin Wood, proprietor of the Eagle Tavern in 1850, was also a farmer, much of the food that he served might have come
from his own nearby farm.

As quoted from a Detroit News article from 1927:
"People nowadays would be appalled to see the quantity of food that was served then. There were never less than three kinds of meat. There were side dishes of vegetables and salad. Red cabbage was a favorite for salad because of its decorative appearance. Then there were pickles and crackers and cheese always on the table."
Also, the article continues to tell of jellies and preserves, five or six kinds of cake, and two or three kinds of pie, particularly mince pie. On each table were two casters of pepper, vinegar, mustard, and spices in brightly polished containers.

Once again, from a Village hand out:
Alcohol consumption during the 19th century reached a peak that has never since been duplicated, so it is not surprising that the American temperance movement came into being during that time."

Besides being a stopping place, the tavern was also famous for its dance parties and balls, which took place on the second floor.
Second floor hall: through this doorway on the left was the grand ballroom described below.
One who lived near the "Eagle' (as it was affectionately called by the locals) explained in a letter to Henry Ford one her most pleasurable experiences while at the Eagle Tavern:
My childhood and girlhood home were within 6 miles of that old tavern, and I danced all night in the ballroom at my last ball in July 4, 1859. There was a dance pavilion, a bowery on one side that was covered with flowering vines. I think it was 100 feet long, and the dining hall was at one side in the house, a hall connected it. On that 4th of July night there were 100 couples. I remember well every detail of my last ball at that old tavern in my ball dress. I was a week devising and making it (the dress) sitting up late nights. I was not sorry later, as the best dressed & best dancing couple that won the most votes were to lead in the Grand March. I must say it, with my dress and dancing, won as the leading lady, and a tall young man, whom I had never seen before, and, I think, from Lansing, won as my partner, and was brought to me by the ballroom manager and introduced to me, and we were ever soon gliding down the Ballroom…followed by the other 99 couples. We marched around back to the place we started, and the whole party formed in double rows in a cotillion. I was then dancing with my evening escort, Charles Wood, of Grand Ledge.
The midnight banquet was spread on two long tables, where all the good things were put on, decorated with summer flowers and lighted with hanging chandeliers. At one end of the table a whole roasted pig with a cob of corn in its mouth, and at the other end of the table was several roast turkeys, and in the middle of the table was a huge pyramid cake about 3 feet high, and there were high glass bowls of raisins, nuts, and candies, and every other good edible. The dining room was on the other side of the building from the ballroom, connected by a hall.
The ballroom floor of the Eagle Tavern from the 
above recollection still exists on the second floor. 
And, yes, it truly is "springy"!
The above is an actual recollection by 89 year old Mrs. Marie L. Moreaux (formerly Tripp), speaking of what was, perhaps, the most special night of her life. The ballroom in which she writes of still exists but is no longer in use, and is located on the 2nd floor. It was constructed so that the floor had a slight spring to it to give the dancers the experience of a “delightful sense of exhilaration as they glided over the smooth surface.” The ballroom was known throughout that section of the country for its spring dance floor.
Mrs Moreaux continued, It was a very popular place and supported the finest ‘orchestry’ music in that part of the country, especially the violin…of whom was one Ray Anthony Niles, who was a pattern of old Beau Brummell of ancient times. He played the violin that charmed all his hearers, and helped to make that old tavern popular. He was before my time as he went with the crowd of gold diggers to California.

That may have been the former Miss Tripp's last ball but it certainly was not the last at the Eagle Tavern. In 1872 it hosted a "Union Dance Party" and a leap year ball in 1876. This last ball was truly the final dance for the tavern - the Clinton Town Hall was built in that year and all future dances were held there instead.
Besides the balls, the second floor ballroom area was also the place where locals could gather for concerts, performances, lectures, and debates. The area could also provide overflow sleeping space on nights when the tavern was crowded with people seeking overnight accommodations.
The inn became the Union Hotel during the Civil War, and lodged soldiers going to and coming from the front.
Walter Hubbell Smith purchased the inn in 1864, and it was his daughter and heir, Mary Ella Smith, that sold it to Henry Ford for restoration.

A ladies parlor is off to one side, this being a spot for the women to gather before or after dining, out of earshot of the, at times, boisterous men, who were over in the barroom on the opposite side of the tavern. It offered a quieter, cleaner setting for women and children to wait for the stage, or for women of the local community to gather and socialize (this room has also been called the Gathering Room).
The Ladies Parlor

The barroom, where the tavern-owner generally served as the bar-keeper (the term 'bartender' was not common until at least the 1860's - barkeeper was the appropriate term before that time), was the primary place for men to get a drink and to socialize as well as have discussions that could be too harsh for feminine ears. It's here where you might find settlers moving west, stage drivers, local businessmen, farmers come to town, circuit-riding lawyers, or political candidates.
The barroom at the Eagle Tavern looking in...
...and looking out.
Tavern drinking in 1850 usually entailed "treating." Each man in turn bought a half-pint of whiskey, which was passed around the room.
Beer and wine were much less popular.
Chewing tobacco was very common and closely associated with drinking. Intervals of drinking and chewing were part of the daily ritual for countless men, and tavern floors were liberally stained with tobacco juice from spitting. Spittoons were provided, but men either ignored or missed them on a regular basis.
The barkeep and a patron
A patron in the barroom

Next we have the...
The public sitting room
The middle room served as the public sitting room. Here, travelers could wait for the stage or for the announcement that a meal was ready. Locals could also catch up on the latest news by talking to the travelers, or even read the newspapers provided by the tavern-keeper or left behind by a traveler. As one traveler wrote: "Our Inn is crowded to suffocation, and the sitting room is filled with stage drivers and citizen boarders, smoking pipes and playing euchre, the national Game of Michigan."

Food was served in the dining room on a strict schedule, and diners, as stated previously, ate at a common table, with everyone served together. The large dining room as it is today in the Eagle Tavern was constructed after the building was moved to Greenfield Village to provide a lunchroom for children who were attending Greenfield Village schools. According to museum records, the original dining room was slightly narrower than the adjacent tavern kitchen (about 14 feet wide). It's original dimensions suggest that in the 19th century it probably only contained one table for dining.
The fireplace in the original Eagle Tavern kitchen. It's now another waiting room for guests
Since country taverns were operated by households, tavern cooking was home cooking. Mr. Wood and his wife most certainly ran the place with help from local labor. This means that more than likely it was Harriet who would have supervised the housekeeping and likely presided over the public table as the tavern's hostess. Young men from neighboring farms or young unmarried women from the general area would have supplied the cooking and keeping. With food coming from the Wood family farm and the meals served being very substantial, the patrons on the receiving end were served in abundance.
In mid-19th century Michigan, the predominant method of cooking was over an open fire, although cookstoves were available by the late 1830's. A bake oven would have most certainly been used during the Woods tenure at the tavern. Most food would have been stored in a ground level storage room or in a cellar. Taverns also might have a separate springhouse, mainly for keeping dairy products fresh, and an ice house.
Complied from traveler's accounts, merchant's account books, local newspaper advertisements, and historical reminisces, it has been learned that the most common meat served in taverns in this part of Michigan was pork, followed by chicken, beef, local game such as venison, rabbit, and quail, and finally, seafood. Vegetables, of course (and as mentioned) were mostly of whatever was in season, though potatoes were the most common vegetable served, followed by cabbage, corn, peas, and onions.
Fruits were also of the season, such as peaches, pears, and apples. Bread, of course, was a mainstay.
Here is the original dining area of the Eagle Tavern
There is a wonderfully detailed description of how a mealtime worked at a local (Detroit) tavern in 1838. This could very well describe in a similar vein mealtime at the Eagle Tavern, or any other local tavern:
"When the dinner bell was rung, the was a general rush to the room, as if they had not tasted food for several days. Not being so ravenous as it seemed to me they all must be, I waited until they had all entered, and in consequence could not find a place at the table. However, I had only to wait about six minutes, when one, having finished his meal, walked off, on which I occupied his place. But, by this time almost everything seemed cleared off, so that I with difficulty obtained a fragment of bread and a cup of coffee. I soon found out the reason of the rush to dinner and, benefiting by my experience, pursued the same course as the rest."

"Very little conversation took place, each individual seemed to hurry on as fast as possible, and the moment one finished he rose and went away. There was no change of plates, knives, or forks, everything being eaten off the same plate, excepting pudding, which was taken in saucers."
For overnight lodging and three meals, according to other local accounts (there are none for Eagle Tavern), the patron could have paid anywhere in the range from $.50 to $1.50. As you can see, prices varied somewhat.

In 1925, after Henry Ford purchased the building, he renamed it the Clinton Inn after the village from which it came. To look at the dilapidated structure at the time of the exchange made his ardent helpers and followers wonder what he saw. "There was only one man in 4,000 that would consider it anything but a pile of junk," said his right-hand man, Ed Cutler.
And the inside was even worse! Piles of old magazines, ten year old bottles of milk, eggs, and "tons of stuff."
But, restore and relocate the structure they did, and by the spring of 1929, the restoration was complete, using original materials whenever possible.
In 1982 the name was changed from the Clinton Inn back to the Eagle Tavern, for this was in line with Greenfield Village's new goals of making itself more functional and accurate. Period correct meals continue to be served along with desserts of the season, much as it had over 150 years ago, and is done so by candle light. Much of the information for the present table settings were based on those described in Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book, a popular volume of recipes and household advice published in 1850. From Miss Beecher and similar sources, it became apparent that both bread and butter plates and salad bowls were unknown in the mid-19th century. Forks and knives constituted a set, while spoons were considered more specialized utensils for serving, for eating soup and dessert, and for stirring hot drinks.

During the Christmas season, a roaring fire in the fireplace helps to give off an ambiance rarely found elsewhere.
My lovely wife and I, along with Wood (portrayed by Fred Priebe), spending Christmas at the Eagle Tavern
The Eagle Tavern is, by the way, one of the few locations in Greenfield Village where 1st person is practiced (1st person is where the workers dress and act as if they are from the time they are portraying, in this case, 1850).

What so many do not realize while strolling the hallowed grounds of Greenfield Village is the 'hidden' social history of the structures that are there. I do not mean purposely hidden, because one could hear hours of stories about each building if all were told! But, it is these little facts that make the buildings come to life. To think that the Eagle Tavern, of which my wife and I frequent often for lunch and considered to be our favorite place to dine, held grand balls in the mid-19th century never even crossed my mind. As with all the buildings here that I research extensively, I will look at it a little differently than I have before, and I will try to imagine the 100 couples entering this wonderful piece of Michigan history back in the summer of 1859.

On a side note, we were traveling (in our modern motorized vehicle) along U.S. 12 when I noticed, while we were driving through the town of Clinton, a state historical marker that made me stop and wonder...could it be? I pulled over and my assumption was correct: the marker showed the exact original spot of the Eagle Tavern, now, of course, relocated in Greenfield Village! How cool was this? It was a wonderous feeling knowing that I was now traveling the same road as the stage coaches did all those years ago
An original photo of the Eagle Tavern taken sometime in the late 19th century
And here is how that same spot looks today:
Frankly, I prefer the tavern being there instead...
The marker marks the original location of the Eagle Tavern
The next stop for the travelers leaving the Eagle Tavern was Walker Tavern, 11 miles up the road.

It is told of a stage that left Clinton's Eagle Tavern for the west one morning loaded with passengers. The road was very muddy and the coach had managed to get a mile from the village. The passengers walked back to the inn to spend the night, and early the next morning returned to the coach. During the second day it got three miles from Clinton. Again, the passengers returned to the Eagle Tavern. On the third day the coach must have reached (Walker) tavern, for the passengers did not return.
Walker Tavern: Built as a modest farmhouse around 1832 and was converted into a tavern in 1843 by Sylvester and Lucy Walker.

Walker Tavern, located in the Irish Hills of Michigan
Walker Tavern is still located in its original location in the green and rolling Irish Hills on the historic Old Chicago Road (U.S. 12) and has been restored to it's mid-19th century appearance, though today the tavern serves up a dose of Michigan history rather than a hearty meal. Throughout its long history, however, this building has been a wayside inn, a roadside tourist attraction and is now a state historic park.
One of the waiting rooms inside Walker Tavern
The rooms are not currently laid out where one can know exactly the purpose of each. However, I am assuming this area could have been where travelers gathered to wait for the next stage
To tell the story of how Walker Tavern came to be, we must again learn a little about the earlier history of the area in which it sits. After the Erie Canal opened in 1825, thousands of settlers flocked to the Michigan Territory. Two roads moved pioneers west from Lake Erie: the Monroe Pike, running from Monroe to Jackson, and the Chicago Road. These two roads intersected at Cambridge Junction, which made it a great location for a tavern. From 1832 through 1855—when a stagecoach ride from Detroit to Chicago was a long and arduous 10 to 15 day trip—a favorite stopping place to change horses, relax, enjoy a meal, or spend the night was this farmhouse tavern. Purchased by and named after owners Sylvester and Lucy Walker in 1843, the tavern also was a convenient site for local political debates, just like the Eagle Tavern, as well as religious gatherings..

Walker Tavern became a prosperous business and a thriving community hub. Two stages stopped there each day and at any one time there might be ten to twenty wagons lined up waiting for accommodations. One of the stagecoach drivers, Francis A. Dewey, recorded, "Men of every class and condition of life from the earliest times would stretch out their day's drive to reach the hospitable roof of the Walker's hotel ... People flocked in each evening to receive their mail and hear the news brought in from the east and from the west ... Sometimes the crowd numbered 50 or 75 and oftentimes their drunken shouts resounded far into the night."
The latest news could be got here. Walker tavern, at one time, also served as a post office, where the locals could pick up their mail in the days before home deliver.
Sharing news...

Walker Tavern Kitchen

Walker Tavern Kitchen: Get the stove good and hot for the supper guests

The daughters of tavern owners and hired girls worked long hours for little pay

Travelers await the stage. I would like to say this is an original photo, but, alas, it is not; it is a group of living historians posing at the side entrance of Walker Tavern.

Stagecoach Travel - original photo
However, travel was arduous; roads were full of ruts, bogs, and tree stumps. A stagecoach driver's goal was to travel as many miles as possible in a day, but many times there were complications. As one traveler in the 1830's pointed out, "As soon as we had entered the woods, the roads became as bad as, I suppose, roads ever are. Something snapped, and the driver cried out that we were 'broke to bits.' "

An original photograph showing Walker Tavern as it once was in the 19th century

 The popularity of Walker Tavern was so great that the Walkers built a new, larger brick tavern across Route 12 from the original structure and used the latter as their home thereafter.
Directly across the street from Walker Tavern is the Junction Hotel, built in 1853. It still stands as seen in the next photograph.
Looking at the brick hotel built and owned by the Walkers from a Walker Tavern window.

By the 1860s trains replaced stagecoaches as the fast and fashionable way to travel and the railroad line bypassed Cambridge Junction. Stagecoach driver Francis Dewey purchased the tavern and he and his family farmed the land for over fifty years.

Oh, I know, millions travel upon it yearly. But, I wonder how many actually think about the road that they are driving upon, with all its twists and turns and hills, and just how treacherous and uncomfortable a journey it was back in the days before the automobile. My thoughts did a little drifting when I rode along the U.S. 12 Heritage Trail, imagining what it was like back then.
Yes, I was also paying very close attention to my driving as well, lest any of you think I wasn't!

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Now, I'd like to take you to another 19th century tavern, this one, however, is located on the old Grand River Trail (now known as Grand River Avenue), which ran from Detroit to Pontiac. In the heyday of this tavern in the 19th century, the village in which it centered in was known as Clarenceville. As far as I can find, Clarenceville was 'eaten up' by the City of Farmington after the turn of the 20th century.
It's here at the Botsford Inn where one can still marvel, at least from the outside, at another beautiful stage coach stop sitting very near to its original location. Being that this structure was one of Henry Ford's earliest attempts at restoration (in 1924 - about 5 years before the opening of Greenfield Village), Mr. Ford had it moved back a number of yards due to the widening of Grand River Avenue.

The 16 Mile House / Botsford Inn
Built originally as a home in 1836 by Orrin and Allen Weston, it had ten rooms downstairs and twelve rooms up, including a 32X35 foot ballroom. Even though the structure was built for a (very) large family, it had room enough for overnight travelers, with the owner's family serving the guests.
Five years after it was built, the house was turned into a full-fledged inn and then sold to Stephen Jennings who, in turn, sold it to John and Sarry Claucherry in 1849. This stagecoach stop became well-known as the Sixteen Mile House (because, it was said, that it was 16 miles to the center of Detroit) while owned and operated by the Claucherry's, who, in 1860, sold it to Milton Botsford. It was Botsford's name that stuck with the inn since his ownership to this very day. Through the end of the 19th century, the Botsford Inn became a popular stop for drovers, farmers, and travelers to and from Detroit. Concord Stage coaches, old buckboards, and a variety of other wagons made the Inn their stop on their way to or from Detroit.
Not unlike the Eagle Tavern, the Botsford also held grand balls upon its springy floor, his most popular being the "Grand Fourth of July Ball" of 1878. The balls held here were very popular and continued to be held until after the turn of the 20th century.
Henry Ford had first seen the tavern while courting his future wife, Clara, in a horse and buggy in the 1880's. Ford and his soon-to-be-wife were regulars at the Saturday night dances and became good friends with the owner. In fact, according to the Detroit News (from 1925): Mr. Ford was always a favorite and no matter how big a crowd or how many guests, there was always a stall for Henry's horse. The "young Ford boy" was granted another honor by Mr. Botsford, and that was permission for him and his sweetheart to place their wraps in the parlor, a place reserved only for the intimate friends of the proprietor's family.
This "young Ford boy" purchased the inn in 1924 and did extensive restoration, doubling the size of the ballroom, adding to the kitchen, and sprucing up the other rooms, all the while restoring them as close as he could to their original splendor. He, too, held grand parties and balls here, but seemingly all but forgot about the old building once the planning of his Greenfield Village commenced. Throughout the 1940's the Botsford was rarely used.
A few years after Ford died in 1947, the tavern was sold by the Ford family to the Anhut family. The Anhuts continued to put additions onto the old building to where it almost became unrecognizable from its original section. They, like the many owners before them, held dinners and dances and even weddings there.
I'm not sure why the Anhuts sold, but sell they did, in 2008 to their next door neighbor, the Botsford Hospital, who needed the land for expansion purposes.
Rumors abounded that the new owners planned to raze the old building, and the community did get quite a scare when bulldozers showed up in 2007. Fortunately, they tore down the additions and returned the Botsford to its pre-1925 glory days.
I took this photo of the inside of the Botsford Inn 
from a window - the only window that was clear 
enough to allow for a photograph to be taken

It's unfortunate that rumors are ever-spreading about the eventual demolition of this building, due to its location next door to the Botsford Hospital. From what I understand, the only way for the hospital to expand if they planned to do so would be to tear this nearly 180 year old historical structure down.
This has been denied, which is a good thing. But, one never knows what a big business might do.
And what a tragedy that would be.
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A bit north of Detroit, in the open-air museum known as Crossroads Village, another Michigan tavern, the Mason Tavern, was moved to its new location and restored to its mid-19th century appearance.
Mason Tavern from around 1850
Daniel Mason, a native of New Hartford, New York before immigrating to Genessee County, Michigan, built this structure as a stagecoach inn and tavern around 1850. It soon became a popular stagecoach stop along the route of the Flint and Fentonville Plank Road Company, which was established in 1849.

This photo shows the tavern with lively 1860's townsfolk enjoying a summer celebration.
In 1879, Mason sold the property and moved to Flint, where he died in 1880.
Crossroads Village recently re-opened this building - actually, I believe 2010 was the first time the Mason Inn/Tavern has been open to the public since its relocation here. And it truly is a beautiful building to see.
Here is the guest dining area of the tavern.

From 1853 to 1871, Mundy Township's first post office was also housed here. The tavern and post office continued to operate until shortly after the Flint and Pere Marquette Railway came to the area.
The guest dining area of the Mason tavern
The parlor - family only!

Here is the dining area for the family - from what I was told, this was set up for the owner of the tavern and his family.

I have not had the opportunity to see the 2nd floor at the time of this writing. Maybe one day...

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And here we have another wonderfully restored Michigan Tavern and Inn: The Cady Inn, now relocated in Historic Mill Race Village open-air museum in Northville.
The Cady Inn - this tavern was built around 1835.
This historical building has been moved only a few blocks from its original location to a quaint open-air museum known as Millrace Village.
It was built about 1835, and is one of the oldest structures in Northville. It was moved to its Cady Street location sometime in the latter half of the 19th century, and moved again to the Mill Race Village in 1987. This saltbox-style building was not only a tavern but it’s believed to have been a stop on the underground railroad.
The dining area of the Cady Inn.
The kitchen area of the Cady Inn. Or was it for more guests? I have not been able to find out.
The Cady Inn dining area from another angle.
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It never ceases to amaze me just how much history still stands and is within a short drive of my home. And, with the many sources available, it doesn't take much effort to find loads of social historical information, the kind that makes the buildings seemingly come to life.
So many stories to be told...is anyone listening?

As promised, here is a listing of books that I have where I got the majority of this information for this posting.
Taverns & Travelers: Inns of the Early Midwest by Paton Yoder
Tavern at the Ferry by Edwin Tunis
Stage-Coach and Tavern-Days by Alice Morse Earle
More than a Tavern: 150 Years of Botsford Inn by Jean M. Fox
Colonial Inns and Taverns of Bucks County
by Marie Murphy Duess
Bucks County Inns and Taverns by Kathleen Zingaro Clark
(Bucks County, in case you do not know, is in southeast Pennsylvania. It's where my ancestors first settled nearly 300 years ago upon coming over from England, so I have an interest in that area.)

I also did extensive research on taverns at the Benson Ford Research Center adjacent to Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum, which is why this post leans heavily upon the Eagle Tavern in its information. The Benson Ford holds what I am sure has to be one of the largest collections of social history anywhere. The amount of historical material housed here never ceases to amaze me and they have yet to let me down whenever I have had historical questions. And, the information I found about taverns can very well pertain to most taverns and inns in the mid-west and eastern part of the United States.










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