Monday, April 29, 2013

Lantern Tour in Historic Troy Village

A portion of Troy Historical Village. They did a fine job in their recreation of a 19th century village by using actual restored structures from the surrounding area.
I really enjoy participating in lantern tours and am always honored when asked to do so. There's just something about being in a period setting and dressed correctly while teaching about history to interested groups, you know?
After a year's hiatus, the Troy Historic Village (in Troy, Michigan) held its second lantern tour, and, just as two years ago, it was a great success.

Here I am in front of my General Store and Post Office.
Once again I portrayed the postmaster. This year, however, it was a bit more authentic for me than in 2011, for I was situated inside the general store where an actual antique post office was restored, which is much better and more accurate than my make-shift set up I use at reenactments. Because of this I was able to speak about not only the importance of writing letters and the delivery/pick up of mail during the 1860's, but also able to include a bit about the general store itself. Although I have visited numerous 'old-time' stores many times and have taken to researching and studying them and how they functioned, this whole store owner thing as part of my presentation was something brand new for me.

Note the authentic post office inside the store

But I must say, I really enjoyed it. I suppose it's because I've been the postmaster in the local reenacting community for so long (nearly 10 years!) that it almost seemed to be getting monotonous. I love changing up my presentation here and there and enjoy being able to venture off the beaten path of strictly the post office & mail and be able to speak about other things of the 1860's as well; within the past two years or so I have also included in my presentations what it was like to travel by stagecoach as well as a description of staying overnight and eating in a tavern.
But with the additional information that I have found in my research of being a general store owner I was able to add a new realm to my 1860's occupational life, and thus enjoyed incorporating the post office and general store and began my presentation to the public by saying, "Welcome to my store where I carry cradles and coffins and everything in between!" (I stole the 'cradles & coffins' thing from a book I own.).

Why, yes, I do have canned beef. How many would you like?
It seemed to go very well, and the store owner/postmaster thing went hand in hand with each other. I was asked numerous questions about both of my occupations and was only stumped once. (Unfortunately, I forgot what the gentleman's question was - I had hoped to find the answer lest it comes up again... ).
I bounced back and forth between 1st and 3rd person during my presentations. This allowed me the ability to show the good folks in a more effective manner the differences between the 1860's to our modern time. And it did make it easier to answer questions.

Young ladies setting on my porch before they tend to the wounded soldiers in the local church. (The young girl on the right is my daughter)

Aside from my post office/general store on this lantern walk, there were also Union and Confederate camps, a grieving mother in mourning, the U.S. Christian Commission with wounded soldiers, and a laundress. The visitors on the tour seemed to really enjoy what they saw and heard and were very interested in history being presented this way.

This poor soldier had a pretty nasty head wound. It was a hard row to hoe, but he survived, due in no small part to...

...the care of Mrs. Morgan, the wife of the local pastor.

The Union was camped just on the outskirts of town, making an abandoned cabin their headquarters

Mrs. Cook and her daughter eek out a living doing laundry for the soldiers in town. With her husband succumbing to disease, the two lost everything and are now at the mercy of the local storekeep and postmaster - me - in allowing them to set up next to the shop. I have decided to hire the young lady on as a domestic servant.

Poor Mrs. Parr, who's husband is off fighting to squelch the rebellion, lost a toddler to whooping cough. The village was there to comfort her during such a trying time.

I really enjoy presenting in this way, for it "strongly encourages" all who do to learn even more about everyday life in the past - to expand our social history knowledge.
By doing tours and other presentations such as this has personally taken me much deeper than I ever would've imagined into this world of a long ago time. Heck!----I really don't even call it reenacting anymore - it's living history to me now. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought that joining a reenacting unit would turn into what it has become for me.
And it's getting better all the time...

Please click
and HERE
for a few more examples of my living history excursions.

And click HERE to learn more about 19th century general stores.


1 comment:

GinaBVictorian said...

Hi Ken,
That village looks great and the use of all of those bricks give it a true to period look. Wish I could have been there to see and hear it all. Our local Historical Society has been working for several years now putting together a village similar to the one you showed but the buildings are smaller country like structures. The cabin you pictured looks a lot like the one in our village, for a moment I thought it was!
As always, thanks for sharing.