Monday, September 29, 2014

The Civil War Comes to Greenmead Historical Village

There are those who say that we have too many historical reenactments, that due to the overwhelming amount of opportunities to portray life in the past, less participants will take part.
Then there are those who grab the bull by the horns and say, "Bring 'em on!" and attend nearly every reenactment that takes place.
Can you guess which category I fall into?
Really, about the only events I turn down are what I call "parking lot events" - you know, the kind that takes place on a small patch of green located right next to a parking lot along a busy avenue which is surrounded by stores and businesses (CVS, Walmart, gas stations) and has non-history-loving visitors who could not care less about these crazy people dressed in funny clothes while pretending to live in the past.
Talk about an anachronism!
However, when a new event comes along that takes place inside a historical village, I jump at the chance to attend!
And that's exactly what happened recently.
The good folks from the 17th Michigan began this event at Greenmead open-air museum located in Livonia, Michigan kinda as a trial run in 2013. It went well and they decided to open it up to a couple other units, including the one I belong to - the 21st Michigan - and we are certainly glad they did!
The historic structures at Greenmead were utilized for demonstration purposes, showing some of the occurrences that happened during the American Civil War including a house of mourning and a school house.
I did not take as many pictures of all the houses that have been relocated here as I had hoped to, but I plan to get more sometime in the future.
Nor did I take any military pictures for no other reason than I was usually doing something else when they were marching and drilling.
So, instead, I concentrated on the impressive living historians and their presentations.
Hope you like what you see here.

Let's begin with Mrs. Folcarelli, the local baker. Cooking is her specialty and she goes beyond the typical cooking over an open fire. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but Mrs. Folcarelli has taken it to new levels.

Here she is rolling out dough for her locally famous apple pie!

Mr. Assenmacher (aka "The Eggman") explains his life as a poultry farmer.

Seeing babies at events always lends a note of realism for reenactors and visitors alike, for it helps everyone to understand that history was more than just war and politics but was also about families as well.

Mrs. Root and her daughter also attended Greenmead. Mrs. Root, a living historian extraordinaire (and one who has guided me in my journey to the past more than any other) was the guest speaker at the afternoon tea.

Here we have my very good friend, Mr. Tennies, whose portrayal of a 19th century Michigan Senator has brought the almost lost-to-history name of Jacob Howard to the forefront at local reenactments. He has garnered a fan base to the point where visitors return to certain events every year just to see and hear him speak.

Miss Adams makes sure her bonnet is right before she heads off to town. Miss Adams is new to this "hobby" and, unlike many newbies (including yours truly), has started off on the right foot

Now here is an interesting picture: it's almost like seeing a young lady standing next to her great great great grandmother. Or maybe a before and after picture of a reenactor. But, no and no...what we have here is a picture of twin sisters standing next to each other. With a bit of trickery I was able to make them look like they were from two different periods in time.

But they're sisters, identical sisters all the way. One pair of matching bookends, different as night and day...(apologies to the Patty Duke Show theme song)

 My fellow living historian Kristen and I hung out for part of the day. Kristen portrays my daughter during our immersion events, but on this day she was my main focus of photographic attention, as you shall see in most of the following photos, for she willingly poses as I ask her to do:
What you see here is the Newburg School House, constructed in 1861. For the first twenty years of its existence, the children went to school from November through March and then from May until September. This allowed the kids to work on the family farm during the planting and harvesting seasons.

The local school teacher, Miss Mrozek, awaits the children's arrival.

As she rang the bell, the children came from all over, some walking over a mile to get to school.
Into the school house the young scholars go.

"Children, my name is Miss Mrozek and I am your new teacher. You previous teacher, Miss Crabtree, went off and got married over the break."

"Oh! There is always one unruly student! Young man! I shall ask you to get up at once or I will speak to your father and he will surely give you a whipping!"

"Children, I have a surprise for you! I have asked the local photographer to come and take an image of all of us to-day. Let us step outside to have this done."

And here is the tin type of the children and their teacher taken on this first day of school in 1864.

Here are a few video clips of the fun Kristen had while portraying a 19th century school teacher:

So, Kristen and I hung out a bit and toured the grounds. We came upon a house decorated in mourning:
Although it's hard to tell by this photo, there is a mourning wreath upon the front door of this home, which was built by an English immigrant named Thomas Shaw in 1843. A couple rooms were set up with a mourning presentation.

It is inside the front parlor where we find the coffin. The blinds of the windows were raised so modern visitors could see the display.

In the kitchen Kristen found a pie on the counter. Kris, that's for the guests. Put it down!

Was I there...or was I really there?

Here is a sampler from 1833, made by Thomas Shaw's eldest daughter 10 years before the house was even built.

A fall scene from the kitchen window.

The ladies of town held a Temperance Rally.

Unfortunately, Otis, one of the husbands of the ladies here, showed up feeling a little...well...let's just say he was very happy his time in the military was up and he spent time celebrating.

We'll leave you this week with a photo of a young scholar who is very eager to learn in hopes of one day leaving the farm and become a successful businessman in the nearby big city of Detroit.

And there you have it - a new event with lots of potential.
It is my hope that there will be growth in the Greenmead event and I look forward to playing more of a part next year.
See you in a week or so...




Gina @ VictorianWannaBe said...

Hi Ken,
As always, it is a pleasure to read your blog and look at all the wonderful photos! It really is like stepping back in time. I like what you did with the twins and their back then and now photos. The school house story made me laugh, it looks like they were having so much fun. Are those school desks from the Civil War era? I always thought they were later.
Nice photo of the Fall scene from the inside too.
Thanks so much for sharing with us and have a great week.

The Old Man said...

You may feel alone - but there are folks that love your postings. Thanks for your work.