I am very privileged in that the good folks who run this open-air historical village in a rural part of southern lower Michigan allows me the opportunity to use a mid-19th century house as my "home" while I am there. But I like to think of it as an earned privilege, for those of us who participate here have worked very diligently over the last few years in putting together a "family" - a realistic 19th century family - and do our best to stay, for the most part, in first person to bring the past to life for not only the visitors, but for ourselves as well. We also make sure we leave the house in the same (if not better) condition than when we first enter. It is a historic home and, therefore, we take great care to treat it as such.
So...we did it again this year; yes, we created a family to help bring the past to life, and (again!) the visitors loved it! Part of the reason for our success is a few of us have been working together in this capacity for a number of years and, because of that, there is a naturalness in our roles. Since my real life wife really dislikes doing immersion/1st person, I have - with her blessing - a reenacting wife who happens to enjoy this style of reenacting. I have also gained a mother-in-law and two daughters (again, my real life daughter does not care for immersion) as well as two older sisters. Yes, I actually do have two older sisters, but neither of them would even think of doing something so nutty as reenact.
And then there are our neighbors and servants....
It has taken time but I feel we have put together quite a "19th Century House" - a play on words for all of the "house" shows PBS has put together.
So, would you like to meet my family and see how our time in the past went? Well, then, let's begin this photo journey through time without hesitation, though I must warn you, it's not all going to be serious:
|Here you see "Elizabeth" and I. With the summer harvest complete, we had taken an afternoon to enjoy spending time with family and neighbors.|
there is a barn dance this evening. I have not been out in ages. May I please
“No, child. Being in mourning, you know how frowned upon it would be for you to attend such an affair while in your state. What would people say?”
Mother! I am so bored and sad. I need something to pick me up."|
|“Do you wanna build a snow man?”|
|Poor Christine. Even Jill's spunkiness could not bring her out of her doldrums. But it will only be a few months before she can begin to rejoin in the festivities of her community.|
|To make matters worse, a downpouring of rain came upon us suddenly. Luckily, we had finished our summer harvest the day before.|
|On a day filled with hopes of a family picnic, the rain dashed away any thoughts of the kind.|
|Violeta bides her time with sewing projects.|
know, Caroline, we should pass the time with parlor entertainment!"|
“Why, I think that is a perfectly wonderful idea, sister!”
Click the links below to see and hear our rainy-day parlor entertainment:
|"Oh my! Auntie Jaquelin makes me laugh!"|
"You borrowed a book from a young man who's name you do not know?"
Her mother and I were quite upset at this and had a serious discussion about the matter. Even her aunts joined in and lectured her a bit on proper etiquette.
Just then, some young man was let into our home - - it was the same boy who loaned Jill the book! It just so happened that Caroline knew this boy and introduced us - including Jill - to him.
That's when the fun began.
I began to drill the possible suitor to the fullest extent, with Jill's mother whispering some of the questions to me; we preferred this to be a 'man-to-man' conversation if he had any interest in courting our daughter:
"What does your father do?"
"He's a farmer."
"What do you do?"
"I am in the Zouaves."
"What are your future plans once you leave the military?"
"To farm, like my father does."
"What are your intentions with our daughter?"
"What is your religious background?"
"I'm a Catholic."
"No - not a good answer!" (Elizabeth and I both said this at the same time)
And on it went for a good ten minutes or so, which must have seemed to him, I suppose, like forever. But it was great fun for Larissa and I. He had no idea he had walked into a hornet's nest and fell head first into immersion. You see, the young man in question is, in real life, Jillian's boyfriend and he only wanted to step in for a moment to give her a quick message.
Heh heh heh - - - nope! It don't work like that 'round here!
Great fun indeed!
|As the rains left us, the sun began to peak through the clouds, and visitors began to come over. We did not, however, expect such a visitor as this gentleman! Yes, it's President Lincoln, visiting our southern sympathizing home!|
|Another surprise visitor - one whom we have not seen in years - was Mrs. Martens and her young child.|
The sun did finally dry out the wet enough so that the girls were able to go out and get some fresh air before dinner, of which their mother and aunts were preparing. We have a river right next to our home, and the girls love to go near to watch the ducks, geese, and swans as they fly and swim by.
am going to jump off of this stump and you can catch me, Christine!"|
“No, Jill! Father and Mother would not approve.”
“Oh! You and your mourning! We must have some fun…here! Catch me!”
“No! Sister, don’t----!!”
And after dinner we had another treat...
|...homemade ice cream! Elizabeth got the ball rolling and was the first to churn.|
|Mother-in-law took her turn to churn as well.|
|Jaquelin and Caroline helped one another and switched jobs, each taking their own churning turn.|
|Neighbors came from far and near to help make this fine delight.|
|A Yankee soldier gave a hand to churn.|
|As for our daughters: I believe I see a girls seminary school on the horizon for Jill. And for Christine, once she comes out of mourning we may have a nice farm boy waiting for her - Jon, the son of our neighbor, Mrs. Cary.|
|We really did have quite a churn out for this ice cream social!|
|Would you look at that! Creamy homemade ice cream!|
|Doesn't that look delicious?|
|I believe everyone agreed it was the best ever! Um...especially Elizabeth!|
And around town - - - - - -
|These lovely ladies - more neighbors - enjoyed the respite from the rain by playing a game of croquet|
|It was a very hot day that day - humid, too - so playing croquet under the shade of an old oak tree was the perfect remedy to the over-bearing heat.|
|It was a slow day for the barber. The obtrusive heat and the threat of more rain kept most close to home.|
|Over at the seamstress shop, Miss Mansfield gets measured by Mrs. Root. (Yes, I received permission to publish this photograph. It's me trying to be "artsy")|
1865 is kind of a tough year to reenact, for the War is basically over, though there were small skirmishes here and there. People like to see battles, so why not give them one, right? And Michigan's own Fred Priebe is still asked to portray President Lincoln, though we all know that by the summer of '65 our 16th President had already been assassinated. However, having the President at an event is always a wonderful teaching tool for visitors and always adds so much to the reenactments.
So sometimes in certain cases such as this we just have to kind of do a time-blur and blend a couple years into one to accommodate historical occurrences.
|Looking down the road from our home we could see Yankee soldiers marching through our Maryland town.|
|As we had a mix of Yankee and Confederate sympathizers living around here, some of us were quite nervous to see this.|
|However, it looked as though they were just marching through to get to their camp, for they walked past looking bedraggled, worn, and in need of rest. The abrasive summer heat was adding to their toil.|
|"The men will cheer and the boys will shout, the ladies they will all turn out, and we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home."|
As many of you know, we in the 21st Michigan put our all into this wonderful "hobby" of reenacting and living history. For the most part, we are pretty strict when we do immersion, and make the attempt (pretty successfully, I might add) to stay in whatever year we are portraying whether there are visitors in our midst or not. But I must say that every-so-often we do lighten up a little like we did this year at Charlton Park (but, as long as there are no modern visitors about). And we also try to accept whatever comes our way, especially with the weather; if it rains, you try to do what folks "back then" would have done. If it's too hot, you don't cook on a stove or over a fire. If you're stressed due to whatever reason (like so many of us seem to be these days), have some goofy fun to help relieve some of it.
Charlton Park is always one of my top events and I thank not only the above group of living historians for bringing the past to life with me, but to the directors of Charlton Park and to the ladies of the 24th Michigan for allowing us to do so.
With all my heart I thank you.
Until next time, see you in time.