Thursday, February 25, 2016

Family Heirlooms and the Hannah Barnard Court Cupboard

~My dresser from the mid-1960s~
I have no idea what the specks you see on the 
lower left are from, but they are permanently
embedded in the finish. That's okay - I'm
sure it was from my brother or I and it adds
to the over-all history of the piece.
I have a dresser - a well made dresser - that my parents bought for me and my brother when we were both very young. It was purchased probably around 1968 or thereabouts. It still resides in my house in my bedroom, now used by my wife for her clothing. This wonderfully made piece of furniture still looks *almost* as good as it did when bought brand new nearly 50 years ago.
For Christmas of 1982 my mother bought me a desk - a basic but beautiful wooden writing desk made of high quality workmanship - and it actually has almost a colonial feel to it. Let me tell you, I used this thing, which was covered with papers and pens & pencils & erasers back in those days long before the home computers took over, to write my stories, do research, and even sometimes just to settle back to read my books. I still have it, only now the desk is being used by my college son.
My record shelf turned book
 shelf from 1983
Back in 1983, I had a shelving unit made by my brother's carpenter friend to specifications I gave him for my record album collection. Since that time I've sold nearly every one of my albums (excepting my Beatles and a few very cool country/bluegrass records), and now I, instead, have hundreds of history books sitting atop of the shelves.
I also have my grandpa's wall clock, which was made in the late 1800s, and my grandma's Singer sewing machine from 1920 (a wedding gift to her from my grandfather).
Family heirlooms passed onto me and, one day, to my own children...and (hopefully) to my grandchildren.
Yes, I do consider my dresser, desk, and shelving unit to be heirlooms right along side of the clock and sewing machine; I don't plan to get rid of any of them and, as I said, hopefully they will be passed on to my descendants.
Now, look around you. Look at your own belongings.
Do you think that anything you own in your house will still be around in 50 years? 100 years? 150 years? How about over three hundred years from now?
How would you feel if you could go a couple centuries into the future and find something of yours - something that was very special to you back in the day - displayed in a museum with your name and a couple of sentences about the object on a placard?
You'd feel pretty special, wouldn't you?
The 1982 desk my mother bought for me for Christmas. Simple, yet filled with quality. You can see the nicks and scratches from my use of it. Every nick and every scratch has a story to tell. One day this may belong to one of my grandkids.

~Clock from circa 1890s to about 1900~
This clock belonged to my grandfather. I believe it was given to him when he retired from the Detroit Stove Works back in 1958. Grandpa hung it on the kitchen wall at our family cottage, and that's where it stayed, even after he died in 1972, until around 1999 when I asked my family if I could have it for the "Greenfield Village room" in our house. 
There's not one of my grandfather's grandchildren who doesn't remember falling asleep to its tic-toc as the pendulum swung back and forth.
Lots of memories with this clock.

~Singer sewing machine made in 1918/19~
My grandfather gave this to grandma as a wedding gift in 1920. I vaguely remember seeing her sewing when this sat at the cottage (the same cottage as the clock), but my mind now wanders back to the 1920s, 30s, and 40s when she sewed for her husband and two sons.

The Hannah Barnard Court Cupboard: 1710 - 1715
Hannah Barnard was born on June 8, 1684, the second daughter of Samuel and Mary, in Hadley, Massachusetts, eight years before the famed Salem witch trials (to put her 'time' into perspective). There is really nothing very unusual or very special about Hannah - any more than you or I in our own time. Like the greater majority of the past population who have gone before, most folks here in the 21st century have never heard of her.
Hannah was a young woman of around 20 when a major event occurred very near to her: during Queen Anne’s War (the second in a series of French and Indian Wars fought between England and France), an uprising known as the Raid on Deerfield (or the Deerfield Massacre) took place on February 29, 1704. The French and local Indian forces attacked the nearby English frontier settlement of Deerfield, Massachusetts just before dawn, burning part of the town, killing 47 villagers, and taking 112 settlers captive to Canada, of whom 60, including John Marsh (a Hadley soldier who would become Hannah's husband a decade later), were eventually brought back.
It was in 1715 that Hannah, at the age of 31, married this man, John Marsh. Hannah was John's 2nd wife, for his first died (along with a young child the two had) some years earlier.
A side view of the cupboard
There are questions on why Hannah married at an age that was older than most first marriages for women. Perhaps it was because she assumed the role of "keeper" of her father's house after her mother had died in 1709. Or maybe she became a teacher in nearby Deerfield, though there is no record of this.
Maybe she just wasn't quite ready to leave her family.
No matter, she must have been pretty special to someone close to her, however, for sometime between 1710 and 1715 the court cupboard shown in the pictures here, complete with her name scrolled upon it, was built for her. This was a highly unusual practice at the time, for women generally didn't 'own' anything.
Did her father have it made as a dower or perhaps as a wedding gift, or maybe even as a gift for helping as she did after his wife's death?
Or how about the possibility that her husband might have had it made for her after they were wed, though this, in my opinion is improbable for I would venture to guess he would not have had her maiden name embossed upon it, but rather her married name instead. 
The other side
Perhaps after thirty one years as a Barnard, Hannah did not want to forget her family name as she entered into marriage. Or maybe it marked the fact that Hannah was well aware that while women could not inherit property, they could inherit movable furniture. Did she ask that her name be painted there? Or was she surprised when she received it from her family or her betrothed?
My own opinion is that it was made for her before she was even betrothed; quite possibly, from her father as a gift.
But that's just my opinion. 
In researching about the term "movables" (as mentioned above),  I learned these were items that could be moved from one dwelling to another easily. While most males usually received property as a gift or from a will,  females received movables as part of a dowry or given as gifts or from a will, for it was the woman that was expected to "move" after marriage, not the man. In such a system, women themselves became "movables," changing their names and presumably their identities as they moved from one male-headed household to another. 
Whatever the reason this chest was made, we can safely assume it stored precious household linens, which were time-consuming to make, in the drawers...

...and may have held silver, pewter, or ceramics in the upper portion.
The colorful hearts, petal flowers, vines, and half-circles are characteristic of a number of "Hadley-chests" made around Hadley, Massachusetts nearly three centuries ago. Six of them include women's names painted on the front, such as this. It is unusual for a piece of furniture to be decorated with anyone's name, much less a woman's.
It is unfortunate to learn that Hannah died a year after her marriage while giving birth to a daughter named Abigail.
After Hannah's death, John Marsh married again and had four more children with his third wife. He was only in his forties when he himself died in 1725. His will gave only his then two year old son all of his real estate, though it was specified that Abigail was to receive 120 pounds "to be paid in what was her own Mothers," plus "her Mothers Wearing Cloaths...to be given her free."
The younger daughters of John Marsh received portions worth 100 pounds. 
John Marsh had one child who died at an early age with his first wife, one child with Hannah, and four with his third, and his will shows this. The movables were divided into a general list as well as two sub-categories labeled "3d Wives Goods" and "2d Wives Goods." The general list contained a "carved work chest" valued at 30 shillings. This is thought to be from his first wife. Hannah's list included a "flowered Chest" valued at thirty two shillings.
Imagine what this cupboard has "seen."
Presumably, the more valuable of the chests was the court cupboard that survives today (and is pictured in this posting). At thirty two shillings it certainly was worth as much as most cupboards. 
Abigail Marsh married Waitstill Hastings, and in 1742 had a daughter of her own. But she didn't just name her Hannah (after her mother), but Hannah Barnard Hastings! Since the use of middle names was rare in New England in this period, this was an obvious purposeful choice. Of course, this Hannah inherited the cupboard. The name persisted for two more generations: in 1769, Hannah Barnard Hastings married Nathaniel Kellogg, and the following August she had a daughter whom she named for her long-dead grandmother (and herself). This third Hannah died in 1787, but in 1817 her brother honored both his sister and his mother by naming a daughter Hannah Barnard Hastings Kellogg. This Hannah's migration to California broke the link between the cupboard and its history.
There seems to be a blank space from that point to 1934 when the cupboard was featured in Antiques Magazine. The author of the article stated only that the cupboard belonged to "an ancestress of a later owner." But because of the name Hannah Barnard was emblazoned upon it, the cupboard's history was that much easier to trace.
The Barnard family tombstone located in the Old Hadley Cemetery:
HANNAH HIS DAUGHT
DYED ON SEPT YE 31ST 1716
AGED 32 YEAR 
Yes, it does say "Dyed on Sept 31 1716."
 September 31?? Hmmm...
(photo courtesy of "Find A Grave")
This wonderful piece of Americana now sits in a prominent spot in the Henry Ford Museum in Deaborn, Michigan.
 
To think of the respect and the honor given to Hannah Barnard by her descendants is about as touching as anything can be; naming a granddaughter, a great granddaughter, and a great great granddaughter after Hannah can only be described as a testimonial to family in the truest sense. I've tried to do it with my own children: my first-born son was named for my dad - his grandfather - who, in turn, was named for his grandfather. And now my son's son's middle name is also Thomas.
Paying tribute to family, and keeping & caring for family heirlooms honors ancestors as very little else can.
When you visit a museum, especially one like The Henry Ford where items of everyday life are prominent, remember that nearly everything you see has a history of its own. It's not just an old wooden trunk or desk or chair you see displayed, but an item that probably had great meaning to the owner(s), which is the reason why the object still exists.
I also hope that I gave you a different perspective on your own items in your home: furniture, magazines, a diary/journal, precious dinnerware, collectibles like Department 56 houses...anything of quality and can last lifetimes to build memories are worth passing on as heirlooms.

The information herein came from The Henry Ford Museum and from the book, The Age of Homespun by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (in which an entire chapter is dedicated to Hannah Barnard, the Barnard family, as well as the court cupboard).





















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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Night at the (Plymouth) Museum: Winter 2016

"Yes, oh bearded one. I am your ancestor."
Many of us who do historical reenacting have been history nerds our entire lives. I know I have. I can remember being an elementary school-aged kid and pretending the basement of the house I grew up in was a log cabin out on the frontier. I mean, our basement, like those in most older homes, was dark and dingy and cool, and even had a real fireplace, just as a log cabin would. I pretended, mostly by myself (for many of my friends were not quite like me) to go hunting (my back yard was the forest) and trail blazing (in the narrow space between our garage and the neighbor's fence), and then come back home to the cabin with a "deer" that I shot with my musket. The deer tasted just like a modern baloney sandwich. Go figure.
So here I am, these many years later, all grown up with kids of my own and even grandbabies, and I'm still pretending that I'm living in the past! And I am an even bigger history nerd.
This certainly isn't my parent's adulthood, that's for sure.
As a youth, however, there really wasn't much out there as far as going to reenactments in Michigan. Oh, there were some around, like up in Mackinaw, but they were few and far between; reenactors were a small fringe group back then ("back then" being the 1960s and 70s) and not as 'plentiful' as we see today. As far as going to Greenfield Village, they didn't have very many period dress docents there back then either - most of the houses had buttons to push which would activate a recording of a monotone narration about the home.
Yeah...there was not much living in history in these parts...
Oh the times they are a-changing...
Of course, times have changed quite a bit in the living history world, and reenactments are everywhere now-a-days, it seems.
Can you imagine how so very awesome it would have been for me as a history-nerd kid to have a party such as the kind thrown by the Plymouth Historical Museum (of Michigan) called "A Night at the Museum"? This is where "children can experience a birthday party they will never forget. Plymouth Historical Museum staff, inspired by the movies of the same name, created this magical evening, where children discover that the characters within the Museum come alive after hours.
The Museum is filled with reenactors silently waiting for the kids to bring them to life with the tablet. Kids could discover a Roman soldier dressed in full battle gear or Civil War soldiers preparing for war, or women wearing big hoop skirts and fancy dresses. 
Anyone can be discovered at the Museum, and children will enjoy the living history. Each character chats with the kids about a slice of history so children might learn a thing or two while they are having fun at the party."
Wouldn't that be the coolest thing ever? Instead of super hero comics, they can meet some real heroes - men and women from the past, most who did something extraordinary to warrant their remembrance!
And they'll actually learn something to boot!
A Night at the Museum parties are always great fun to do, especially during this bitter cold time of year, when there are so few opportunities to wear period clothing.
So it was on the first Saturday in February that a few of us took part in one of these parties. I did take a few of my own pictures but there was a much better photographer there who really took some nice ones. I was given permission to use whichever pictures I wanted for this posting.
I hope you enjoy them:
The birthday boy leads the way as the kids follow him up the stairs into the museum.
He looks very excited while his friend behind him seems a bit apprehensive...
Of course, lucky me, I was the first person he saw - Paul Revere - and, therefore, "awakened from my slumber."
As I have said, there are not that many opportunities for me to go colonial at bonafide reenactments as I'd like, so I have to grab any chance I can to wear my 18th century clothing.
I'll be honest, I enjoy wearing colonial fashions much more than Civil War era styles. They are just so much cooler-looking - I feel like the ultimate patriot when I wear them!
So here I am, once again, as Paul Revere speaking to a group of 6 to 12 year olds. They were fascinated, attentive, and, yes (as you can see by the looks on the faces), very excited to meet such a man of historical importance in our nation's history. I really do love the fact that these kids all knew the name of Paul Revere and had at least some idea of what he was famous for.
As Paul Revere, I gave the young ones a lite overview of my life, including my beginnings as a silversmith, of my 16 children & my two wives (one had died and I remarried), of my anger toward the Stamp Act (& other taxes I was not fond of), and of my adventures with the Sons of Liberty, including the Boston Tea Party.
And I so enjoyed telling them the true story of the events that occurred during my famous ride on the night of April 18, 1775.
By the way, my ponytail tied with ribbon was known as a queue and was a very popular fashion for men in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Next up we have a real Pirate of the Caribbean, Mrs. Anne (McCormac / Cormac) Bonny, famous female pirate who was born in Ireland around 1700 and was brought over to Charles Town, South Carolina by her father.
Anne married a man named James Bonny, much to the dismay of her father (who disowned her), and the two moved to the Bahamas where Annie fell in with a number of pirates living there. She eventually fell in love with one of these pirates, divorced husband James, and ran off to sea to live with her new man, someone named Rackham, and eventually gathered up a crew of efficient sea men to pirate the Caribbean Sea. Bonny took part in combat alongside the men, and the accounts of her exploits present her as competent, effective in combat, and respected by her shipmates.
They were eventually caught, tried, and sentenced to death for their deeds.
Bonny's last words to the imprisoned Rackham were: "Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hang'd like a dog."
After being sentenced, Bonny and another female pirate in their crew, Mary Read both “pleaded their bellies”: asking for mercy because they were pregnant. In accordance with English Common Law, both women received a temporary stay of execution until they gave birth. It is said that Mary Read died in prison.
There is no historical record of Annie Bonny's release or of her execution, however. This has fed speculation that her father ransomed her, that she might have returned to her husband, or even that she resumed a life of piracy under a new identity. More likely, Anne's father bought her freedom from the Jamaican Governor and married her off to a Virginian, Joseph Buerliegh (different spellings) and she had eight children and lived into her 80's. There are some records that seem to tie this all together, but nothing is conclusive. (This information is from Wikipedia)
Here we have Debbie Jones portraying, Anne Bonnie, enticing the children to join her in her pirating exploits. A few of the kids wanted to join up, but most decided it wouldn't be such a good idea.

Following Anne Bonny in the tour around the Plymouth Museum was another Annie - Annie Oakley.
Annie Oakley (born Phoebe Ann Mosey on August 13, 1860) was an American sharpshooter and exhibition shooter. Her "amazing talent" first came to light when the then 15-year-old won a shooting match with traveling show marksman Frank E. Butler (whom she later married). The couple joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show a few years later. Oakley became a renowned international star, performing before royalty and heads of state.
Oakley never failed to delight her audiences, and her feats of marksmanship were truly incredible. At 30 paces she could split a playing card held edge-on, she hit dimes tossed into the air, she shot cigarettes from her husband's lips, and, a playing card being thrown into the air, she riddled it before it touched the ground.
R. A. Koestler-Grack reports that, on March 19, 1884, she was being watched by Chief Sitting Bull when:
“Oakley playfully skipped on stage, lifted her rifle, and aimed the barrel at a burning candle. In one shot, she snuffed out the flame with a whizzing bullet. Sitting Bull watched her knock corks off of bottles and slice through a cigar Butler held in his teeth.”
Oakley also was variously known as "Miss Annie Oakley", "Little Sure Shot", "Little Miss Sure Shot", "Watanya Cicilla", "Phoebe Anne Oakley", "Mrs. Annie Oakley", "Mrs. Annie Butler", and "Mrs. Frank Butler". Her death certificate, in 1926, gives her name as "Annie Oakley Butler".

Let's visit an "every woman of the south" of the mid-19th century.
Or, more accurately, a southern belle.
I know - we're up here in the cold white north (Michigan) and we have folks who portray southren ladies and men. Please understand, some here have their hearts deep in the south, and love to bring a little of their southern pride to reenactments. Erin Jones is one of those people.
And she does it well.
Miss Jones, as the Southern belle (derived from the French word belle, 'beautiful') represents a young woman of the American Deep South’s upper socioeconomic class.
The image of the Southern belle developed in the South during the Antebellum Period, based on the young, unmarried woman in the plantation-owning upper class of Southern society.

Just down the way we find Amelia Jenks Bloomer (May 27, 1818 – December 30, 1894), who was an American women’s rights and temperance advocate. Even though she did not create the women's clothing reform style known as bloomers, her name became associated with it because of her early and strong advocacy.
In 1849 Mrs. Bloomer began a newspaper known as The Lily to promote temperance. But, over time, the paper came to have a broad mix of contents ranging from recipes to moralist tracts, particularly when under the influence of activist and suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Bloomer felt that because women lecturers were considered unseemly, writing was the best way for women to work for reform.

Ameilia Bloomer also promoted a change in dress standards for women that would be less restrictive in regular activities. In the 1850s she came up with what became known as the Bloomer dress that, unfortunately for Mrs. Bloomer, was subject to ceaseless ridicule in the press and harassment on the street. Bloomer herself dropped the fashion in 1859, citing the crinoline as sufficient reform enough for her to return to a more traditional style of women's dress.

Johhny has gone for a soldier - - - -
Civil War soldiers are always a hit with the kids, and we had a few of 'em at the party!
Interactive always makes for a fine presentation. And, as you can see, the men who fought to preserve the Union got the children involved by signing them up for a brief stint in the military. They marched and drilled around the museum, and by the time they were done, the kids were ready and willing to fight!

The preacher spoke of his role in the military, and of how he was a father-figure to many of the men who had never left home before.

The drums were an important part of the battlefield communications system, with various drum rolls used to signal different commands from officers to troops.

And there you have it.
Tell me this wouldn't have been a cool party to have had when you were a kid! I know it would have been a 'best ever' for me. I mean, to see historical figures from the past up close and speak directly to me would have been the ultimate history experience. Even at my age today, meeting living historians who portray Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin is a thrill.
Yeah...there was nothing like this around when I was a kid, but if there was...oh man! It would most certainly been the greatest party ever. Better than Disney World for sure!
The ghosts of the past stand with the children of the present/ historians of the future for a digital tintype/painting.
I'd like to thank Marty Kerstens for taking pretty great pictures, and Liz Kerstens & the Plymouth Historical Museum for allowing me to use them.
Also a shout out to Liz and the Museum for putting on such wonderful events like these to keep kids interested in history.
If you live in the metro-Detroit area and are interested in having such a party for your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or for a friend's child, please contact the Plymouth Historical Museum HERE for further information.

Until next time, see you in time.
























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