Thursday, July 18, 2019

Colonial Days at Detroit's Fort Wayne 2019: Teach Your Children Well

This event took place the third weekend in June,  so it's a little late in being published.  I did this because I wanted to post the more timely  4th of July article as soon as I could.
Better nate than lever,  as I always say.
I do hope you like it.


Though we are in the middle of a mid-July heat wave as I type this, the weather this past spring wasn't the best here in Michigan.  Some were wondering if summer would ever come!  I could handle, and actually prefer, the lower than normal temperatures,  but the large amount of rain just put a literal damper on virtually everything we wanted to do.  We would go days with clouds and rain and then finally get a respite and get some sunshine for a day or two.
Then back to rain.
In fact, we had the wettest spring on record, from what I understand.
Naturally,  as reenactors,  we know that the weather can make or break an event,  for the most part.  However, even with all of the damp weather,  we've been fairly lucky at our events, which leads me to believe that God is a fan of history.  And He showed us just that in late June at Detroit's Historic Fort Wayne during the Colonial Days event.  The weathermen told us early the previous week that there would be rain, clouds, and even strong thunderstorms throughout the upcoming weekend.  But, lo & behold,  when we reached set up Friday,  we had beautiful bright sunshine.  The same for Saturday and Sunday, with temps in the 70s and low humidity!
The weather could not have been any more perfect.
And that, my friends, was a major reason why this year's Colonial Days will be entered into the books under a  "best ever"  chapter.
Throughout both days we had a 
goodly amount of visitors.
A major plus to the fine weather were the amount of interested visitors we received.  More people came to see us in one day than the entire weekend last year.  Double that for the two days we were there and I feel this reenactment can be called a success.
Now,  the visitors who came were true and interested fans of history.  One just doesn't go to Detroit's Historic Fort Wayne  "just because."  I mean,  with all of the road construction,  a new border bridge  being built across the Detroit River to Canada,  a pretty rough area  (to be honest),  it can be a little tricky to get to the Fort.
But find us they did---and interested they were!  And we could tell of their interest and knowledge, for they asked us thoughtful questions  (what were African-American roles in the Fight for Independence?  Why did John Adams proclaim July 2nd and not July 4th as Independence Day?  What do your flags represent?  Good questions!).
Farming tools and 
hunting musket
In fact, one young mother brought her two children,  a boy and a girl,  and both looked to be in the 8 to 10 age range,  and they saw my farming tools sitting against my tent.  It seems they had an interest in old-time farming.  So as I brought each tool up to show them - a scythe,  a flail,  a hay fork,  a hay rake,  and a corn sickle - and the children already knew what each tool was and what they were used for!
These are elementary-age children from the city!
So when I asked how did they know,  their mother told me they were on their 5th listening of their favorite book,  "Farmer Boy,"  by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Well that explains a lot!  In my opinion, Farmer Boy is one of the best books written about everyday life in the 19th century, especially since the greater majority of the population were farmers.  Now this may surprise you, considering the story was originally written for kids.  But believe me when I say this is no kid's book.  Yes, the storyline centers on youngsters, but there is so much daily life history here that it should be read by every researcher and reenactor.
History brought to life.
You can bet my kids have read it - - or had it read to them.
This was one of the day's highlights for me.
This is the first time we see the words
"The United States of America"
written anywhere.
Sends chills...

Another wonderful moment for me was when a young African American family showed up,  and their daughter,  who I believe was 11 years old,  asked numerous questions about the Declaration of Independence,  including why were slaves not included in it.  A wonderful discussion ensued between all of us.  Basically, I put it this way  (though in my own words):  "Slavery vexed America’s founders.  They wrestled with how to deal with what was a ghastly legal and economic reality, mostly located in one region of the fledgling country, while attempting to build a federation of weak, thinly populated and war-weary states in the New World.  They made their long-term intentions quite clear in the opening to the Declaration of Independence signed July 4, 1776, in the phrase  “all men are created equal.”  “Men,”  here, meaning  “human,”  not a gender-specific identifier.  They added that we are “endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.
And then I looked at the young lady and told her that she, an African-American female, could now have the dream - which could become reality - of becoming President of the United States if she so desired.
And she could!
She liked that and beamed at the thought.
The father and mother both heartily thanked me afterward for such a thoughtful discussion and continuing to give hope for the future.
No left or right.
That was cool - - - - - - -

Welcome to my camp, I guess you all know why we're here.
My name is Ken, and I present as Paul Revere - - -
(with a nod to The Who's  "We're Not Gonna Take It")~
As you may or may not know,  I collect replicated historic  sewn cotton  flags to fly at my tent sight.
My historic flags also help to garner conversations.  
I have a variety, including the Grand Union, the Culpeper, and the so-named Betsy Ross flags in my collection
And this was before that football player wannabe's  inane comment about the Betsy Ross flag  and the fools who are all upset that some actor that wore a Gadsden Flag t-shirt.  Numerous conversations centering on the two historic flags I brought to Fort Wayne ensued with many people not realizing that they were part of the numerous anti-British flags used before our official one was created in 1777.
The next time I set up my camp I will need to bring more of my collection along to show,  for the interest was high.
A woman walked up to my tent and asked,  "Where are the Patriots located?  I know the British are down there but where are the Americans?"
"Right here!"  I responded
This picture shows our small,  but growing,  community.

I enjoyed the company of the visitors
who came by and shared their knowledge,

whether it is of tea pots or muskets.

And then there were these two Colonial women and muskets:
you do not want to mess with these two!

There were no battles for this event.  It was simply living history.  But some of the guys that were there - - portraying militia I would think - did present to the public a loading and firing demonstration of their muskets.
Richard and Joey took their audience step by step in the firing of their 18th century muskets.

Battles are great,  but if you do not have enough military
to do one well,  presentations of this sort can be nearly
as good.

Richard Reaume,  a long-time reenactor of a number of time periods,  joined us at the Fort.
It is always good to see him.

A few military men did show,  including Tony
and my son Rob, representing the 1st Pennsylvania,

and ready to teach about their role in the Continental
Army during the War.

My son and I.
I got my family involved in the reenacting hobby back in 2004 when we joined the 21st Michigan Civil War group.  It was a natural segue from when we participated in the Holly Dickens Festival in the years before where we portrayed 1840s Londonites of the Charles Dickens variety in a sort of street fair atmosphere during the Christmas season.
But, it was a street festival where most who take part are giving an impression rather than spending time researching and money doing it right..
As reenactors, we do our utmost best to do it right.
A few members of the Britain's Queen's Rangers:
Uncle Simcoe Wants You!

The Rangers also had a historical story to tell of their
role in the Rev War.

Meet Chris,  the commanding officer of  the original
company of  Jaeger's Battalion of Roger's Rangers.  The
reenacting history of this group dates back over 50 years!

Civilians always round out reenactments,  adding much life to the times we are attempting to bring back.
My next door camp neighbor,  Sue,  just happened to have a tent large enough to replicate a sort of tavern game room.
Throughout the days and evening,  members of our little colonial town came and went, spending time challenging each other to checkers and other period games.

Evening...before the folks came in after their supper meal.

As night time came over the land, the lit candles inside the game room tent gave off a wonderful period ambience,  as you can see.

Susan always has her wheel with her and
does an amazing job in her spinning, dyeing.
knitting/crocheting, and sewing.

Three members of Citizens of the American Colonies.

Without a copy machine,  this was the only way the 
average person of the 18th century could make copies

And,  of course,  period crafts abound.

It always adds so much when a child reenactor is part of the encampment wearing the clothing of the time.

My son and his lady prepares to make breakfast

Two sides of the same continent:
The 1st Pennsylvania meets a Queen's Ranger.

Scott & Mike: Two members of the Queen's Rangers.

Now and then we like to have a little fun with posed scenarios.  For instance,  members of the Queen's Rangers are always good for a few poses:

Busting down the door of a Patriot.

Ah, but the Patriots in this house fought back before the Rangers obliterated the house.

And then I asked a couple of the guys to help me with a farm scene:
So Joey, Richard, and myself each grabbed a farm implement and went to where the grass had not been cut in a while... 

...and got to work.
The rest of the world may have seen us as we looked in the above picture - - -
but in the photograph below....
....this is where we  actually  were, working on a farm in 1770.
(Yes, a little fun with Paint Shop Pro never hurt anyone!)

And then this happened - - - -
As we were enjoying speaking to guests about the Revolutionary War years in our country's history,  we spied a tall ship moving down the Detroit River!
How cool is that??
It's almost as if...
Anyhow, it helped it to be an amazing weekend - - -!
This event at Detroit's Historic Fort Wayne truly was a very fine one indeed.  And I hope it continues to grow,  for many reenactments, especially (and unfortunately) for the Civil War, are ending (for a variety of reasons - some understandable, some ridiculous).  The interest in our Revolutionary period seems to be growing.  And this gives those of us who deeply research this time the opportunity to share our knowledge rather than have people  "learn"  from a Facebook meme or a biased article pushing an agenda.  We may not always tell you what you want to hear,  but most of us do make the attempt to show and tell history in an accurate way.
As the interest in our nation's beginnings continue to be rekindled, the more reenactors we have taking part.  And the more reenactors,  the larger our camping area.  And that attracts more visitors.
Isn't history wonderful?
And isn't living history/reenacting the best?
People can actually see,  touch,  and hear history like nowhere else.

Until next time, see you in time.

Thank you to Chris White,  Bob Jacobs,  and Mike Gillett for allowing me usage of a few of their photos to mix in with my own.

To learn more about Citizens of the American Colonies, click HERE
To learn more about the 1st Pennsylvania, click HERE
To learn more about the Queen's Rangers, click HERE
To learn more about the Voyageurs, click HERE
To learn more about  Jaeger's Battalion of Roger's Rangers click HERE
To learn more about Detroit's Historic Fort Wayne, click HERE
To purchase the book, Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder (very worthwhile), click HERE

~   ~   ~


Elroy Davis said...

"Welcome to my camp, I guess you all know why we're here.
My name is Ken, and I present as Paul Revere - - -"

This is going to be stuck in my head all day now. :-)

The gaming room is really well done. Nice to see something other than battles being portrayed.

Historical Ken said...

My plan worked!
Thank you for your kind comments. Yes, I fully agree that we don't always have to have battles.